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When asked to describe the ideal customer for my company, I thought it would be very simple. First, the customer would need my product badly. Second, they would have deep pockets. Finally, if the product was not as good as they expected, they wouldn’t complain at all and still buy my company’s product. As it turns out, that was just too simple. As I began to analyze the ideal customer for my company’s product, prescription drugs in this case, I found that at least two of the three didn’t even have to be necessarily true. My paper will try to explain how the ideal customer for my company might be determined.
The company I work for is a generic pharmaceutical company. There are many drugs made at our several plants. There are probably other generic companies making the same drugs we are. The purpose of our marketing department is to make sure we produce the right mix of products at the right price for the people out there that may get sick and need certain prescription drugs. That is not a simple task.
First, the customer must need or at least want some kind of product that we have the capability of producing. We would need to do research to see what is selling out in the marketplace and then see if it was possible to produce the product at a profit. The possibility always exists that there will be others that will produce the product faster, better or cheaper than us. We will have no patent to reduce competition. The possibility exists that we may be able to make the product, but not be able to sell it at a profit. It is critical to perform all the market research and judge the costs of producing the product before it is ever made.
How do you find that ideal customer in the vast numbers of potential customers? You have to look for them. Sometimes it is not so easy. Sure there are people with heart problems and then there are others with anxiety problems. Somebody somewhere has something wrong with him or herself that a medication can help with. The trick in pharmaceuticals is to find enough people you can help with a medication you can make at a profit. That brings us to the first statement that can
be made about the ideal customer. The ideal pharmaceutical customer is a person you can identify as a person needing, or possibly just wanting, your drug.
In Chapter 6 of the book, Basic Marketing, needs and wants are defined. Needs are things we cannot do without. Air, water and food are examples of needs. In prescription drugs there are some drugs that prolong life and without them a person would soon die. Those kinds of drugs produce a very strong drive to get them. The drive would be the will to live.
Wants, on the other hand, are a kind of learned need. You learn that a certain thing is something you like very much and it provides some kind satisfaction. Painkillers might a type of medicine that would create a need. You may be able to live without the comfort provided by the painkiller, but you may want to be without pain very much. If a painkiller provides comfort, learning occurs.
Learning about the drug providing relief from pain is based on direct experience. Seeing an ad on television portraying a person in major pain being miraculously relieved of their pain by some product is learning based on indirect experience (Perreault, McCarthy 1).
When a person feels the first signs of a headache coming on, that may be described as a cue. They then respond to the cue by taking some medicine. If the medicine is effective in taking away the pain that would tend to reinforce the response.
All this background leads to describing one more aspect of the ideal customer. When the customer buys a certain drug, they have some kind of drive that is telling them that getting the drug will provide some benefit to them. The cue may have been that the doctor told them it would help. They respond by getting the drug. It helps them get well, so next time they feel the same way they will ask their doctor to prescribe the same thing. Maybe the doctor will prescribe the same thing. If they do and it works again it just keeps on reinforcing the response of ordering the same thing. Generally, people are real careful about the drugs they take. If it works, they will stay with the same thing a long time. So, this leads to the second statement that can be made about the
ideal customer for the drug product.
“The ideal customer has gone through the learning process with the product � medicine in this case � and has developed an almost automatic response to use the product exclusively”
This response pretty much makes the deep pockets requirement for an ideal customer irrelevant. It may be that the drug is cheap or they may have learned about the drug so well that they will do about anything, up to a point, to get it. It is sometimes not so easy to afford prescription medication.
Now, what about those people that complain? I think they are just as important as the people that have learned to like the product and don’t have much of anything to say about the product. If you don’t get some criticism, how can you learn to improve? Criticism keeps you on your toes. I think customers are doing you a service if they complain about something valid. They have identified a problem that you have overlooked. Thus, the last statement can be made of the ideal customer.
“The ideal customer lets you know when you screwed up so you can fix the problem”
So, in conclusion, although it wasn’t as simple as it first seemed, three things can be said about the ideal customer. These attributes are not exclusive to customers of pharmaceutical companies and they can be generally large or small customers. First, you have to be able to find them and find out what they will buy. Second, they must learn that your product will fulfill their needs so they will develop an almost automatic response to buy your product. Finally, they will be customers that will let you know how you can better serve them. You don’t learn and grow if you don’t get some criticism. Do criticism of your product and the using it at the same time seem contradictory? I don’t think so. When I have gotten the correct response back from my complaints of a product or service, it only helped to reinforce my belief that the product was something of value to me. It was only when I got poor service that I learned it was generally not worth buying. So, it wasn’t so simple to describe the ideal customer as I first thought
Perreualt, William D., McCarthy E. Jerome (1). Behavioral Dimensions of the Consumer Market. In S. Patterson & L. Davis, Basic Marketing (pp. 15-178). Boston, Mass. McGraw-Hill.
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