identifying real customersIdentifying, targeting and then being able to attract your ideal customers is where your marketing budget needs to be directed. Buyer personas are just the first step in determining who your ideal customers are but reaching those personas can be the tricky part.

Reverse Metrics at Work

Recently, we were asked to help a trade school fill seats for the new H.V.A.C. program they were starting. They also wanted to increase the overall enrollment in their other programs as well. It was imperative that the potential students were not only open to a trade school education but a good fit for the type of services that the school was looking to fill seats for. The school’s new curriculum featuring H.V.A.C. would be offered with several other mechanical trades such as welding and auto/diesel mechanics. These other programs were already in place and producing trained professionals, the school was looking to repeat this process for their new endeavor. Conventional direct marketing could help them reach their goal of student numbers but could not guarantee that those placed were the best possible fit. Again we needed to find not only prospective students who were able to afford and willing to attend a 24 month course but ones who would most likely graduate. There were accreditation issues that were at stake. The school had to maintain a certain percentage of graduating students to receive federal tax money and available grants. What we needed to do was find students that statistically profiled their best students, the ones who graduated.

Defining Their Ideal Student - Persona

The school had a particular idea of who was attending and what market those students should fall into. They did some interviews of the attending students and the results were similar to what the school had expected and what they thought was their typical student. The results of the interviews profiled their students as a male, 25 years old, single and living with their parents. This was however not their ideal student. This would become evident when we would run the optimizer or reverse metric on their ideal student. Remember their ideal student is not necessarily the man in the class on any given day but the student who completes the course, graduates and is working in that trade.

Their Student Data - Metrics 

The school supplied us with the names and addresses of their graduating students from the past 10 years. This was their ideal student, someone who had completed the school and would go on and into the job market not only as a trained professional but a promoter of the school as well. 861 graduating students were looked at and when the data was adjusted, since some had been out of school for up to ten years, the results were surprising.

Who to Look For

We now knew their ideal students were much older, in the range of 40 -55 years old. Surprisingly 40% were married with 1 or more children, and their dependents were 10 years old or younger. We knew their ethnic background, their median household income, the value of the house they lived in and we knew that their ideal student came from four specific zip codes. The information ascertained from the graduating technicians included 26 metrics. These 26 metrics could now be used to market directly to their ideal prospective student.
The attributes that showed the most significant matches for them were:


  • Region…..Zip Codes 151, 152, 153, 154 (95%)
  • Dwelling Type…..Single (88%)
  • Home Ownership…..Definite Owner (84%)
  • Gender….Male (65%)
  • Direct Mail Responder….Double/Multiple (64%)
  • Length of Residence…..15+ Years (63%)
  • Mail Responsive Buyer….Multiple Mail Buyer (60%)
  • Median Home Value…..50K – 100k (58%)
  • IPA Cluster Code….0- 24,000 (47%)
  • Credit Card…..Bank Card (45%) 


With this new information, it was directed that their ideal students were not in high school or recent grads but older men who had already taken a bite out of life but wanted more. Their ideal student, as it turned out, was one who was looking for a career change, not just a career.

Where to Find Them - The Results 

Below are several excerpts from their report. Note the penetration index – for each attribute, the relationship between the percentage of their students sharing the attribute and the percentage of those living in the designated geographic area sharing the same attribute. Indexes above 120 are highlighted and this is considered significant to their overall student profile. Once the names and addresses are profiled in the Optimizer, they are then destroyed and the list is purged and deleted in accordance to HIPPA regulations. No names or addresses are used in any other fashion but to generate an "Ideal Student profile."

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