When I started my business, “everyone” told me I needed to know who my ideal client was. The pressure of figuring out the answer was intimidating; in those early days, my ideal client was anyone who had a pulse and would pay me. Needless to say, that turned out not to be a great answer.
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 is, and why it matters. Knowing the answer to these questions will help your business be more successful and help you sleep better at night, both desirable goals. Let’s dive in.
Why does it matter that you know who your 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 so, they are more likely to approach you.
Does it really make that much of a difference to know?
Yes, it can make a huge difference. It gives you confidence, and that is attractive to potential clients. You can screen prospective clients better, so 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 a while.
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, online, 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 a while, pick your favorite client, not just the clients who seem “good enough”. 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 / Smart / Knowledgeable / Considerate / Grateful / Motivated / Worldly / Thankful / etc.
What did you like about doing business with them?
> Pay on time / Punctual / Fun / Dedicated to the work / Open to feedback / See the value in our work / etc.
Consider a few more logistics about the person who has been a good customer of yours.
> How old are they?
> What’s their gender? Does it matter?
> Where are they located? Do they need to be nearby?
> Are they a novice or experienced?
> How long have you worked 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?
> 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 the ideal client vision that’s starting to form. Keep it handy and live with it for a few days. Have you left anything out? Does anything on the list need adjusting?
Here’s an example of what your ideal client list might look like.
I’m incredibly fortunate to work with these folks. It is an amazing feeling knowing that I’m enjoying the work, my clients are getting what they’ve come for and then some, and we’re having a good time, too.
My ideal clients are:
> Fun / laugh easily / playful
> Free agent / entrepreneurial swirly brain
> Interested in self-growth and depth of experience / digging into life
> Love their work / sees their business and work as a way to influence others positively
> Can enact change quickly
> Love the process
> Creative (more than just overt creativity)
> Thankful for our work / acknowledge me verbally and in writing (cards, emails, testimonials)
> Easily afford my fees / pay on time / see the value
> Work together two-plus years / lifelong client (comes back for tune-ups)
> Refers me to others
> Can schedule time together easily
Once this list 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. Keep it handy and review it often; this new level of clarity puts you well on your way to having a successful business, full of people you love!