Not all customers are equal – the top three rules to build a profitable customer portfolio


Share on LinkedIn


Let’s face it – revenue comes from customers – not products or services – the customers who are prepared to pay for your offerings. When we start new businesses we tend to get our offer ready, then release it onto the market – knowing that customers will come and be wowed by our offering. The customer portfolio is the your resulting base of customers your create over time – typically with some profitable customers, some not so.

That customer base then determines your level of future growth (through advocacy, word-of-mouth), your cost structure and your revenue stream/s.

These three rules will help ensure you establish a profitable customer portfolio from the get-go..!

ONE: The Adoption of Innovation Curve. Sometimes referred to as the “diffusion of innovations” was developed by Everett Rogers in the 1960’s, the language of his discovery has become common place today. Rogers described the Innovators (about 2.5% of the adopting population) that are the first ones that love to take up something new. Then the Early Adopters (approximately the next 13.5%), as soon as the Innovators have trialled the new service or product, then these customers are ready to buy. Then comes the Early and Late Majority, followed by the Laggards (who typically represent 16% of the population. We have all heard these terms before, so why is it a need to know..?
The Adoption of Innovation tells us who buys and who needs to be sold.

If you are an entrepreneur that truly has a new and innovative offering, your challenge is to find the innovators. Once you find them, they will buy. It is in their nature, they do not need to be sold. Once you have a few innovators on board, you use their stories to capture the attention of the Early Adopters (who also do not need to be sold, they buy). If your offering though is not a true innovation, but perhaps an improved offering for the majority, then you will need to develop a customer strategy and sales tactics that will persuade your target customers of your value proposition for them. The first rule entrepreneurs need to know to build a profitable customer portfolio – know what stage of customer adoption is your offering in.

TWO: Know your awesome customer. Not all customers are equal – so do not go out there and indiscriminately acquire customers. If you do, you will probably end up with a customer portfolio that has some profitable customers and others not so, some may be neutral value to you, others may cost you. Most established businesses have a customer portfolio that might have up to 60% of customers that are adding value, where the other 40% are made up of low value, or neutral, or even ‘value destroyers’. These lower value customers are often hidden in the fray of day-to-day activity, they will be more demanding, price sensitive (always asking for discounts, or negotiating price), and hidden within the customer portfolio as many businesses do not understand the true cost to serve these customers. Rule two entrepreneurs need to know to build a profitable customer portfolio, – know and define your awesome customer – the one that responds to the value you are offering. and will reciprocate by returning value to you. Know that customer and build your customer portfolio with those customers.

THREE: It’s an iterative process. The development of the optimal customer portfolio is an iterative process. That means we cannot sit back and watch the customer base grow and feel good about the growing numbers – we need to be proactive in how we build the customer portfolio. This means that we test, trial, watch, learn to actively fine tune the customers we acquire and how existing customers interact with our business. Rule three: watching and listening to how customers gain value from our offerings will often provide insights that will help with a clearer focus on who to acquire and how to onboard these customers.

Most start-ups get focused on the acquisition of customers as a priority, however many do not put the effort into the early stages about who these customers are and the value they may represent. Too many assumptions early on can leave you with a problem within your customer portfolio.

The aim is the create a profitable customer portfolio that represents the optimal exchange of two-way value between you and your customers. Apply these three rule to ensure profitable customers.

Photo credit: Flickr, Customers by DG

Mark Hocknell
Mark is a Customer Centric Business specialist with experience spanning three decades, from line management to consulting and academia. Based in south east Queensland, Australia, Mark led one of the first, large scale CRM deployments for one of Australia's leading financial institutions. For the last fifteen years Mark has consulted to leading organisations in Australia, as well as small-to-medium sized businesses. He is the author of Profit by Design: how to build a customer portfolio full of profitable promoters.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here