Who is talking about you? Are your products reviewed on people’s blogs? Have there been any newspaper articles about your newest ad campaign? Do you overhear casual conversation about your brand in the coffee shop? There is someone out there telling your story that is not on your payroll. It’s time you figure out who that person is and exactly what you are saying.

Remember our conversation about the perfect customer? I argued that the perfect customer is your un-hired advertising force. This is the person you have zero control over, but on whom your reputation rests. Now that we know how the market-at-large views the brand and company, we need to investigate how our perfect customer sees us.

We started with an idea of who this person is. Our marketing budget is devoted to reaching him or her and promoting our brand story. If this person is still our perfect customer, then he or she will be easy to find. Look at the by-lines on blogs and newspaper articles. Ask people in the coffee shop follow-up questions (a great way to build a relationship is offering to pay for their coffee in exchange for a few answers). What we want to know at this point is if our perfect customer has changed since we started our campaign.

Try this ...

Take out two sheets of paper. Title one, “The Perfect Customer” and the other, “The Story Teller.” Give each paper to a different person on your staff and ask them to write a detailed description. “The Perfect Customer” should be exactly the description you started with earlier. “The Story Teller” will be a description of the blogger, columnist, or barista talking up your product. Put the two sheets of paper side by side and look for differences. If there are any, throw “The Perfect Customer” away and re-title “The Story Teller” as “The NEW Perfect Customer.”

It is very easy to get frustrated now. I looks like I’ve just told you that all your marketing investment has been wasted on the wrong group of people. No. Your marketing dollars have helped you identify your perfect customer. Our first description was brainstorming based on assumptions, not the observed behavior of the market. Continuing with our first description would have been a waste, and in a little while we will need to stop and repeat this process again. Consider this a quality control test for our marketing campaign – it needs to be performed frequently to ensure we don’t get off track with our message and efforts.

How many differences were there between “The Perfect Customer” and “The Story Teller?” Were there any surprises in this exercise?