Web Design: Who is the 'Ideal' TI Customer?
As part of our site update I've been told I must answer this question, both by our likely internet marketing consultant, and by Suzanne.
The ideal customer is the person most likely to find value in TI products or services. The ideal customer is no doubt strongly represented among Forum regulars -- but there's not complete overlap. As Suzanne reminded me, some avid Forum-goers are not even customers -- if that is defined as having made a purchase of any kind.
The importance of accurately defining that person (and 2nd and 3rd tier customers) is that you then focus your most visible web messages on them. The 2nd and 3rd tier customers will follow their curiosity to 'inside' pages that address their concerns and goals.
Being pushed to think about this has been a valuable exercise which showed me how diffuse our messages have been. Because I'm interested in 'all things swimming' my writing and TI itself has tended, at times, to be a bit diffuse. E.G. The Combat Swimmer DVD.
Suzanne told me I need to create an Ideal Customer 'avatar' - a highly detailed portrait prior to embarking on redesign. Here's what I came up with:
Age: Baby Boomer - between mid-40s and early 60s.
Gender: Somewhat more likely to be male than female - in part because a lot of our early 'customer acquisition' occurred when triathlon was over 70% male.
Household Income: upper-middle, between $70k and $125k
Well-educated, intellectually curious and open-minded,
Swimming Experience: 75% less than 3 years; 95% 'adult-onset' swimmers
Goals: Modest. Swim with comfort, ease and enjoyment. Understand enough to make sound choices and use time well. Be able to swim a mile or more continuously and feel good - ready to swim another - upon finishing.
Values or Priorities 80% or more are Healthseekers - including the majority of new triathletes; 10-20% are Achievement seekers. More likely to describe self as 'active' than athletic.
Aspirations? Fill in the blank.
What do you think?
How closely does this profile fit you?
In what ways does it differ - and why?
What key elements of your makeup have I overlooked?
We plan to do an email survey of the 80,000 folks on our email data base very shortly. I'm working this week on drafting the questions. Your input will be most helpful.
If any of you have experience with market research, I would welcome your help with creating the survey.
However, before I comment further it would be helpful for me as a new member of the TI coach community to more fully understand what the future vision for Total Immersion as a company, as a movement, as a training method, as a method for life, etc. is.
Once I know what that is, then I can tell you if your target customer is good/bad/too narrow/too broad.
We've been advised to define the target customer in a highly detailed manner.
That definition will most likely come from an email survey we'll send to our data base of some 80,000 email contacts.
What's our goal? To understand the most common and compelling needs, desires, problems and conundrums of adult swimmers and provide answers, encouragement and support that informs, inspires and - most of all- works better than any alternative.
Heretofore our decisions and initiatives have been a bit too likely to be influenced by my subjective impressions, anecdotal experiences - and even what has most closely occupied my attention in my own swimming at a given moment.
I want TI to be much more Customer Focused going forward. Unlike Steve Jobs, I think it's a good idea to ask the customer what they want. And perhaps (likely with good reason) I trust my instincts less than he did his.
But there is one issue with this process and that is it only services what is known. It does little to address where you want move towards, which can be relatively new territory.
The famous example was when a major car manufacturer was designing a new car. So they went out and asked a whole bunch of people whether they would buy it. Many said yes and the car manufacturer went ahead and made the car. However, when the produced the car, it did not sell at all! Thus was realized that surveys had a major danger inherent in that process for information discovery and creating strategy around it. People often didn't actually do what they said they would especially when it came with parting with their money.
Although that example does not quite accurately depict the situation you're in, it does illustrate this fact - by surveying your known universe of users, it only means that you will service those customers more effectively. so for that it is great. but if you want TI to grow and be huge, you may need to figure out how to make TI relevant to other types of target customers.
This is why i asked for your vision of TI. if your vision is to infuse TI swimming principles into every swimmer across the US, then I think your target customer definition process will yield too narrow results. if your vision is to continue to further service that target demographic, then yes this information and process is good.
for the record, i am not saying TI should be one way or the other. I only didn't want you to limit TI if that wasn't your vision.
re: customer focused process
yes i applaud this. involving the customer is very important in many phases of building the company and business. we should continue to do this as much as possible. happy to talk more about this - there are many movements in the startup world using this method and model right now.
Oh I should say that there is also nothing wrong with talking to customers who are not your current customers. These can also generate target customers segments like the one you asked for comments on; they just aren't your customers now but those in the future.
This is also part of my comment about vision. If your vision is to reach broader, then I think your target segment is too limiting. If your vision is not so broad, then I think your target is fine.
Your intuitive effort to develop a profile of the typical TI customer fits me like a glove. I also think that your current audience is technologially savvy and would prefer alternatives in how your product is distributed and a broader array of information.
As you think about strategies for expanding TI's reach, include questions in your survey that help focus and define how technology factors into your future vision for the website, product delivery, and TI's future profitability. My guess is that your sales potential is enormous if TI products are tailored to specific user needs. Technology allows you to cost-effectively reach customer niche markets.
I also think that TI could leverage its considerable appeal and brand by developing highly selective alliances with certain vendors. You don't have to try to do everything by yourself.
In the past five years, TI has made a contribution to my physical health, provided me a supportive and entertaining swimming community, and bolstered my confidence. I can't wait to experience what the next five years brings.
You should perhaps remember that TI is a very international product and concept, and so rather than looking at who is the ideal customer, I would ask myself what personality traits would someone need to benefit from TI.
To illustrate my point, I would imagine a lot of teachers and lecturers in the UK with a general interest in fitness would find TI challenging and inspiring and a great topic of conversation at dinner parties, but they are often underpaid with respect to their academic qualifications.
Similarly, different cultures across nations prepare people to accept and look for the wisdom of others at earlier or later ages in life. I would imagine in India or Japan an average 18-20 year old would have the wisdom and modesty to listen to the advice found in self coached materials such as TI whereas in many european countries, we believe we can reinvent the wheel by ourselves until later in life.
For me a TI customer needs a good educational background, self discipline, a willingness to cast aside all they thought to be previously true, focus and patience.
I am not in the least surprised that TI is popular in Japan.
Thanks for your comments. Your questions will help me clarify what I'm seeking at this moment. I can best answer this way:
1) I strongly believe TI's broadest principles -- pursue harmony with the water and pay attention to what you're doing -- can improve any form, use or objective of swimming. Thus my dream is to see TI influence and imbue all aquatic teaching and practice, for all objectives. However . . .
2) Our short-term goal is to grow as a company to acquire the resources to achieve broader influence. We can best do that by providing better service to the people we already know are most likely to respond positively to our message. And make sure more people like them know we exist.
What I especially love about the adult-onset swimmer I described at the top of this thread is that they come with no preconceptions and generally don't have coaches. They appreciate the common sense aspect of the TI Method and value the holistic approach. If I spent the rest of my life serving such people, it would be a very good life indeed.
I feel that I too fit your profile very closely as well. And I look forward to your survey.
The only key element not addressed on your list, in my case, would be a lack of confidence. In any activity where a new skill is required, the mental state contains great control of that skill through a level of confidence .
So if deemed worthy of consideration some aspect of sports psychology as related to swimming may be of value on the new site - even if only references or links as to where information might be found. I'm certainly an open minded person and willing to accept challenges but that doesn't mean there is a lot of confidence to go along with that acceptance of the challenge.
My next short term goal is to gain enough ability and confidence to take on the diving board.
My personal aspirations? A, To gain enough ability so that a level of solid confidence is developed - such that at some point I may even find myself in the position to seek becoming a certified TI instructor.
And B, to live long enough for A to happen!
"to grow as a company and acquire the resources..."
I take this to mean simply, Top Line and Bottom Line Revenue growth. That being said, from my own experience, the adult onset "triathlete" or experienced but not necessarily "elite" triathlete, seems to me to be AN ideal customer(s). All of the characteristics you mention plus a "Captured Target Audience/Market" at any Triathlon event, especially a Sprint Tri anywhere, likely with an urgent desire to improve. I don't know how aggressively you have marketed to this group already, but I just cannot believe that there are not many new or current triathletes (and I believe it is a rapidly growing sport) that would love to have the experience I have had with TI, if they knew of TI. My experience:
March 2011- First Triathlon
Reverse Sprint 150m Swim in Pool 5 minutes, had to rest after each 50
First Open Water Sprint Tri, 300m, panic attack, 9 minutes
Started TI (found it on the web somehow)
September 2011 First Race Since Starting TI
Olympic Distance Tri, 1500m Ocean Swim. Up and down coast swim, Time 30:31 Top 1/3 Finish
Yesterday December 18, 2011
Long Beach, CA Sprint Tri 500m (Ocean Harbor) 7th out of water of 62.
Time is skewed because course was mis-measured. That or I set a world record :) with 6 others...
Today, back in pool, swam a mile. Because I love it.
I am 48 years old and have had no swimming coaching or experience prior to this year.
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