How to define your ideal client… and why most small businesses get it all wrong!
Defining your ideal client is possibly the most important job you need to do when you have a service-based business. But so many independent business owners get it waaaaaaay wrong.
When you get your ideal client wrong, every area of your business suffers.
- Your site won’t reach the right people
- Your marketing efforts, social media posts, blogs, lead magnets and paid ads won’t resonate with anyone so they will fail to bring you leads and clients
- And worst of all! You’ll waste a tonne of time and money with little or no impact and no new leads or clients (or income).
If you’re reading this, you probably already know that it is important to define the people you’re trying to reach. So in this post, I’m going to point out the most common mistakes that you should avoid.
1. The definition is too broad
Your ideal client, in the simplest definition, is the person who:
- needs your service
- is willing to pay for it and
- is someone YOU want to work with.
These 3 points make the foundation of your ideal client definition. But that is still too broad, don’t stop here. Every detail you can specify after this is going to help you to be more relevant and memorable.
Businesses who try to reach “everyone” or stick to an overly simple definition waste their time and see no results.
2. The ideal client avatar is invented
There are a lot of articles out there about the “Ideal Customer Avatars” or “Buyer Personas”. The mistake that a lot of people make is defining their ideal client based on what they imagine to be true.
Knowing who you want to serve is essential to have any kind of impact. BUT!! I want you to forget about inventing and imagining them. There are human beings out there in the world who are looking for a service like yours. There are people in your own contacts list who fit this description. Why not go talk to them instead of inventing them from thin air?
- Think of 5 of your best past clients?
- What was their greatest struggle? (in relation to what you offer)
- What had they tried before working with you?
- What are their online habits? (What social media platforms do they frequent? Do they read blogs? Do they buy courses or prefer 1on1 services?)
When you consider real people you’ll have some incredibly powerful insights. You’ll know where to find them, what to say to them and you’ll be in a great position to create a plan to reach them. Imaginary people are much harder to find, and almost never pay for services 😉
3. You think YOU are your own ideal client
OK, so it’s not a terrible place to start if you’re providing a service that you once paid for. However, your ideal client is at a different place in their journey. They haven’t solved that problem yet.
You, the service provider, have the skills or expertise. They do not. Maybe the DEMOGRAPHIC (gender, age, location, marital status, education, etc.) details of your ideal client are similar to yours, but you’re the expert. You’ve already learned or overcome.
Beware the curse of knowledge! It’s the reason you can not simply use yourself as the “ideal client”.
As the expert, coach, consultant or creative service provider – you know stuff. Once you know something, it’s hard to imagine NOT knowing it. As an expert, when you create communications, you may not even notice that you’re confusing people. And if you’re confusing people, you’ll never get the chance to communicate the value of your service.
When you remember that your real ideal client has a different vocabulary and understanding of the problem to you – you’ll be able to speak to them in a way that gets their attention.
Also, when you think that you are your own ideal client, you assume you know everything about them. Assumptions are dangerous things, more on that in a sec’. Make sure you’re talking to them directly without confusing or overwhelming them.
4. You work on assumptions and not real insights
You might have guessed by now, but the key to defining an ideal client is focussing on the real people. When you know who your ideal client is, you’ll recognise them when you meet at an event or in an online group. Now the you know them you can have conversations with them. And I’m talking about real conversations not email exchanges or surveys. When you gather information in person from real people it is much more meaningful and applicable:
- You can ask them if you’re offering something that they want and need
- You can ask them if the language you use (on your site and online communications) makes sense to them
- You can ask them if they would follow you on social media channels and what they look for in a good freebie.
Without actually asking these kinds of questions, you’re going on your assumptions. Assumptions can lead you down a road where you waste time and money on strategies and services that nobody actually wants!!
Get the real information from real people and create everything for them!
5. You never actually do the work
If you’ve been in business for a while and you have a good sense of who your ideal client is, you can get lazy. Maybe you take for granted that you know your ideal client well, so you don’t bother to do the work I’ve detailed above because it’s too time consuming.
To stay relevant and keep your website and online communications working for you, I really recommend that you check in with your ideal client a couple of times a year. Because when you do:
- You can consider if you still wish to serve the same client or level up and reach a different, higher ticket client
- You will be able to refine your services further and validate new ideas
- You can check that the social media strategy or webinar that worked so well 2 years ago is still meaningful to them.
Your ideal client is a human being who wants to be heard. And you are a business owner who wants to connect with real people who’ll pay you real money. When you avoid these mistakes and connect with the people you wish to serve, they will literally give you everything you need so that you can see a clear path to more leads and clients.
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