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Identifying your customer tribe

In this article, ethical brand consultant Sarah Greenaway explains what your customer tribe is and how to indentify yours.
sustainable casual menswear from Brothers We Stand
© Mysource Ltd

It is human nature to want to belong, and our tribal instincts mean we naturally gravitate to the safety of like-minded people. Identification with a style or an attitude or behaviour helps us to define ourselves and make choices about how we live.

This may make us a part of a majority movement, for example ‘soul music lover’ or a minority niche group like ‘didgeridoo player’. Each of us has a unique profile of attitudes and behaviours; the dominant ones align us with particular tribes that make us feel accepted and empowered by the group.

Market research/analysis techniques segment customers in thousands of different ways, ranging from simple demographic profiles to complex behavioural tribes. It is an intimate knowledge of customer attitudes and behaviours that informs successful businesses about how to develop their products and/or services. By remaining focused on a specific group they can deploy resources economically and productively.

A detailed understanding of what distinguishes your particular target audience or tribe, and what inspires them to buy, is a critical foundation stone in your business. It should inform almost every business decision, and act as a powerful guideline for all product and communication decisions.

In simple terms, if the tribe won’t love it and buy it, then you should probably not do it. And to know if they’ll love it and buy it requires real insight into their beliefs and attitudes.

Entrepreneurs generally choose businesses and products that they are inspired by and enjoy, meaning that they naturally understand their customer tribe because they are probably from the very same tribe or at least a similar tribe with congruent values.

This can be very helpful, but it’s important to be aware that objective rational and commercial decision making can be harder because it’s often difficult to emotionally disconnect from a group you strongly identify with. It’s critical to know that your target customer tribe is large, motivated and wealthy enough to make your business commercially viable.

Employing the discipline to pin down and remain focused on a specific tribe is often difficult, so the first step is to build a clear profile of your customer, detailing as many defining characteristics as you can. This should include the following:

  • Demographics; eg male/female, age, location, employment type, income level/affluence
  • Attitudes and values: eg thrifty, aspirational, party going, family first, individuality, sustainability, status-conscious
  • Behaviours: eg shopping habits, hobbies, lifestyle
  • Wants and needs: eg convenience, economy, style, independent endorsement
  • Tribe trends and futures
  • Size and commercial opportunity

You will be asked to explore this further in Week 3.

Once you can clearly articulate your tribe, it’s time to consider how your business and brand meet their needs, and what you can do to make your offer more appealing and compelling. Decisions become much more objective when you know who you are trying to please.

Product development is easier because you have a set of rational, customer-led objectives to meet, which acts as a robust decision framework making it much easier to say ‘no’.

The creation of a communications strategy becomes infinitely simpler because now you know exactly who you are talking to, the language they speak, the places they like to hang out (real and virtual) and the things that engage their attention. Your choice of distribution partners/channels becomes much more focused, reducing time wasted on channels that your tribe don’t frequent, and allowing you to devote more attention to the ones that deliver profitable sales.

Your customers will continuously guide the direction of your business. Customer insight is as important as building a great team, a robust supply and distribution chain, and a profitable financial model.

© Mysource Ltd
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