Scrap Your Target Market Profile
When you decided to build a business of your own, I’m sure you came across a blog post, or a course, or some kind of activity that had you build out your customer avatar, target market profile, or ideal client. And while this can be incredibly helpful for figuring out the best communication styles in your business, I find that the approach that most of these exercises take isn’t very helpful.
As a brand stylist and web designer for all types of businesses and brands, it’s really important that I get to the root of who my clients are communicating with before I attempt to design something that will work for that audience. To get this clarity, I work through a brand strategy process that walks my clients through a series of questions to help them figure out their most perfect client or customer.
If, in the past, you’ve filled in something like this for your business avatar:
...and you’ve never looked at it again, then my advice to you is this: throw it out. Directly in the trash. Do it now.
Sure, this might be helpful to think about for a few moments as you write it down, but if you aren’t actively referencing this profile time and time again in your business, then it’s not actually working.
I know for a fact that if my clients write this kind of information down to describe their ideal clients or customers then it's pretty well useless for me as a designer who is trying to understand their core brand and business model. You can bet I'll be going back to the drawing board and asking them to dig a whole lot deeper.
So what's a better way to define your ideal clients and customers?
An ideal client definition should be a vision of someone you can actively reference anytime you’re writing a blog post, thinking of new products or services, posting on social media, recording a video and so on.
This person should come to mind throughout all of your business activities as a perfect client or customer for your brand.
In tackling a number of target market exercises within my own business over the years, I’ve realized how little I was able to actually relate to them. The more I tried to think about it, the more unsure I felt about who I wanted to be working with and what industries I should focus my energy on.
During one particular profile I was filling in, I remember listing that Function Creative’s target client is between 25 and 45 years old. Ladies and gentlemen, first of all, that’s a huge range. A 25-year-old’s interests, fears, struggles and dreams most likely look a lot different than a 45-year-old’s. Not to mention that when I wrote this on paper I just felt even more confused.
So… do I not take on clients that might be 50 years old and ready to invest in brand clarity and web design? Should I steer clear of that really motivated and innovative 20-year-old who wants to build a freaking awesome business and could use a hand bringing their vision to life?
The answer for me was heck no. I want to work with all kinds of people, no matter what age they are, who are passionate about what they do.
Ding! The first underlying, common theme of my perfect client: passionate about their cause.
Once I realized that this typical target audience profile just made me feel lost and like I was trying to fit my brand into a constricting box that didn’t feel right, I knew I needed a better way to figure out who my perfect clients were and how to reach them more easily. So I did a bunch of research and talked to a bunch of business besties about this issue I kept facing.
The solution was this:
Instead of focusing on a pretend, hypothetical person who fits the criteria of “a female, age 25-45, living in a big city with 2 kids and a husband, making $75,000 per year, whose favourite colour is purple…” I decided to focus on people I already knew IRL (in real life if you’re behind on your current-day-acronyms).
10 steps to define your ideal clients and customers:
1) Write down a list of the past clients you loved working with
I went through my files from the past year and wrote down the dreamiest projects I worked on and the clients I completed them for.
2) Write down a list of qualities that made those projects and clients so dreamy
For me, it came down to:
Truly passionate about their cause/business
Collaborative attitude while respecting my own expertise and creative freedom
Their core values align with mine in some way or another
Personable and friendly making it easy to form a personal connection
Understands the value of their investment in brand styling and web design and what it could do for their business in the long run
Easy to work with and meets deadlines without issues
Respects my time and boundaries
Open and honest to make for easier communication and feedback
3) Picturing these perfect clients from the past, write down their biggest struggles
4) Write down their biggest dreams
5) Write down their biggest fears
6) Write down a few things they’re incredibly passionate about
7) Write down a few of their interests
8) Write down the one thing that’s holding them back the most in their life
9) Write down a few notes about what their life would be like if they hired you or bought your product(s)
10) Write down what their life would be like if they didn’t hire you or buy your product(s)
Now that you have a better understanding of these ideas, you can start to think about making an actual list of people who fit the bill. They can be a part of your dreamy client list from above, friends you know, collaborators, mentors or even family members.
When I have real-life people who I can reference when creating anything in my business, it becomes so much easier to direct my messaging towards them. Plus, I can actually reach out to them from time to time as a sounding board - it’s like having a marketing research team right at your fingertips!
Once I had a solid idea about who fits into my ideal client profile, I started to write as if I was speaking to them directly.
I started to design with them in mind.
I started to create products and craft my services to help people just like them specifically.
I priced my services with them at the forefront.
I even asked a few of them for feedback on my refined services and my recently launched product, The Brand Planner!
And all of those approaches are what have helped me really figure out who I want to be working with instead of trying to stuff everyone coming my way into a neat and tidy, gendered, perfectly-aged box.
Drop a comment below and let me know some of the qualities of your perfect clients and customers :)
Want even more clarity in your business?
Check out The Brand Planner: An Entrepreneur's Guide to Brand Clarity & Business Direction
This hardcover (or digital) book is a guide to help you get focused. When we can get clear about what our business is all about and focus on the tasks at hand then we can start to reach our own version of success!