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As someone who has run an independent business for over 14 years, I know firsthand that your entire business changes when you understand your ideal client. But the process to find your ideal client is easier said than done. In fact, you might be wondering where you should even begin when it comes to defining who they are.
In the earlier stages of my business, I had no idea how to identify my ideal client. I was generating leads without focus and willing to work with just about anyone to gain experience and get my foot in the door. I soon realized that wasn’t the best strategy — it left me exhausted, broke, and questioning if I was really cut out for being a business owner.
Sound familiar? It became clear that I needed to stop saying yes to every inquiry and instead find the clients best suited for my business. If you’re feeling overworked, overwhelmed, and over your business, it might be time to say goodbye to the wrong clients and start calling in more of the right ones. Before we do that, let me explain what an ideal client is and why identifying your ideal client is essential.
What is an ideal client?
Businesses exist to solve problems for their clients. Your ideal client is the type of client your business was created to serve.
The term “ideal” can be misleading. An ideal client is not a unicorn person who is the perfect customer. Sadly, unicorns don’t exist. (Sad face, I know.) But, they have most of the attributes that make sense for what your business offers. You wouldn’t offer wedding photography services to a married couple, for example. You need to make sure you have a specific client profile in mind so you can evaluate qualified leads and better service your clients once they’re booked.
As you set out to identify your ideal client, keep in mind that you’re not writing a dating profile for your customer that includes zero flaws and only perfection. The people you want to work with have flaws, quirks, and personality traits that are not always the best — they’re human! But, aside from all of that, they are *your* people.
Why it is important to identify your ideal customers
1 in 5 businesses fails within the first 18 months. That’s a pretty sobering statistic, isn’t it? The reason these businesses fail is that they don’t know who they’re talking to. You need to identify your ideal client so that you can create strategies to market, sell, and serve that specific customer.
From there, you can go a step further and focus on what problem your company solves for them and what they value most about the work you do. Once you understand who your ideal client is — their personality, problems, values, and more — you can begin to position your business in front of them.
Essentially, your entire business model should be designed to offer solutions for your ideal client’s pain points. Once you have that focus, the next step is finding them.
Understand who is not in your target audience
Imagine no longer wasting time in email threads that go on forever, or being on consultation calls that go nowhere. As you begin to identify your ideal client, it’s easier to think about who you no longer want to work with. Remember when I told you that it’s okay to say no to clients you don’t want to work with anymore?
These are those people. It’s time for you to decide who you’ll say goodbye to so that you can stop serving the clients who don’t serve you. Once you identify clients who are not a good fit for you, you can quickly support them in finding a better fit, all while freeing up time for more dreamy customers.
This is your opportunity to get very specific about who you no longer want to work with. Specific clients might be the wrong fit (aka not your ideal client) for your products and services based on the project itself, their budget, or even particular personality quirks. This is the first step to calling in those dreamy, high-end customers you’re dying to work with. Here are two action items to help you through this exercise:
- Identify past clients who were the wrong fit, and investigate what went wrong.
- Identify red flags, deal-breakers, and non-starters based on experience.
Identify prospective customers you want to attract
Now that we know who we no longer want to work with, it’s time to describe the client that we do want to work with. What’s their budget, style, age range, and current circumstance?
In many cases, to attract clients who are a great fit for your business, you need to get specific and identify your niche. Start by asking yourself these questions to figure out who your ideal client is:
- How much money do they have to spend?
- Where do they live, work, and play?
- How old are they and what does that say about them?
- How do they spend their time?
- What values do they hold that align with my own?
- Am I appealing to a specific niche in my industry?
These are great starter questions that give you the characteristics and traits you should focus on finding.
What are your ideal client’s problems and worries?
To better serve your customers and land sales, you have to understand your ideal client’s problems and how you can solve them.
You and your business are the solution to their problems, worries, and pain points. By understanding them and their point of view, you’ll be able to build and offer the products and services that your customers will be eager to purchase.
This is how you can show up and serve your clients better than any competitor. By solving your customer’s exact problems, you’ll also turn them into brand advocates and build a reliable referral pipeline for your business. To tailor your services to your ideal clients, ask yourself these questions:
- What problems are my ideal clients currently facing that need to be solved?
- What do those problems feel like? For instance, how do they manifest in their life? Describe those problems in as much detail as you can.
- How does my business solve these problems?
What are your ideal client’s values and desires?
Every client who inquires not only desires something from you but values something about your product or service.
Now that we understand your ideal client’s problems and how your business solves them, let’s talk about what they ultimately desire from you and what values help them make buying decisions. The easiest way to do this is to answer the following questions and prompts:
- What would their life be like if this problem didn’t exist?
- Finish this sentence: Because of the problem my client is experiencing, they’re feeling ________. But once this problem is solved, my ideal client will feel _________.
- Aside from solving their problems, what do they ultimately desire from a company like mine?
- What do they value most about the work we do?
The more action you take, the clearer things become. Don’t be so hard on yourself and don’t expect yourself to have the “right” answer to every question. Instead, get curious about who your ideal clients are and stay committed to understanding how their personalities, problems, and desires might change over time.
Pro Tip: Data-mine for insights about your ideal client, using testimonials, reviews, consultations, and interviews to shed light on the questions above.
How to create a profile of your ideal client in four easy steps:
- Identify which clients are not your ideal clients. Before you decide who you want to attract, get clear on which customers are not the right fit for your business. This will give you a boost in understanding who you do want to attract.
- Identify who you want to attract. Now that you know who you don’t want to attract, you can figure out who you do. What’s their age range, gender, career, likes, dislikes, and more? And what do those facts say about who they are and what they value?
- Identify your ideal client’s problems. Businesses exist to solve their customers’ problems. What problems does your customer face, and how do you provide the solution?
- Identify your ideal client’s desires and values. To serve your customers better and land those sales, you have to understand what they value and desire from you.
Pro Tip: To define all these characteristics, take a look at your existing customers. Which ones didn’t work out so great? Which ones had the most successful projects? You can also conduct market research to get broader data on your target audiences.
Leverage your ideal client profile
Now that you know how to identify your ideal client, it’s time to reach them through digital marketing and other efforts. Use the profile throughout your lead generation funnel so you can make sure you aren’t spending time nurturing leads who are much less likely to convert.
Your marketing efforts can include social media and creating content for your website that speaks directly to your ideal customer. When you’re vetting potential clients, you can also use the profile to decide whether or not you should work with them.
Are you a wedding pro and want my help understanding your ideal client? Check out The Client Cocktail, my secret recipe for wedding pros who want to book high-end clients in the wedding industry. The Client Cocktail is a client attraction formula for wedding planners, photographers, and industry creatives who are ready to upgrade their clients (and stop serving the wrong people). In just one day, you can map out your ideal client avatar with my help.