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Step by step guide: Defining your ideal client

The biggest struggle that most business owners face is attracting new leads and clients.

You can find a lot of different advice about how to find new clients, ranging from purchasing leads to running Facebook ads or joining a lead generation program.

I haven’t taken the time to understand who their ideal customer is, so they aren’t able to attract them through their marketing and lead generation efforts.

Why is that?


If you haven’t taken the time to understand who you ideal customer is, so you won't be able to attract them through your marketing and lead generation efforts.

Before you put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), before you create a website, send an email, or start a blog, you need to know who it is you’re talking to.

If you haven’t answered that one simple question, you really aren't talking to anyone.

Whether you call them an Ideal Client Avatar (ICA), an Ideal Customer Profile (ICP), or a buyer persona, knowing who that person is creates the foundation for every other piece of marketing content that you create.

It’s a step that too many business owners either don’t take the time to complete, or simply don’t know they need to do.

But you’re different. You aren't content with the status quo, and you're ready to try something new.

That’s why you’ve read this far, downloaded your worksheet, and are starting the process to identify and understand your ideal client.

By the time you’ve completed this process, you’ll know who your ideal customer is and the problem you’re solving for them. You’ll be on the road to attracting more of the right clients, who understand your value and want to pay you for the service you provide.

Let’s get started.

Why you need to understand your ideal client profile

In order to attract your ideal client, you first need to understand who they are.

Many business owners hesitate to identify an ideal customer for one simple reason.

They’re afraid that if they identify an ideal client, they’re automatically eliminating all the other potential clients they could get. They feel like if they don’t say yes to every lead or opportunity, they’re leaving money on the table.

But that’s not the case.

Every client you take who isn’t the right fit, who leaves you feeling drained and stressed, is taking time that could be spent serving clients you enjoy working with. If you spend all your time serving those clients that drain you, you won’t have time to find the clients you want to work with and to serve them the way you’d like to.

Communicating directly with an ideal customer doesn’t limit you, it allows those people who fit the client persona to find you.

When you create an ideal client profile, there are actually tens of thousands of people who are similar to that persona. When you speak specifically to that persona, each person who is similar feels like you know and understand them, and you’re speaking directly to them.

Instead of limiting your potential clients, an ideal client avatar attracts more of the right clients. It also helps potential customers who aren't a good fit to self-select out without taking up any of your valuable time.

Understanding your ideal client also doesn’t mean you can’t take clients who aren’t an exact fit. Instead it helps you identify who you serve and, just as importantly, who you don’t serve.

Your customer avatar is intended to be a guideline, not a hard and fast rule about which clients you can take.

Step 1: Brainstorm

Sometimes it’s easiest to start by thinking about the clients you don’t want.

You don’t need to work with every potential client who comes your way. We’ve all had calls and emails from people who simply aren't the right fit for our services. They end up draining our resources, wasting our time, and losing us money (and sanity!).

Take a few minutes to reflect on those clients. What made them difficult or frustrating? Was their budget too low? Did they have unreasonable expectations that you’d be available to answer any question or deal with any problem immediately, regardless of the time of day? Were they rude or demanding? Jot down anything you think of in the first section of your worksheet.

Now think about the clients you’ve served who you’ve really enjoyed working with. Why did you enjoy them?

Were they appreciative of the work you put into their project? Was their budget in line with the type of service you provide, or if it wasn’t at first did they take your advice and raise their budget instead of expecting you to work a miracle? Did they value your time and the service you provided?

Write down those traits and behaviors in the next section.

Step 2: External description

The next step is to determine who your ideal customer is. Get specific.

There are no right or wrong answers here, but it is important to understand the implications of the decisions you make.

If you design custom websites, do you want to work with people who are just starting out so you can guide them through the process of their first website? Or do you prefer to work with clients who are on their third or fourth site, and who are very clear about what they are looking for?

If you're a home organizer, do you excel at working with families and creating systems that work well as children grow and develop? Or do you prefer to work with people later in life who are wanting to downsize? Maybe your strengths allow you to help them let go of the things that are cluttering their spaces but no longer serve them well in their current stage of life.

Your ideal customer needs a name, an age, you should know where they live, what they do, how much they make per year, and if they hold a college degree. Bonus points if you know what they majored in and where they went to school!

Step 3: Internal description

This is where you start determining what makes your ideal client tick.

Who are they at a core level? What drives them? What do they love to do, what energizes and refreshes them? What fundamentally bothers them about the world, what wrong do they want to see corrected?

Are they altruistic and always looking for ways to give back to the community around them? Are they driven by the desire to provide a peaceful, serene home for their family? Are they a business owner wanting to grow their profit and income so their spouse can quit a job they dread?

Each of those driving factors requires different marketing copy to speak to that person. If you try to create copy that would speak directly to all of them, all you'll end up with is a convoluted mess of words and you won't connect with any of them.

The last section of the internal description is the most important, so don’t skip it.

What is the fundamental problem that you solve for them?

It's easy to look at what you sell and think "It doesn't really solve a problem."

But that's not true. While it may not solve world peace or global hunger, you are solving a problem for the person purchasing what you're selling.

Do you sell style coaching? You're solving the problem of your client feeling uncomfortable or unattractive with the way they dress. Do you sell art? You're solving a problem for people who to make their space more beautiful. Are you an organizer? You're solving the problem of people not knowing how to create spaces and systems that feel soothing and natural to them.

People start by looking for answers to external problems, like “I need a better way to store things in my pantry" or "I want to get a picture to hang o that wall".

What they end up buying is the solution to an internal problem. A problem like “I'm tired of opening my pantry and not being able to find anything. I should be able to do this better, and when I can't find something that I know I have, I feel like I'm failing”. Or "I want to walk into that room and see a beautiful space that I enjoy being in, not a space that feels incomplete and bland."

That’s the problem you’re solving.

You're not selling pantry organizing services. What you're selling is the result they want (knowing what they have and how to find it) as well as the result they want to avoid (feeling like a failure).

You're not selling art. You're selling the feelings and emotions that come with being in a beautiful, well decorated space. A space that reflects the style of the person who lives or works in it. You're helping them avoid feeling like their space is incomplete or unattractive.

If you understand the value you’re actually providing and the problem you solve, you’ll have a much easier time incorporating it into your website and marketing efforts.

Next Steps

Now that you’ve completed your ideal client profile, it’s time to use it.

If you’re writing website copy, a blog post, posting on social media, or creating any other marketing content that will be seen by a potential client, tailor it to speak directly to your ideal customer.

Speak to them the way you would to a good friend.

Once you know and understand your ideal client you’ll find that it’s easier to know what to write or say to communicate with them. When they read your marketing copy, they’ll feel like you’re speaking directly to them.

Not only that, knowing your ideal customer profile will help you create new services to better serve that customer. Once you start thinking about what they want or need and how to solve a problem they have, the creative juices start to flow. You’ll think of problems they have and solutions you can provide that you never would have considered otherwise.

You’ll be able to serve and help your clients in new ways, while attracting the right clients and building a business that supports a life you love.


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