If you’re a small business owner and can’t answer this question, you have some work to do.
Because, if you want to grow your business through marketing, you need to know who you are targeting. And creating a detailed persona of your ideal customer is a step you can’t skip.
Once you’re clear on who you want to work with, it’s waaaaay easier to do the following…
- Clarify your brand message (read: have a clear elevator pitch).
- Optimize your products and/or services.
- Develop a focused marketing system that attracts the right people (your ideal customer).
- Grow your business.
Don’t get caught in the energy-sucking grind of trying to be all things to all people. This grueling routine pulls you from what you should be doing—serving a specific group of people who qualify as perfect customers.
Step #1: To find your ideal customer you must be focused and a bit tenacious in weeding out the bad customers.
Visualize a scenario where you’re taking on less-than-ideal customers. They will…
- Distract you from your mission.
- Stifle your growth.
- Veer you off course by asking for help with things you don’t specialize in.
- Cramp your style, drag you down, and frustrate you to no end.
- Help you waste time, money, and precious brainpower on things you shouldn’t be doing, all for a person you shouldn’t be working with.
Yikes. I know, right?
Ideal customers are gold
Now that you know how “bad customers” can drag you down, think about a narrowly defined chunk of the market—a select group of “good people” that fit a set group of characteristics. Most small businesses are built to serve a small, narrowly defined section of the population.
And before I go any further, let me put your fears to rest. Just because you are narrowing down doesn’t mean you can’t work with people that are just outside of your ideal client range. Not everyone is a perfect fit and nothing is set in stone, so don’t worry about losing business by niching down.
In fact, targeting a select group of ideal peeps and positioning your business by focusing on them, will make it easier to market your business and grow.
The process is simple – you identify your ideal customer, spell out the details, and use that clear-cut description to build your marketing foundation.
Develop and amplify all your marketing efforts around this person, with the goal of attracting more that fit the mold. An ideal customer is a perfect, or at least, almost perfect fit. Meaning…
- Your ideal customer has a pain only someone with your skill-set can fix.
- Maybe this person simply likes the way you approach problem-solving.
- Or their values jibe with yours.
- Some customers will simply love to work with you. They value your service and let you know it.
But lousy customers will stifle your growth
There are many variables to consider, but here’s the thing—a lousy client might do a variety of things to strangle the life right out of you. They might…
- Not pay you on time.
- Take you away from the fine people you really want to work with.
- Fight you on everything, from deadlines to pricing.
- And they will surely suck the lifeblood out of you.
Bad clients can be energy vampires of the worst kind. And they’ll become a huge drag on your business and your life.
You do not want that!
Another possibility is that there is someone you want to work with but they simply aren’t a good fit. This is when it’s good to have an active referral network so you can send them to someone you trust. But that’s a topic for another day.
Step #2: Focus on the person you’ve earned the right to work with.
So, what is the best way to find your ideal customer? (Switch it up!)
If you’ve spent any time trying to figure out who your ideal customer is, you’re probably familiar with terms like demographics and psychographics.
Demographics include characteristics like income, age, and education. Who is this person?
Psychographics dial into your ideal customer’s behaviors. What are their values, interests, opinions? Why would this person buy from you?
So, you can easily see how finding your ideal customer is part art and part science.
I could go on all day about the “science” part but my goal today is not to bore you to death. My goal is to show you an easier way to find that ideal person.
And to be perfectly honest, I would advise you to not get caught up in the science part (demographics and psychographics) and instead focus on finding out more about a potential customer’s buying process. But I’ll detail that a bit later.
Instead of trying to woo a certain type of customer, it might be better to pivot and think about the person you’ve earned the right to work with.
You’re experienced and bring something unique to the table…
- Think about past customers, like the energy vampires above, who didn’t appreciate what they were getting. (You know who I’m talking about.)
- Now, think about the type of person who values your work and would gladly tell the world about it.
I think you’ve earned the right to work with someone who recognizes the full worth of what they are getting – your business, your service, and you.
Think about ideal Susan or just-right Phil. What are they like?
Do they have distinctive characteristics that translate to your success?
Write out a list of current customers or people you’ve worked with in the past. The good ones. Now, clearly define the traits that you value and bring success.
So, step #2 is basically defining the really, really great customers 🙂
Step #3: Create an imperfect customer list.
Now write out a “don’t want to, never, ever work with again” list.
What are the common characteristics of these people? The rotten eggs. Clearly define the traits that you do not value and bring on a bad case of business constipation.
Get clarity around the good eggs and the bad eggs.
Once you have a clear vision of the people who truly value what you do, those you need to work with—made easier by visualizing those who drag you down—you’re well on your way. (I see you smiling :))
So, think hard about people you DO NOT want to work with because completing personas of those you don’t want to work with will make it much, much easier for you to clearly define those you DO want to work with.
Gaining this “good/bad” clarity is one of the most important things you can do as a business owner. Because until you’re 100% clear on the type of person you really want to work with, it’s almost impossible to turn down work from clients who will take you away from the work you really want to and should be doing.
Step #4: Drill-down and find your ideal customer.
Create a sketch of the person you don’t want to work with.
Then, create an ideal buyer persona.
You can detail background and demographics. Things like age, gender, education, job title, experience, income, relationship status, etc., but ponder this for a moment…
If you want to create a valuable persona, shouldn’t you focus on how and why they go through a buying process?
To dig deep and get into the things that really matter…
- What motivates them to buy from you?
- What are their buying concerns?
- What are their challenges? Worries? Pain?
- Are they focused on price, speedy turnaround? Or do they know quality work takes time?
- What do they read? Where do they hang out online? Get their info? And how does this influence their buying decision?
- Why do they want to work with us? What will they gain?
The questions above are just to get you started, but they are the best way to clarify who that ideal customer is.
When they visit your website you want to…
- Have a brand that makes it crystal clear what you do.
- Quickly communicates how you will fix their pain.
- And makes it obvious what they should do to start working with you.
Creating an ideal buyer persona makes creating this 1-2-3 messaging punch much, much easier.
Step #5: Understand the difference between buyer profiles and buyer personas.
When creating customer “profiles,” most businesses simply pick a name like “Value-obsessed Jane” or “Tech-smart Brian,” find a stock photo, list a few characteristics they think will matter, and call it a day.
This kind of futile exercise will NOT help your marketing because it’s incomplete guesswork.
You need to build a true representation of your ideal customer. And to get the insights that will move the needle in your business, you need to dig deep to reveal their approach to buying.
A detailed “persona” of your ideal customer symbolizes a real person you should focus on. Most businesses create what they think are personas but they are actually buyer profiles – profiling someone like “Tech smart Brian” without diving deeper, to learn about Brian’s journey to making a buying decision.
You want to go beyond a simple buyer “profile.” Demographic and psychographic insights are certainly not useless. I’ve just found that it’s way more valuable to…
- First define the type of customers (businesses) you should be working with, using the methods above. (Your ideal buyer profile)
- Then dive deeper by interviewing people, getting the insights you need, then developing an ideal buyer persona.
And, if you interview these people the right way, they’ll give you so much valuable intel – WAAAAY more than if you simply profiled them as someone like “Tech smart Brian is the Director of Global Cloud Solutions at IT company B with revenues of 10M.”
“Profiling” someone like this is certainly helpful but you need to dig deeper.
As Adele Revella writes here, “a buyer persona tells you what prospective customers are thinking and doing as they weigh their options to address a problem that your company resolves.”
And the best method to gather this crucial intel is by interviewing those individuals who might buy your stuff! THIS is how you gain the awareness you need to develop the type of messaging you need to improve your marketing.
Step #6: Interview people and start crafting your buyer personas.
If someone has recently bought from you, the buying process is still in their cranium, so ask them for an interview. Learn the how and why of their journey.
Start by asking a question like the following…
- “Think about your first step in the process. There was a problem you had to solve and finally decided you had to act. What was your first step?”
This is simply an opening you build on. Have a friendly conversation but start layering your questions to learn about their journey.
You want to dive deep into the buyer’s journey so you know the kind of questions your ideal customer will ask and then craft content that gives them the info they seek.
- List the people who’ve just started working with you, and ask them if they would be available for a short call.
- If someone has decided not to work with you, ask them for an interview too. They might blow you off, but if you can book a call, think about how valuable that might be. A call like this will answer one of the most important questions you could ever ask – Why did you decide to not work with us?
Just work to unearth everything you can about their buying journey.
Dig, dig, dig…
What triggered you to start looking for a solution?
What was your next step?
What were the barriers that stopped you?
Book a call, interview them on Skype or Zoom, transcribe the call, then look it over to pull out the golden nuggets you need to build you ideal client persona.
Step #7: The final step
Go over your transcripts, find the most important information and start building your profile.
Try and interview at least five people, preferably more. 5-10 is usually enough to get the details you need.
The Buyer Persona Institute offers a great profile template. But don’t agonize over getting this perfect, just go! It’s not necessary to get this detailed when you first start. It is, however, a great framework detailing the kind of questions you need to be asking.
Once you gather the type of information your ideal customer is searching for, your marketing and the way you conduct business will change.
You will find it so much easier to create the kind of content these people (your ideal customers) are looking for.
Or in the words of Marcus Sheridan, “They ask, you answer” will drive all your content marketing 🙂
And, don’t forget to weed out the bad eggs. Detailing the type of clients that drain you will make it easy for you to avoid working with them in the future.
When you’re armed with a clear picture of your ideal customer, it will be SO MUCH EASIER to answer the following…
- Is my pricing right?
- Should our products and/or services change?
- What content do I need to produce? Whitepapers? Detailed blog posts? Explainer videos?
- Is my client onboarding process in need of an overhaul?
- How important is social media and what channels should I be on?
- How, exactly, will I get this information in the hands of the right people?
And know that this is an ever-evolving process of discovery. Your business evolves, your marketing strategies change, and your ideal client might change over time as well.
But the more you discover, act, and evolve, you’ll see how incredibly important this is.
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