Have you ever worked on a project where multiple decision makers were involved and the end result was a compromise—a diluted version that no one really liked? This is what it’s like when you have a broad target market. You are trying to appeal to so many people, that your marketing efforts appeal to no one.
When we think about our audience too broadly, we forget that each of our customers is an individual, with their own motivations and attributes. We lump all of our customers into one group and assume they’ll all respond to our marketing messages.
Having an ideal customer profile can simplify and refocus the way you promote and advertise your business. So, today, I’m going to answer some of our customer’s biggest questions about choosing and attracting an ideal customer.
Why is having an ideal customer important?
It attracts the right opportunities
You’ll probably have people, projects or products that are more profitable than others. There are also going to be customers who value and appreciate what you do more than others. This usually comes back to the end value of your product or service. When you understand the value of what you offer, and the customers who will benefit most from it, you can tailor your marketing efforts to attract these people and opportunities.
It allows you to spend your marketing dollars in the right places
Trying to appeal to a broad audience is called mass marketing. To mass market like the big brands like Coke or Amazon it requires huge amounts of money and time to make your messages visible to everyone—two things that most small businesses don’t have a lot of.
Identifying your ideal customer will allow you to focus your marketing budget and resources on reaching the right people in the right places.
It makes sales targets less overwhelming
More often than not, when you break down how many profitable, ideal customers you actually need, it’s a very small percentage of your market. If all you need to do is speak to those people, you realise that you don’t need to appeal to the masses. You can be very specific in targeting specific needs and desires and your sales targets become a lot more palatable.
It is easier & more effective marketing to few, than to many
It’s a lot easier to focus on one ideal, very specific customer to create content for, rather than a broadly defined target audience with varying challenges, interests, likes and dislikes. With an ideal customer, I can focus my efforts on understanding this customer in-depth, rather than trying to understand a lot of different customers at surface level.
It can seem counterintuitive to deliberately exclude people from marketing messages. Many people think ‘everyone can enjoy what I’ve got to offer, so I’ll sell to everyone’. But, in a world full of infinite choices, if something doesn’t speak directly to us and our problem, we’ll ignore it. We want to buy from someone who understands us and our problem.
What’s the difference between target audiences, niche audiences and ideal customers?
Unfortunately there are no standardised definitions of these terms, so they can vary depending on who you speak to. Here is how I distinguish between them.
Target Audience or Target Market
A target market or target audience is the group of people that you are going to direct your marketing messages at for your product or service. They’re usually defined by demographic and psychographic information. A target audience might sound something like this—“Business owners, aged 35-45, who earn over $120K and live in Australia with 10+ staff and earning over $2 million in revenue.”
Niche Audience or Niche Market
A niche is a very specific target audience. Whereas a target audience can either be narrow or broad depending on how you define it, a niche refers to an audience that is very narrowly defined. A niche audience might sound something like this— “Dentists, who own their own
practice, aged 35-45, who earn over $120K and live in Australia with 10+ staff and $1.5 million in revenue.”
Ideal Customer or Persona
An ideal customer or persona digs a little bit deeper. It is the in-depth profile of one individual that sits within that target audience which describes them in detail, including their habits, personality traits, what they wear, how they spend their free time, who they follow on social media, and much more. It recognises that each of your customers is a human being with real challenges, attributes and habits that affect their purchasing decisions.
An ideal customer profile (also known as a persona or avatar) might sound like this— “Meet Holly, she is 42 and married with 1 child. She owns her own dental practice which has 12 staff members and earns $2 million in revenue p/a. Her friends describe her as driven and focused, with a playful, contagious personality. She lives in Prahran, drives a Prado and loves to travel to Japan to snowboard every Christmas. She wants to take a step back from her business and automate her marketing efforts so she can spend more time with her family...”
Most businesses have a target audience. It is much rarer to have selected a niche audience and defined an ideal customer.
How are you supposed to know who is ‘ideal’, when you’ve barely launched your business?
In short, you don’t really. It’s a bit of an educated guess.
When we started our business, our target audience was ‘small business owners’. It was broad and open to interpretation, and that’s why we liked it—we could take on any kind of work that was thrown our way. I simply didn’t want to commit to being specific when we were so new to the industry. But, this was probably the worst thing we could have done because we became a small player in a huge market.
You can always expand your reach, later, but when you’re just getting started, begin with a smaller, more specific market and try to solve their problems.
Fast forward to today, and we have a pretty clear vision of who we want to work with and who we don’t, the projects we want to work on, and those we don’t. And, I can only imagine that as we gain even more experience, and work with more people, we’ll refine this again and again.
If you’re new to business and aren’t sure who is ideal just yet, you can still narrow down that huge audience to make marketing way easier! Keep reading to understand how to choose this person.
How do I choose an ideal customer?
I find it easiest to base an ideal customer off one of your ‘best’ past or current customers. These are the types of customers who are great to work with, respect what you do, pay on time, don’t try and haggle on price and are really responsive. As these attributes are probably things most people like in their customers, try digging a little deeper to uncover who might be best suited to your unique goals, working style and business. Below are some other questions to help you to narrow down your ideal customer. Even if you don’t have customers yet, try and answer as many of these questions as best you can.
- Who do you most enjoy working with?
- Are there industries or areas that you love or have a strong interest in?
- Are there types of work you don’t really want to do or don’t enjoy?
- Which types of customers will get the most value from your offering?
- Why would someone choose to work with you instead of another business?
- Which types of customers will realistically have the budget to purchase from you?
- Which types of customers offer a viable source of income?
- Who do you have the skills, capabilities, experience and know-how to serve?
- Do you have experience working with or marketing to certain customers already (from previous jobs or from your work so far)?
- If you’re just getting started, you probably don’t have a strong brand behind you. Are there customers who won’t mind or might enjoy working with a new business?
- Do you prefer working with large groups, small teams, or one on one?
- Is your style of working laidback and casual or corporate and professional?
- Do you prefer working with locals, or will you work with anyone, anywhere?
- Do you prefer to meet in person or via email or video call?
- Do you prefer short term engagements or ongoing working relationships? Does this affect who you work with?
- Will you be working set or sporadic hours? Does this affect the types of customers you can work with?
Use these questions to cull groups, industries or people who don’t suit your current capabilities, skills and working style, who you aren’t interested in working with, who can’t afford your offering or who won’t get the most benefit from your value proposition.
Then, create an ideal customer profile for the type of person you want to serve.
Can I have more than one ideal customer?
In short, yes, you can.
The aim of having an ideal customer is to make your marketing simpler. When you start adding more customers to the mix, it might make your marketing a little bit more complex as you now have to create marketing messages for multiple people.
If it makes sense to have one ideal customer for your whole brand, do that.
But, if you have a few different offerings that serve distinctly different audiences, then you may need to create ideal customers to represent each audience and that’s ok too.
Can I only work with people that match my ideal customer profile?
Having a clearly defined target customer for each of your product or service lines allows you to speak directly to that person using the language, graphics and promotional channels that will appeal to them. But, you’ll probably find that you’ll attract people who might share some, but not all of your ideal customer’s attributes.
As long you think they would be a great fit to work with you, then don’t stress about them fitting perfectly into your profile.
I have my ideal customer profile now. How can I use it to attract real customers?
Use the details you have collected in your profile to:
- Identify potential opportunities to answer their biggest questions and solve their problems through content marketing or through your marketing copy.
- Reach them through the channels or mediums they already use.
- Understand how they might be feeling before, during and after working with you and work towards addressing any fears or concerns.
- Re-frame or tweak your offerings, distribution channels or pricing options to suit how your ideal customer makes purchases.
- Ensure your visuals and any in-store and online experiences appeal to your ideal customer.
- Build out processes and procedures tailored to your ideal customer’s needs.
And, that’s the A’s to our most asked Q’s! If you found this article helpful, don’t forget to share it and if you have any questions or additional tips to share, leave a comment below.
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