In marketing today it’s common to hear that you must know who your target audience is in order to be effective with your marketing. This mostly implies that you determine the makeup of a market that your business is most likely to attract.
What bothers me about this simple approach is that it has a lowest common denominator element to it – who can we attract?
Instead, I like to take the point of view of – whom do we deserve to work with?
This thought process led me to the idea of defining an ideal client which ties together both behavior and demographics. Identifying who this is from the beginning will save you tons of time going in circles trying to be all things to all people.
It really is a game changer and here’s how I recommend getting started.
Choosing your ideal client
Have you ever considered the following question? – What qualities would your ideal clients have? Thinking through this is quite a liberating feeling, no? Don’t you deserve to work with clients who appreciate the value you bring to them?
I know that might sound a bit egotistical, but it really isn’t. At the end of the day, if you want to work with the people you want, then you need to step up your game so that can deserve to do so.
I recommend getting started by exploring the types of clients you don’t want to work with. Until you know who you don’t want to work with, who you must work with, who you choose to work with, it’s easy to take work and clients that drag you away from the work you deserve to be doing (we’ve all been there and know what a headache it can be).
Who can you deliver the greatest value to, who do you enjoy working with, and who needs what you do most? Write a detailed description of your ideal client and include as much about them as possible including the problems they are trying to solve. Give some thought to how you might reach them and appeal to them. Use your best clients today to help you think about what makes them ideal for you. (Hint: they are profitable and perhaps they refer others to you right now.)
Consider following these steps to best identify them:
Step 1: What are the must-haves to be a client – this is stuff that naturally narrows your list – must be 18 years or older, must own a home – that kind of thing.
Step 2: What are the generally looked for attributes – no required, but preferred – perhaps it’s an age range, geographic location, or special interest.
Step 3: What makes them ideal – what are the attributes that make them your best prospects – perhaps they have a certain business model, unique problem, at a certain point in life or business.
Step 4: What behavior do they exhibit that allows you to identify them? Do they belong to industry associations, tend to sponsor charitable events, read certain publications?
I recommend starting with the smallest market possible. You must find a group of clients who think what you have to offer is special and can scale from there.
How to understand and speak to your ideal client
Now that you’ve narrowly defined who your ideal client is, you must spend ample amount of time understanding them in order to properly use them across the various strategic elements of your business. Knowing who makes an ideal client allows you to build your entire business, message, product, services, sales and support around attracting and serving this narrowly defined group.
Once you dig deep and profile the common characteristics you should also start asking yourself some questions about these folks.
- What brings them joy?
- What are they worried about?
- What challenges do they face?
- What do they hope to gain from us?
- What goals are they striving to attain?
- What experience thrills them?
- Where do they get their information?
- Who do they trust most?
Having answers to the questions will allow you to more fully address their wants and needs in every interaction and communication. Once you have this understanding, you can start tailoring your efforts to best speak to them.
Refocus your message
Matching your message to your ideal client is a must when it comes to marketing these days. A message that connects is one that clearly talks about what your ideal client wants more than anything else in the world – which is to solve their problems.
You must let them know that you understand what they really want. Let me let you in on a little secret: Nobody really wants what you sell – they want their problems solved – period.
I recommend making a list of the problems you solve for the clients you help the most. If you’re having trouble thinking about your client’s problems, think a bit about the things they tell you.
For example, a lot of our prospective clients might say things like – we just want the phone to ring more, so that’s what we tell them we can do for them (we don’t immediately dive into our SEO and marketing services).
That’s how you refocus your message so that it’s all about your amazing clients and the problems they want to be solved.
Create trigger phrases
Your clients don’t know how to solve their problems, but they usually know what their problems are. If you can get really good at demonstrating that what you sell is the answer to their problem they really don’t care what you call it.
Break down every solution you sell and every benefit you attribute to what you do, and map it back to a handful of “trigger phrases.”
These phrases can be questions or statements or even anecdotes, but they must come from the point of view of the client.
Write website headlines
What we mean by this is write a big, bold statement that might be the first thing anyone who visits your website will see. Now ask yourself – would this statement get your ideal client’s attention more than something like “welcome to our website?”
Want some help creating your new message? Pick out a handful of your ideal clients and go ask them – what problem did we solve for you? Test your headlines with them. Ask them to describe what you do better than anyone else.
Pro tip: If your business receives online reviews study them carefully. While it’s awesome to get 5-star reviews pay close attention to the words and common phrases your happiest clients are using – they will write your promise for you in some cases.
Until you are working towards defining, understanding and speaking to who you truly deserve to be working with, success will elude you. I can tell you that my experience suggests that you’re never really done with this exercise. As your business evolves, as you learn and grow, this model will evolve as well, but perhaps the continual process of discovery is just as important as what you discover.
If you liked this post, check out our Ultimate Guide to Small Business Marketing Strategy.