Today, I want to share a really useful tool that can help you identify your best customers. It’s called the Ideal Customer Bubble Graph.
This is a great way to know which of your customers are Ideal—individuals who have following qualities:
- They generate the highest profit margins,
- They give you the fewest problems,
- They align closely with your philosophy, and
- They help your company to move toward its strategic goals.
Find out more about Ideal Customers here.
What is a Bubble Graph?
A bubble graph is a graphical method of visually representing data. For those of us who are Visual-Spatial learners (or “picture smart”), this provides a very useful way of seeing complex information in a way that can allow a deeper understanding. We can use tools like the Bubble Graph to recognize the possible root causes of problems.
It is constructed using X and Y axes (a square shape), with the segments shown as circles of varying sizes. The bigger the circle, the larger the percentage it represents. The circle’s position on the chart also corresponds to whether it has a high or low degree of impact, severity, length, etc. (which can be either quantitative/numerical data or qualitative/experience data). We can also use colors and shading to represent categories of information, as you will see below.
Steps to Using an Ideal Customer Bubble Graph
In this article, I will be sharing an example of a practitioner. Much of the data is based on actual practices, although details have been altered. We will analyze the data from our example practitioner’s practice and use it to walk through the process of creating a Bubble Graph.
To get the most from this awesome tool, I recommend taking 5 steps:
- Identify your Ideal Customers’ common attributes,
- Organize using the Magic Square (which I will explain below),
- Calculate the attribute frequency (using circles),
- Determine the degree of Profit Potential and Enjoyment for each attribute, and
- Identify areas where attributes overlap (which are Ideal Customer Segments).
Keep reading as I explain each of these steps.
Step 1: Identify Common Attributes
To begin, think about who your Ideal Customers might be.
- Who buys your services or products most often?
- Which customers are repeat customers and purchase services or products many times?
- What profit margins are you generating from each customer segment?
You may have noticed that your customers can be classified into distinct groups.
Consider segmenting your customers. This will help you see where they come from and what they have in common.
To do this, consider who your perfect customer is. Perhaps it’s someone who you are serving right now.
Think of the customers who are a dream to help.
You may have an imaginary (yet realistic) person in mind, which we call an Avatar, which is the Sanskrit avatārati meaning “descent of a deity from heaven” (or “crossing over”).
By developing a visual concept of your customer as a specific type of person, you can start to identify her or his desires, needs, and fears… and use that knowledge to design services or products that can meet their needs.
Pick a few categories for the individuals you feel are the most “ideal”—who can benefit the most from your services, generate the highest profit margins, and whom you enjoy helping.
In my example (above), we are analyzing a healthcare practice. The practitioner-owner has considered all current and past patients that she has enjoyed working with. Her most “ideal” patients have characteristics in 4 main areas: Demographics, Interest, Conditions, and Personality & Temperament.
In our example, the practitioner’s ideal Patient is…
- Age 35 to 55
- Parent of teenagers
- Donates to charity
Common interests for Ideal Customers in this practice include…
- Yoga and meditation
- Volunteering regularly
- International travel
The health concerns that are top of mind for this Ideal Patient are…
- Hormone Imbalance
- Migraine Headaches
Personality & Temperament
An analysis area that I find particularly helpful is to recognize which personality types, temperaments, and strengths are common among your Ideal Customers.
If you don’t already, I encourage you to become familiar with your own personality type using these tools:
- Strengths (using the StrengthsFinder top 5 talents)
- Temperament (I recommend Myers-Briggs)
- Appreciation (the Language of Appreciation* is great)
Once you know how you perceive the world and interact with others, you can identify traits in the people around you: staff, customers, vendors, and other stakeholders. You might even include personality testing as a step in your onboarding process when hiring new staff, and when bringing on a new customer.
In our example, the Ideal Patient…
The categories I’ve used (Demographics, Interests, Conditions, Personality) are just a starting point. There are no rules about which characteristics to use, but I do recommend that you focus on individuals who are (or have the potential to) generate that highest profit margins for your business. If your company serves a large variety of needs or customers but is consistently spending more money than you’re generating (a negative profit margin), you’re more vulnerable to problems in the long run.
Read more: Analyzing Profit Margins FAQs
Use whichever demographic categories that makes sense to you.
Step 2. Organize Using the Magic Square
Once you’ve made a list of your Ideal Customers’ qualities and the categories into which these fit, the next step is to put it into a Magic Square.
Don’t worry, this isn’t hocus-pocus. A Feng Shui Magic Square is simply a collection of 9 areas that allow you to see all aspects of your business.
I use this method as a framework to make sure that nothing is missed.
(Please note that, although the squares are associated with a number, you do not need to do it in that order. I’ll number these from 1 to 9 to make it easier to follow.)
You can that each categories is distributed into the various “squares”:
|Ideal Customer Characteristic||Categories|
|Square 1: Passions||Volunteers regularly||Interest|
|Square 2: Relationships||Female, age 35-55
Patient of Teenagers
|Square 3: Health||Hormone Imbalance
|Square 4: Abundance||Donates to Charity||Demographic|
|Square 5: Center||Yoga & Meditation||Interest|
|Square 6: Journey||Married
|Square 7: Creativity||Gardening
|Square 8: Wisdom||International Travel||Interest|
|Square 9: Reputation||Appreciates “Acts of Service”||Personality|
Read more about the Magic Square concept: How to Make a Strategic Vision Board: Introduction
Step 3. Calculate the Attribute Frequency
Next, we determine how often each of these qualities occur.
If you decide that you want to focus on Female customers ages 35 to 55, what percentage does this represent out of your current customer base? Is this demographic group generating a high net profit margin?
You could also use the percentage of your anticipated customer base—meaning your market (potential clients or patients who are a great match for your services, but who you haven’t yet met).
The percentage will be represented by a circle of varying sizes. An attribute with a large percentage will have a big circle, and one with a smaller percentage will have a small circle. You can also color-code your circles using the Magic Square hues in Step 2.
In our example, we have calculated percentages based on all current and past customers served.
You can use any combination you like. In our example, the list looks like this:
- Volunteers regularly (24% of all patients)
- Our example practitioner estimates this percentage based on her conversations with patients.
- Volunteering fits a life philosophy and mindset of giving back to others, which is very important to the owner as well.
- Female, age 35-55 (90% of all patients)
- Nearly all patients seen by this practitioner have been female in this age bracket.
- She also provides care to teens and 20-something females, as well as males; but this has become less frequent in the past year as her practice focus became Hormone Imbalance.
- Patient of Teenagers (28% of all patients)
- This demographic quality (children between ages of 13 and 19) is one the owner estimates based on conversations and observations with her patients.
- Hormone Imbalance (46% of all patients)
- In the example, our practitioner primarily serves patients with hormone therapy needs.
- Migraine Headaches (56% of all patients)
- The practitioner has noticed that many of her patients also suffer from chronic migraines.
- Donates to Charity (33% of all patients)
- Many new patients are coming to her from word-of-mouth referrals, and a common source for these referrals is a group of charitable groups in the community.
- Community service and volunteerism fit the owner’s philosophy and priorities.
- Yoga & Meditation (28% of all patients)
- A significant portion of her patients participate in Mind-Body therapies.
- Married (38% of all patients)
- The practitioner was surprised to discover that less than half of her Ideal Customers are married.
- She notes that an additional 45% are divorced, and the remaining 22% are single and have not married.
- Homeowner (32% of all patients)
- Based on conversations, she estimates that less than half of her patients own a home, while the rest are renting or in a shared living situation.
- Gardening (30% of all patients)
- Again, she estimates that nearly a third enjoy gardening, which is one of her hobbies.
- Extrovert Personality (23% of all patients)
- Our practitioner has an Extravert personality type.
- As part of her intake process, she asks patients to share their personality type if they choose. About half of her patients have participated.
- She is surprised to see that, of those who responded, 23% consider themselves Extraverts, while a significant majority—77%—say they are Introverts.
- International Travel (26% of all patients)
- In conversations with her Ideal Patients, the conversation of world travel has come up several times.
- Travel is a big passion for the practitioner.
- Appreciates “Acts of Service” (34% of all patients)
- During intake, the practitioner asks patients to share which type of “appreciation language” they prefer.
- In our example, over a third of respondents (34%) say they prefer to receive practical help and support, rather than encouraging words or gifts or quality time. Another 22% prefer Quality Time, 18% prefer Gifts, 15% prefer Physical Touch, and just 11% want Words of Affirmation.
- The practitioner’s Language of Appreciation is “Words of Affirmation” (which is 11% of all patients). This means that she needs to be conscious of the Acts of Service needs of her patients, even though this “language” does not come naturally to her.
- (Find out more about the Languages of Appreciation here).
Step 4. Determine Profit Potential and Enjoyment
This step involves calculating two numbers: the potential for earning Profit, and the level of Enjoyment for each attribute.
Profit Potential is displayed on the X axis (the line from bottom to top).
Ask yourself: “Does this attribute correlate to higher net profits?
Low Margins are at the bottom. High Margins at the top.
Work Enjoyment is displayed on the Y axis (the line from left to right).
Ask the question: “Are you excited by this attribute?”
Unenjoyable work is on the left. Energizing work is on the right.
Step 5. Identify Areas Where Attributes Overlap
Now we can use the percentage for each Ideal Customer Segment (see Step 3) and position it as a circle on the graph, corresponding to the location from Step 4.
You can do this using a software program (I use Canva) by creating a square graph, then adding the circles. I used a 29% transparency in order to see areas of overlap. The colors match colors from the Magic Square (see Step 2).
- The bubble color will match the Magic Square category.
- Bubble size is relative to the frequency you calculated.
- Bubble location will match the degree of both Profit Potential and Work Enjoyment you have determined (higher profit is closer to the top of the graph; higher enjoyment is to the right on the graph).
Finally, we can analyze the results.
Where do you see areas of overlap—especially in the top-right corner? (As per Step 4, this is a high level Profit Potential and a high level of Work Enjoyment).
The areas of overlap are your “Ideal Customer Segments” and are likely to provide significant profit and work satisfaction for you as a business owner.
In our example, we identified five segments (gray arrows; click on the image above to expand).
Segment A: Extroverted, married female and mother of teenage children who donates to charity and has Hormone Imbalance and Migraine Headaches
Segment B: Extroverted female mother of teenage children who practices Yoga, donates to charity, and has Hormone Imbalance
Segment C: Female mother of teenagers, homeowner, who enjoys gardening and has Hormone Imbalance & Migraine Headaches
Segment D: Female homeowner who volunteers, travels internationally, and has Hormone Imbalance
Segment E: Female homeowner who enjoys gardening, appreciates “Acts of Service,”* has Migraine Headaches
We could re-order these segments by Profit Margin (whether that grouping correlates to higher net profit)
- Segment A and Segment B are linked to the highest profit potential
- Segment E has the lowest profit potential
We can also order the segments by Personal Satisfaction (whether you enjoy and feel fulfilled by working with that group).
- Segments B and D have the highest rate of satisfaction
- Segments A, C, and E are equal for having the lowest rate of satisfaction
Using these results, we can see several things:
1. High-Value Qualities
The combination of qualities that result in a high profit margin AND high work satisfaction are those on which you want to focus your attention. The customers or patients who fit these particular segments are typically Ideal for your business.
For our practitioner-owner in the example, these high-value qualities include:
- Female patients (the vast majority of customers in this practice are female)
- Age 35 to 55 (the majority of patients served are in this age range)
- Married (this could be due to insurance coverage or higher household income, although a significant number of patients are single or divorced)
- Extroverted personality types (this could be due to an affinity with the owner, who may also be an Extravert)
- Mother of teenage children (of the patients who volunteered this information, a shared characteristic is that they have children aged 13 to 19 years old)
- Donates to charity (many patients participate in community charity events, from which many were referred to the practice via word-of-mouth)
- Practices Yoga (an exercise method used by a significant number of patients)
- A dual condition of Hormone Imbalance and Migraine Headaches (although the practitioner has offered a large variety of services to patients with many conditions, this combination of symptoms is the most commonly needed by patients)
2. Low-Value Qualities
In our example, the least profitable and least enjoyable qualities are toward the bottom and left of the graph. These include:
- Patients who appreciate “Acts of Service” (this one rates low on the owner’s Enjoyment, which could mean that the owner does not share this quality or is not familiar with how to connect with patients who do)
- Gardening (very low on both Profit and Enjoyment, which could mean that the owner loves gardening but her Ideal patients do not)
- International travel (it rates high in both Profit and Enjoyment for the owner, but may not match the interests of an Ideal Customer)
You can also use a Decision-Making Matrix to determine which qualities to focus on and which to ignore (read more here).
3. More Data is Needed
While this bubble graph provides a lot of good information, it is selective. The full scope of these qualities is not included.
In our example, we don’t have data on the number of Introverted patients. Since patients are not required to share their personality type, household status, interests, and hobbies, these categories do not provide us a complete picture of the Ideal Customer mindset. While our example owner conducted a survey and heard back from several patients, her data seems to be skewed in favor of the Extrovert personality (which she shares).
We know that of those who responded to this example survey, 23% consider themselves “Extroverted,” while the remaining 77% responded they are Introverted. Since the owner is an Extrovert, she easily connects with patients who have a similar personality type.
We also don’t know many other things about this practice’s Ideal Customers, such as:
- how they heard about the practice,
- which services they use most often,
- how frequently they receive treatment,
- the type of treatment they receive,
- the duration of treatment, and
- which referrals and add-on services are used.
These factors could help the owner to determine how to reach a particular niche of patients with similar needs.
Bubble Graph Conclusions
What can we conclude from this analysis?
Our example practitioner has provided a list of qualities and characteristics that she believes her Ideal Customers share.
However, it is possible that the data is somewhat biased. We do not know the sample size of this study. (A higher number of people to analyze means a less skewed result).
We also don’t know exactly what the owner enjoys doing herself. Some of the qualities (like Gardening and International Travel) seem to match the owner’s interests but not those of her Ideal Customers.
The Language of Appreciation shared by a large number of her customers does not rate high on her Enjoyment scale, which could mean that she does not feel very confident connecting with them in practical ways. Perhaps the owner is stronger in Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Gifts, or Physical Touch and is not sure how to engage with customers who prefer to receive appreciation in Acts of Service.
As with any analysis project, the data does not tell us the whole story. We don’t know how the owner selected her data or whether she left out certain types of customers from the analysis. We don’t know whether she “cherry-picked” data and ignored past customers who were not ideal.
We all have the tendency to subconsciously view data from a pre-existing bias. We want the conclusion to match our philosophy. So we tend to overlook data points that don’t align with our perspective, and to exaggerate the importance of data that enhances our point of view. This can occur without conscious thought, so it can be difficult to recognize when our bias is affecting the analysis process.
To get a completely transparent idea of your business, I recommend that you invite an objective expert to help you analyze the data. This could be someone in your organization who has shown they can suspend judgment and provide a Devil’s Advocate point of view, or a trusted stakeholder, or someone with experience in strategic analysis.
It’s also a good idea to be aware of your own personality type and temperament as you gather information about your patients or customers, because you are likely to respond more positively to people who are like you (which is one of the principles of Influencing, as developed by Dr. Robert Cialdini).
As you gather data from your own business, consider the qualities and interests that may not be apparent at first. We tend to be more interested in topics that we ourselves enjoy. But consider that your Ideal Patients may have a wide range of needs, fears, or expectations that you are not yet familiar with.
It is worthwhile to enter data analysis with curiosity, seeking answers as an explorer rather than a rigid rule-maker. By remaining open to what the data can say about your business, you can increase your ability to recognize risk.
If you want to talk about how to reverse a toxic workplace, find out more here.
Grace LaConte is a business consultant, writer, workplace equity strategist, and the founder of LaConte Consulting. Her risk management tools are used around the globe, and she has successfully reversed toxic work environments for clients in the healthcare and non-profit fields. Grace specializes in lactation law compliance & policy development, reducing staff turnover after maternity leave, and creating a participatory work culture.