When I started my business, “everyone” told me I needed to know 1) my target market and 2) my ideal client. In those early days, that meant anyone who had a pulse, which turned out not to be an effective marketing strategy. The pressure of figuring out the answer to those questions felt burdensome, and ultimately I decided to answer the one that felt the easiest: my ideal client. Then I had to figure that out – yikes.
Do you know who your ideal client is—that perfect person or entity you enjoy doing business with? Below are some questions to help you sort out who that person is, and why it matters.
Why does it matter that I know who my ideal client is?
Knowing who you work with, as specifically as possible, does three major things for you:
> Makes your marketing message clearer
> Fills your pipeline with better qualified leads
> Helps your potential clients self-identify and more likely to approach you
Does it really make that much of a difference to know?
Yes, it makes a huge difference. It gives you confidence, and that is attractive to potential clients. You can screen potential clients better so that you end up working with people who are a good fit. You will then be more successful in the work you do for/with them. As a bonus, you’ll have more fun and so will they!
How do you figure out who that person is?
Hint: they’re often just like you! Below are questions to help you think through who you’d like to work with. Give yourself about 20 minutes to go through these, and continue to refine the answers over the next week. Your ideal client will evolve over time, so it’s nice to revisit this exercise every six months or so if you’re newer in business, and every year or two if you’ve been in business for awhile.
Think back to a customer service experience you had recently.
> What did you like? (list at least three things)
> What did you *not* like? (list at least three things)
Who do you enjoy doing business with when you’re the customer?
> List their traits. (good customer service, friendly, knowledgeable / expert, etc.)
> Describe the place they physically do business. (convenient, inviting / comfortable, great part of town, etc.)
> What does the business do? (shoe repair, editing, business consulting, etc.)
> Describe their staff (if any). (well-trained, polite, professional, attentive, etc.)
> How do you feel when you do business with them? (taken care of, seen and heard, like a VIP, etc.)
Think about a client you’ve done business with, where you were the goods/service provider.
If you’re new to business, don’t worry if you haven’t had that many clients yet. Pick one client you really enjoyed working with as the model for answering the following questions. If you’ve been in business for awhile, pick your favorite client, not just the clients who seem to be good enough or show up. Remember, we’re looking for your *ideal* client, not just the client you think you can get.
What traits did they possess?
> Kind / Funny / Quick / Fun / Knowledgeable / Considerate / Grateful / Motivated / Worldly / Thankful / etc.
What did you like about doing business with them?
> They took care of me / anticipated my needs / treated me with respect / followed up with me / etc.
Consider a few more logistics about the person who has been a good customer of yours.
> Where they’re located
> Are they a novice or experienced?
> What did you do for them (what goods or service did you provide)?
> How long did you work together (60 minutes / one day at a time) over what period of time (six months, three years)?
> How much do they pay you? Do they pay you on time? (ideal scenario, not just what you think you can get)
> Do they express gratitude for your work together?
> Do they recommend you to others?
Assemble the above information; what picture of your ideal client is emerging?
Create a narrative and/or a list of bullet points to describe your ideal client. Keep it handy and live with it for a few days. Have you left anything out? Does anything on the list need tweaking? Once it feels complete, post it on your bulletin board, weave it into your website and marketing materials, and use it as sound bites when talking in business settings. The description you’ve created is your new guide and filter. Enjoy your new level of clarity, and may it bring you even more and better business.
Here’s what my ideal client looks like. I’m incredibly fortunate to work with these folks. It is an amazing feeling knowing that I’m having a positive influence on others, and we’re having a good time, too.
> Fun / laughs easily / playful
> Free agent / entrepreneurial swirly brain
> Interested in self-growth and depth of experience / digging into life
> Loves their work / sees their business and work as a way to influence others positively
> Ability to affect change quickly / loves the process
> Thankful for our work / acknowledge me verbally and in writing (cards, emails, testimonials)
> Easily affords my fees / pays on time / sees the value
> Work together two-plus years / lifelong client (comes back for tune-ups)
> Refers me to others
> Can schedule time together easily
Once you’ve got your ideal client description, keep it handy and review it often; you’re well on your way to having a successful business full of people you love!