Learn 3 Customer Categories to Differentiate Your Messaging

by: | May 14, 2012

If every potential customer who looks at your product or service was a red-hot, ready-to-buy shopper, having a business would be easy, and marketing would be simple! Unfortunately for us business owners, it isn’t that easy. All of these potential customers, however, have the potential to be first-time and repeat customers, although every one of them is at different levels of engagement.

One of the keys to successful customer engagement is to understand the individual’s level of engagement so that you’re giving them the right marketing message. Being too aggressive with one person might deter them from purchasing, but if you don’t give enough information to a ready-to-buy customer, you might lose the sale.

You can fit just about everyone who looks at your services into one of three different categories: The Casual Observer, The Shopper and The Customer. People in each of these categories have different needs. Understand their engagement and treat them right according to their category, and you’ll have happier customers.

The Casual Observer

Interest level: lukewarm

Most people who wander onto your website or online storefront are not ready to buy. Sometimes they’ll just want to “check it out” on the recommendation of a friend of colleague. Or they’re doing research for future reference. Their timing might not be right to buy just yet. The key word is ‘yet’. With the right coaxing and long-term interaction, they might become customers down the road. Without it, though, they could forget about your solution when the timing is finally right for them to purchase.

So, how do you solve this?

All the information in the world won’t convince them to buy if they’re not ready. The best thing you can do is get their information and put them on once- or twice-a-month email marketing campaign to slowly drip information to them over time. This keeps your business top-of-mind, and when the time is right for them, they won’t have forgotten about your solution. Along the way, they’ll develop a trust in your company and solution.

But, how do you get their email addresses?

Offer free content like a free report or access to unique content in exchange.


  • Give them information
  • Collect an email
  • Put them on a drip campaign that gives them a little information at a time.
  • Follow up with them at specific points down the road

The Shopper

Interest level: Warm

Shoppers are the people who are actively looking and searching for a solution to their existing problems. They’ll be comparing competing products, looking at features, and considering prices. Basically, these people are looking for the best value for their money. Your job is to accurately portray your product or service as being valuable and worth the cost.

With these customers, sharing your information, product features, and your company or product story are the most important parts of their experience. Nine times out of 10, they’ll be looking at your website and reading reviews online. Make sure your online presence within and outside your website is strong enough and has enough information to help them make a decision.

With these customers especially, putting the product in their hands or giving them a taste of the experience can make all the difference. In some cases it isn’t possible to put the actual product in your shopper’s hands. That’s where free reports and video marketing can help to fill in the gaps. You’ll also want to actively close the feature vs. experience gap.


  • Provide a free report or video marketing
  • Collect contact information
  • Provide information that establishes your solution’s value to the customer.
  • Put them on a more aggressive email marketing campaign to help them along

their decision path

The Customer

Interest level: Hot! 

Now that your customer has bought from you, a standard “Thank you, come again” just doesn’t cut it. 

This is one of the instances where business owners often leave the most money on the table. If a customer has bought from you once, they’re likely to buy from you again. (This is, of course, assuming your solution is quality and the buying experience was positive). The transaction could have been a first purchase or redeeming a free or trial offer. If they’ve gone this far, their interest is likely very high.

Take a carpet cleaning business, for example. Your customer purchased the service, their carpets are now clean, but at some point they’re going to get dirty and need cleaning again. So, should you just wait for them to call you again? Absolutely not. You have no way of knowing how long they’re going to go before getting them cleaned again, and you want to make sure they don’t go somewhere else for their business.

The Solution

Keep the conversation open, and continue to send them information in an email campaign to help your customers to decide to use your company again. At this point, the conversation changes from the differences between your products and other products, to how to use your product or maintain the results from your product or solution. At the same time, you can also send discounts or offers on repeat or complimentary services, satisfaction surveys, bulk discounts, etc., whatever is within your means to work toward customer retention.

In the case of the carpet cleaning business, you could ask how the cleaning is holding up, send them multi-room discounts, and offer couch-cleaning services or other upsells.


  • Email marketing campaign
  • Discounts and upsells
  • Satisfaction surveys

Understanding your customer is a big step towards increasing your sales conversions and improving the chances that customers will buy from you. Figure out where your customers fall in each of these categories, and you’ll be even closer to increasing your sales and having happier, more satisfied customers.

What are your experiences with these customer categories? Have these tips worked for you? Let me know in the comments.Marketing Zeus

Posted in: B2C, Campaign Development, Content, E-Commerce, Email, Engage!

About the Writer:

Born in England and raised in the U.S., Charles Forster is the marketing director and partner at Vine & Grain, a company that creates management technologies for bars and restaurants. Prior to that position, he ran a graphic design company, Call Me Chaz, in Philadelphia, PA and Orlando, FL. He focused on branding, websites, print, video and marketing for small business clients up and down the east coast. He's a self-prescribed car nut and foodie. He's also the curator for This Is Visceral, a site devoted to poster art.

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