What are the ABCDs of your business?

The first step in the Planning part of your business is to determine your ABCDs. 

If you google ABCDs in the context of business you will find hundreds of examples of acronyms and frameworks that use ABCD to explain some business concept or another. Here’s what I am referring to when I talk about the ABCDs of your business:

  • Audience – your target market
  • Benefits – what your clients or customers gain by buying your products or services
  • Consummate Client – your ideal client or customer
  • Difference-maker – what separates you from your competition

Getting as much clarity as possible on your ABCDs will allow you create effective marketing and communications strategies as part of your 3-year, 1-year, and 90-day plans. It will also make it easier to talk to others about your business, products, or services.

While your ABCDs live in the Planning part of your business, you will likely touch on many of these while working on the Purpose part of your business. In the process of clarifying your vision, mission, and core values, different elements of your ABCDs will come up—you just may not know at the time that they are your ABCDs. So as you work on clarifying your ABCDs, it might be helpful to look back at your notes from the Purpose work you have done on your business. 

Let’s take a closer look at each component of your ABCDs:


As business-building guru Michael Port says, “To reach the people you’re meant to serve, you’ve got to know where to find them.” Clarifying your audience, or target market, will let you know where to find those people. 

If your audience is other businesses, what industry or industries are they in? Where are they located? Are there niches within these industry sectors that you want to serve specifically? Do you have a natural affinity or special interest in a certain sector or niche that could help you further clarify your audience? What are the needs and wants of these businesses?

If your audience is consumers, are they men or women or both? What age? Where do they live? What are their interests? What is their income bracket? What are their needs and wants?

The more specific your audience, the more tailored your marketing efforts can be in terms of scope and messaging.


What benefits do you provide to your audience? What problems do you solve for your target market? How do you satisfy their needs and wants? How will their life or business be improved after buying your products or services? 

It’s important here to understand the difference between the features of your products or services, and their benefits. Sellers often focus too much on the features of what they are offering (the newest thingamajig with this bell and that whistle) and not enough on the benefits the customer gets from using the thingamajig—how do those bells and whistles actually make the customer’s life better? Does it take away some pain they are feeling? Does it give them more pleasure? Does it do both? Pay particular attention to what your customers’ experience will be on an emotional level. In other words, how will buying and using your product or service make the customer feel

If your product or service provides several benefits to your customers, it’s a good idea to identify the #1 benefit your product or services provides to your customers, which should serve as the primary focus of your marketing and messaging.

Consummate Client/Customer

Most businesses have clients or customers they absolutely love to serve and others that drive them crazy. If you’re a service professional there are some names that pop up on your caller ID that make you reach for the phone happily, and others that make your stomach turn—you reach for the phone timidly, or not at all.

What is the difference between the two?  What characteristics, traits, attributes, qualities, and values would a client need to have to be your ideal, or consummate, client? What are the must-have behaviours of your ideal clients, and what are the behaviours you won’t tolerate? 

Think of your favourite client or customer. What makes them so? Write down all the details you can think of—that’s the blueprint for your consummate client. 

Getting clear on your consummate client does a couple of things. First, it allows you to tailor your marketing and messaging even further, so that you attract the right clients from within your target market, rather than the wrong ones.  And second, over time it will help you dump your dud clients/customers to make room for more consummate ones. While your business isn’t likely to ever be 100% free of duds, it should be a goal to get as close to it as possible. The result—or benefits—of doing so will be a less stressful and more profitable and enjoyable business.


There are likely several businesses that compete with yours to provide similar benefits to the same audience. So what makes your business different? What can customers get from you that they can’t get anywhere else? 

To answer these questions, look first to your Purpose. There are probably clues in your vision, mission, and core values as to what makes you different. If you’re truly a purpose-driven business, that could be your difference-maker right there.

If that doesn’t resonate, think about how the experience of engaging with your business is different from that of a competitor? The product or service might be similar to a competitor’s, but if you deliver a better experience, that could be your difference-maker.

Of course, there may also be specific benefits your product or service delivers that your competitors can’t match. If so, that’s great–make that part of your difference-maker too. 

At the end of the process, you’ll want to know exactly what your business delivers to your target market that separates you from the pack so that consummate clients will line up for the privilege of paying for your services. That’s right—think of your business in terms of it being a privilege for customers to buy from you. Once you develop the mindset that your clients need YOU more than you need THEM, you’ll know you’ve found your true difference-maker.

Once you have your ABCDs figured out, you will know exactly:

  • who to market to your products or services to and where to find them
  • how your products or services make their lives or businesses better
  • how to attract only the best clients or customers to you
  • how you can help your clients in a way no one else can

All of which is essential as you move on to creating your 3-year, 1-year, and 90-day plans for your business.

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