Creative Ways to Define Ideal Clients
Does anyone else feel awkward about defining an ideal client?
I know I always shied away from the exercise of defining an "ideal client." Though there's no shortage of worksheets, courses, and more on the subject - the general approach for me has always felt insincere and like stabbing in the dark.
I couldn't understand how you're supposed to look at your business then invent a mystery man or woman of a specific age with specific interests that magically loves what I do. Every time I tried to dream up someone, I ended up with the fake biography of a person who was essentially me and I didn't get any clarity on who I should be marketing to or how to reach them.
Maybe I've been doing it wrong. Or maybe this approach just wasn't a great fit for me.
Knowing who your ideal clients are is important for any business. This allows you to understand who you are trying to reach and gives you insight on how to attract them efficiently.
Today, I'd like to share with you some alternative ways to define your ideal clients that have worked well for me.
Start with a broader audience
This may fly in the face of most business advice you've read, but if you're just starting out - I recommend being a bit broader in audience than you might plan to be ultimately.
It's great to be targeted with your audience and its message to it. In general, it's solid thinking. However, at the very beginning of your business, it'll be hard - potentially impossible - to know for a fact who will be the people you serve best and love serving.
If you start a bit broader, you leave room for possibility to be surprised by how much you love working on different types of projects and clients.
For example, supppose you're starting a law practice and you think, based on your initial research, you want to specialize in working with non-profit organizations. Why not expand that to non-profits, small businesses, and startups at the beginning? That leaves room in case you discover non-profits aren't a great fit, but socially-conscious small business are!
In October 2013 with starting my own business - Greatest Story, I listed business services just to add it on. It wasn't my focus and I didn't think I'd enjoy doing any big business branding projects. But having business represented on my site brought me incredible projects and clients that showed me how much I loved the business side. Today, it's a huge component of the work I do.
Sometimes I wonder, would I have discovered this passion if I hadn't thrown it out there and specialized only in my first targeted interest, weddings? I'm glad to have left the room to learn and be surprised.
Analyze Your Past Clients
You will learn a lot by taking on a diverse load of projects and clients. You'll likely have clients you love and those that you learned were not great fits in hindsight.
No matter the mix, you'll gt a ton of data and information once you have a few months of work under your belt. This becomes a great time to uncover who your ideal clients have been and what they might have in common.
If you go back through and research the clients you loved working with - you can actually discover what some of your ideal clients look like. Do this by making an excel sheet and filling out information about each of your past favorite clients - their name, their business or job title, what you did for them, what level of education they have, their age, their location, etc.- whatever is most relevant.
See what you can observe from this. Putting it in this format - you'll actually see how old they are, where they are in their lives, why they came to you, what problems you helped them solve. And you'll see the commonalities they share.
This can be so powerful going forward for your business. You start to understand and form a profile of what an ideal client is for you - and it's not something you just invented. It's something you observed so you know that there is some truth to it.
And in turn, you can also do this work to understand who you can't serve well. If you better understand what they look like, you can identify they aren't a fit sooner and refer them to someone that could help.
Doing an exercise like this really helped me understand and shape my business last fall. I analyzed my favorite past clients on all sides of my business. I learned that for business, I'm a great fit for small business owners, especially those that are doing it for the first time - since I love to teach and walk people through the process.
This analytic exercise led me to create Greatest Story for Life as an umbrella to serve ideal clients for life's milestones (Weddings, Events, and Everyday). Previously, they were each separate entities represented equally with business.
I also created Greatest Story for Business with its own Facebook page to target and well serve small business owners and entrepreneurs. The analysis also inspired me to write this blog to serve ideal clients and collaborators on the business side. It even provided the key insights and direction to create my most recent open event, Small Business Gut Check.
For an afternoon spent in Excel, it's had a fantastic return on investment for me and has given me so much more clarity on who I can be a great asset to.
Think About Your Business' Words and Graphics as Your Dating Profile for Ideal Clients
I believe attracting ideal clients has a lot to do with being authentic and projecting your strengths in your business assets (your words, graphics, your website, business cards, etc.). It's a core principle of Greatest Story for Business and the work I do. And it makes sense if you think about it like dating. Let me explain -
I adore my husband of almost 4 years, Gus. We met 10 years ago (as of June 12) and he's definitely my everything. But if I'd had to go back in time 10 years ago - before we met - and write a description of my ideal husband down on paper, I wouldn't have described Gus. The person I thought I was meant to marry and the person I did marry are different - thankfully. There's so much about Gus that is a better fit for me than some guy I would have dreamed up.
Gus has shared with me that he had a similar thought. The thing is - I put myself out there when we met, and so did he, and we attracted each other and resonated with each other more than either of us could have predicted. So is the way of love - and so is the way of forging great relationships sometimes.
The problem with inventing your ideal clients is that we often are so close to our businesses and ourselves that whatever we come up with and even the value we add to others may not be what (and who) we resonate best with.
So how do you attract a great person that you can't predict? You tell your story well. You build a business and present it to others in a way that's authentic and sincere to you and your strengths. It's your dating profile for ideal clients.
It's not about assuming who they are - it's about putting your best foot forward.
Look at your assets right now - do they present an accurate and compelling experience of you and what values you offer in your business? They need to.
How many ideal client soulmates are you missing if they aren't? It's time to attract them. This is what I specialize in doing for small business owners so if you feel need help, contact me here or find more information here.
I shared a number of alternative ideas today:
- Starting broad and staying open to opportunity
- Doing analysis to discover your past ideal clients
- Make sure your professional assets tell an engaging, real story
If you've resisted the whole "ideal client" thing - why not give one of these ideas a try? If you do, tell me what you learn. I'd love to know what you discover and who to keep an eye out for to help grow your business and add value on all sides.
It's time to reach and serve more of the people that fire you up. When you do that, everybody wins.