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How to Identify Your Ideal Client: Seven Questions to Ask

Jun 8, 2021 | Brand Strategy

Whether you’re new to business or have been around for years, these seven questions will help you identify your ideal client so that you can understand how to best serve them.


The question I see time and time again is, “How do I get more ________?” Insert clients, readers, followers, engagement, likes, comments, purchases… anything that has to do with your business growth.

I could spew off a strategy-this and new-tool-that, but at the root of every marketing tip and trick is this: you have to speak to the right people. Trying to show up across every brand touch point, to every individual isn’t going to get you anywhere. You’re bound to get lost in the noise.

And because I’ve heard this way too many times, let’s just go ahead and address it right here, right now. Zeroing in on your target audience and creating content specifically for them will NOT make you lose clients. In fact, and in my personal experience, deciding on who I want to work with and who I am a good fit for has only increased my revenue.

So, without further ado, let’s dive into all things ideal client and get you connecting with the right people so that you can bring more ease into showing up for your business.

 

What is an ideal client?

In a perfect world, your ideal client is the person that, if you could, you would clone, so that you would only work with them. They value you, your brand and your offerings. They identify with your brand’s message, values and purpose. They will become (if they aren’t already) your brand ambassadors and will eagerly advocate on your behalf.

 

What is an ideal client profile?

Your ideal client profile outlines the characteristics of that perfect-for-you person. It can cover everything from demographic information to what they’re currently struggling with to what they’re Googling in relation to your offering.

 

Why can’t you be for everyone?

It’s easy to roll your eyes when you hear the words ‘ideal client’ and think, “Sounds good, but I’m going to work with everyone so this isn’t for me.”

I understand the hesitation. In fact, nearly every client I work with tells me that they want to work with Person A and then also Person B and they can’t forget about Person C, either.

Now think about how someone experiences your brand and the various touch points they can have with you.

When you want to serve everyone, your experience may look something like this:
Your website talks to Person A, Person B and Person C, and then your Instagram talks to Person A sometimes and Person B sometimes, and your email is on a constant rotation of marketing to Person A, B and C. Your efforts are split into thirds and you have to try and connect with each person on a consistent basis. Sounds exhausting, right?

Compare that to the scenario where you have clearly identified your ideal client: Your entire website is tailored to that specific person, your Instagram content talks directly to them, every single time and each email you send intentionally speaks to that specific person.

By gaining clarity on that perfect-for-you person, each of the brand touch points has the ability to serve a purpose and intentionally connect with, and provide value for your ideal client.

And when your entire brand is working together, going towards the same destination, I promise you’ll get there with a hell of a lot more ease and fun.

 

7 ideal client questions to ask

Have I sold you on the importance of having an ideal client yet? If you’re giving me all the praise hands, it’s time to dive into these seven questions that will help you identify that perfect-for-you ideal client.

01. What do you do?

This may seem like an obvious one to some business owners, but when I first started out, my business offerings were all over the place. It’s hard to nail down your target audience when you aren’t clear on what you’re actually providing, amiright? So, I pictured myself meeting someone new and what my response would be to the question, “What do you do?” If I couldn’t answer that with clarity, I reworked my response until I could say something without stuttering and stumbling.

This “elevator pitch” process also led me to simplifying my offering as much as possible and zeroing in on my specialty. My first answer to this question was something like, “I provide digital marketing, social media, brand design, and web design services for small business owners online and local small businesses.”

Fast-forward to now and I can clearly articulate what I do: “I’m a brand and web designer for service-based business owners.” Do I still provide digital marketing services? You betcha. But it’s not what I want to focus on and it’s not what I need to say in order to attract my ideal client.

02. What does their life look like before they start looking for you?

Now that you have a clear understanding of the services you provide and your area of expertise, it’s time to start thinking about your ideal client. What does their life and business look like right now, prior to doing business with you? What does a day-in-the-life look like?

The goal is to understand how they’re currently operating in their business and life so that you can eventually speak directly to their pain points and know what transformation you’re able to provide. Remember, for this exercise, all you’re doing is thinking about what their current day-to-day looks like. Check out my example below to get the creative juices flowing! 🙂

Social media manager example: My ideal client wakes up early and gets in a great workout. After eating breakfast and having her first cup of coffee, she sits down, ready to start posting on her social media channels. Since she doesn’t have any ideas for that day, she starts scrolling through Facebook and before she knows it, an hour has passed. She decides to hop into her email and make sure she’s up-to-date and then goes on Pinterest to see if there’s any inspiration there. Two hours later and she goes back to her email. She follows up with a client and notices a product order has come through—yay! She realizes it’s time for lunch and promises to post to Instagram and Facebook after eating….

3. What are their external problems?

Once you understand how they operate within their day-to-day, it’s a lot easier to understand their struggles and pain points.

Just like in life, there are two sides to every problem, and when it comes to your ideal audience, those sides are internal and external.

Let’s look at your ideal client’s external problems first. These are problems that others can see and are outwardly facing. For example, continuing on with the social media manager: their ideal client’s potential external problem could be an inconsistent Instagram feed that visually doesn’t look cohesive.

[[if you want to learn more about identifying internal and external problems, I highly recommend picking up Building a Storybrand by Donald Miller and/or listening to his podcast. His work is ah-mazing!]]

4. What are their internal problems?

Now, on the flip side of external problems are internal ones. These are thoughts, emotions, and feelings related to a problem or pain point.

Going back to our social media manager’s ideal client: They’re probably embarrassed by their visual inconsistencies on their Instagram feed. Or maybe they’re worried about what others think of them because they don’t post consistently and their images aren’t high quality.

Donald Miller, the author I mentioned above, says it best: Companies tend to sell solutions to external problems, but customers buy solutions to internal problems.

Being able to identify and clearly articulate your ideal client’s internal problems is what will help you build a solid relationship with your audience and trust within your community. Yes, external problems are important to understand and solve because it’s what the world can see. But, solving internal problems is what builds connection and loyalty with your ideal client.

5. What are they FIRST looking for when they find you?

Okay, you’ve identified what they’re struggling with, but how about understanding what they’re searching for? More often than not, what your ideal client is looking for and what they need are two different things. As an expert in your space, you know the lingo, the verbiage, and correct terminology. However, your ideal client is not the expert, which means they probably aren’t using the same language as you.

For example, my ideal client is usually looking for a logo when they first come across my business. I know that they need more than just a logo to create a strong visual brand, but that’s not something that even enters their thought process.

And you know what? That’s okay. Because it’s not their job to know or understand—that’s on me, as the expert.

6. Where does your ideal client spend their time?

I don’t know about you, but wasting time is not something I enjoy doing. One of the biggest time sucks for a digital business owner? Social media. And even more so if you’re spending time on a social channel that your ideal client doesn’t even like.

Since you’re now well versed in your client’s problems, it’s time to start actually talking to them. And that means showing up where they are. If you love Instagram but your ideal client doesn’t spend their time scrollin’ the ‘Gram, it’s time to focus your efforts elsewhere.

If you aren’t sure where to start, think about where your past clients came from. Clearly, that method was working, so why not focus your efforts there?

For all the brand new business owners, just start. Pick a channel and stick to it for six months. If it’s not doing anything for your business, switch it up. It’s okay to test things out… In fact, it’s HIGHLY encouraged! When you start thinking of your business as one big experiment, it takes the pressure off picking the wrong “thing” and puts you in the curiosity mindset. Which makes this whole experience a lot more enjoyable!

As a last reminder, it’s not the client’s responsibility to find you, the business owner and service provider. When you do your job well, you will be where they spend their time and show up when they search for what they think they need.

7. What is their version of success as it relates to their main problem?

By understanding those internal and external problems, you can then look at the flip side – what do they want? What are they working towards? What are they hoping to receive as a solution to those internal and external problems?

Get clear on their version of success and remember to use their language. As an expert in your industry/space/category, the words and phrases you use might not be the same as what your ideal client would say.

 

Creating the ideal client profile

By answering these seven questions, you are well on your way to painting a clear picture of that perfect-for-you person. The one that makes you LOVE being in business and doing the work.

To solidify the profile, compile all your answers into a single document that you can refer back to whenever you are creating content for your business. And, as you continue to show up for and work with clients, revisit this profile and update it for accuracy. The longer you are in business and the more consistent you do the work, the more clarity you will have on who you want to serve. Think of this profile as a fluid document that, just like your overall brand, grows right along side your business.

Happy branding!

All my best,

 

Additional Ideal Client Resources

Struggling with those limiting beliefs around niching down? Read this post on how to reframe them.

Want to use analytics to gain even more clarity around that perfect-for-you client? Check out this post on six data-driven ways to identify your ideal client.

Still not sold on the importance on having an ideal client? Read this post on how it will create a better brand experience.

 

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