Knowing who your ideal client is, where to find that person, and what to say to her is one of the fundamental to-dos you need in your business to get it off the ground. And it’s something you need to take care of before you do any sort of marketing.
Why? Because it determines when, how, and to whom you market yourself.
And you absolutely need to know your ideal client, because you can’t market to everyone. Not only is that unsustainable on a practical level, but it’s downright impossible to find success.
What is an “ideal client”
Let’s dive into what the term “ideal client” means because it gets used an awful lot. You can think of your ideal client as your dream client. This is the person that lights you up; the mere thought of working with this person should inspire you and get you super excited.
This is not the best of the clients you’ve worked with in the past. This is the best possible case scenario for the kind of person you want to work with, even if you haven’t worked with this person yet. Don’t limit yourself to just what you’ve experienced so far, because this is a big world and your dream client 100% exists.
That probably means that she has a budget to work with you, understands the value you bring to the table, and desperately needs your help — at a bare minimum. But you want to layer all of the specific personality quirks and everyday things that make this person real — because even if you start with a fictionalized version, the real life person is genuinely out there.
Creating an avatar
In order to really map out who this ideal client is, you can create an avatar. An avatar in this sense is the embodiment of a person as a concept. That means you can write down every detail that identifies this person in conceptual way, so you can recognize her when you come across her in real life.
Think of your avatar as a super detailed character profile, like the kind they create for plays, movies, and video games
An ideal client avatar or customer profile is usually made up a few different sections: demographics, psychographics, and buying behaviors.
Demographics outline all of the surface details that you could glean from meeting someone in person, reviewing their taxes, or doing a quick background search. If it’s on the census report, it’s probably a demographic.
This would include information like age, gender, geolocation, educational level, annual income, job title, and more. These data points can give you a starting point to recognize your ideal client.
If you know that the demographics of your ideal client make up a 30-something year old woman who lives downtown in your city, and has an MBA, works as a financial analyst, and takes home an annual income of $75k-100k pre-tax, you’ll know how to find the best networking events that cater to that demographic.
Psychographics outline all the beneath the surface details that you could only find out from someone during an intimate conversation, probably with wine. These are the personal details that you know about your friends, mostly because you’ve spent so much time with them.
This would include personal information like core values, personality quirks, and lifestyle preferences. These data points help you understand your ideal client.
Let’s go back to our demographics example; we’ll call her Kim. If you know that Kim values blunt honesty and tough love, resorts to self-deprecating humor when she’s nervous, and likes to get up early on the weekends to run a shop at the local farmer’s market, you’ll know how to talk to her and really connect when you meet her at that networking event.
Buying behaviors outline the deep beneath the surface details that you usually only find out from someone through years of friendship. These are the personal details that you know about yourself through self-analysis and about your closest friends from being each other’s therapist.
This would include deeply personal information like belief system, insecurities, motivations, fears, and self-perception. These data points help you determine what motivates your ideal client to do something, like make a purchase.
Let’s return to Kim. If you know that Kim struggles with believing in herself despite her vast accomplishments, that she hates her job but continues working there for financial security, and is constantly in fear of what others think of her, you’ll know how to introduce her to your products or services and explain how they can help her.
Where to look for your ideal client
Finding your ideal client starts by taking a good, long look at yourself. You need to know who you are and what your values are in order to know what values you’ll look for in others. Because nine times out of ten, they overlap.
I highly recommend that you create the ideal client avatar or customer profile for your business. You can get started by answering simple questions. Download my list of 44 ideal client avatar questions to speed up the process.
As you start to write down the details that make up your ideal client avatar’s demographics, psychographics, and buying behaviors, you’ll likely start to wonder how you’ll find this person in real life.
Do some market research
As you craft your ideal client avatar, you’ll start to answer questions about where this person hangs out and how you might be able to find them. It’s important to test what you think the answers are against your target market to ensure you’re on track.
That’s where market research comes in. There are a few easy ways you can start market research.
1. Ask your existing clients
Send an email to your existing and past clients to ask for feedback. You can hop on a 30-minute call to ask questions or send an online survey to get their input. You’ll be able to compare your initial thoughts to their responses to ensure you’re on the right path.
2. Reach out to your network
If you’re brand new to business-building and don’t have a lot (or any) clients to reach out to, start with your network. Write down 10 people you think fit in your demographic and send the same email you would to your existing clients. You’ll want to take their answers with a grain of salt since they may not be a 100% match to your ideal clients.
3. Contact your dream clients
This is probably the scariest option of the three, but it’s also the most effective. Create a list of 50 specific people that you’d like to work with. You may not know them (except online), and that’s okay. Contact each one with a personalized email to ask for an informational interview.
You’re not selling anything to them and you only want 15 minutes of their time. Not everyone will respond, but the information you get is gold! And as a bonus, you’ve just initiated a relationship with someone you might be able to work with later.
Market research is a really important step in building your business foundation because it bridges the theory of who you think your ideal client is with the reality of who is looking for what you offer (and able to pay for it).
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