One of the biggest challenges I hear from creatives, coaches, and online entrepreneurs who are starting and growing a business is, “Ughhh, I don’t have enough clients.”
It’s a tale as old as time (or at least, as old as service-based businesses), you have the creativity, the drive, the talent, and the skills, you just can’t seem to find the right clients.
The biggest reason creative entrepreneurs run into this problem is that they’re looking at it backward: they are focused on searching for customers when they should be pouring their efforts into attracting them. And not just any old clients, but a defined set of ideal clients.
The truth is really simple: your business can (and will!) be a huge success if you can do three things:
- Determine your ideal client
- Create content and branding they will love and naturally be drawn towards
- Convert those prospective ideal clients into paying customers
While these are three different tasks to accomplish you won’t achieve any of them effectively (or at all) if you don’t do the first well.
Why Are Ideal Clients Important?
Before we dive into exactly how you can determine your ideal client, it’s important to be crystal clear on exactly what an Ideal Client is, and why the concept is so important to your business.
Here’s a straightforward definition:
Your Ideal Client is the type of person who discovers the perfect solution to their problems (pain points), or the fulfillment of their needs, in your specific product or service.
Without a super-clear understanding of who your ideal client is, and what they want, you are going to find marketing your business more difficult than fighting white walkers without dragon glass.
Can I be real with you for a sec?
In your business, not everyone will like you.
Don’t take it personally.
There’s nothing wrong with you. Not everyone will like your style, appreciate your particular zone of genius, understand the value of your offerings, or believe they need what you’re selling.
And that’s totally cool.
Because you know what? You aren’t going to like everyone either.
In fact, there are probably a whole boat-load of people you don’t want to work with.
If You’re Talking To Everyone, You’re Talking To No One
When you’re first starting out as an entrepreneur, you might find yourself desperate for clients.
You’ll take on anyone and everyone because you have bills to pay, you haven’t experienced the horrors of working with a client that’s a bad fit yet, and you’re slightly addicted to the adrenaline rush you get when you get a new client or customer.
But here’s the thing: hustling hard and taking on everyone you can find will (probably) work in the short term, but it’s not a sustainable marketing plan. It’s no good for you, it’s no good for your clients, and it’s definitely no good for your ROI.
Marketing takes a lot of hard graft and (often) money. When you target your marketing messages at everyone, you’re not speaking to anyone.
When you’re marketing at everyone, you need to use a message that is as appealing as possible to a huge range of people.
That’s not easily done.
There’s no such thing as a universally loved product or service.
All that generic effort creates a message that everyone can understand, but nobody will respond to.
To talk to people at the level needed to convert them into raving fans of you and your business, you need to speak their language. You need to fit perfectly with their needs, wants, and goals.
People are too individual to do this well, while targeting a lot of different people.
Getting really specific in who you want to work with, who your ideal clients are, allows you to craft a marketing message that speaks directly to them.
Once my clients wrap their head around this concept, their next question is obvious: “How do I determine who my ideal client is?”
It’s not nearly as tricky as you might think. With a little thought, you can easily identify your ideal client using three straightforward steps:
Step 1: Perform An Internal Assessment
Before you look externally to find the right people to work with you need to do an internal evaluation.
Creatives, entrepreneurs, and coaches all have one thing in common: they pour a lot of themselves into their businesses.
This is great - it’s usually what makes them successful - but it means that making sure your business, brand, message, and clients are fully aligned with who you are as a person, not just a business, is essential.
An internal audit will show you what is most important to you and how that impacts upon the ideal clients you should be targeting.
One thing to note - it’s possible to have more than one ideal client if you offer different services that do slightly different things. For example, a coaching package for a fledgling entrepreneur isn’t going to be the same as one for a boss babe running a seven-figure biz and looking to kick it up a notch.
Both packages are aimed at coaches, but they are at very different stages in their respective businesses, and so are different ideal clients.
When you ask these questions, there is one you must ask first: Are all my services perfect for exactly the same people?
If the answer is no, don’t panic! All it means is you need to repeat this process for every product or service you have that services a different core function (i.e. helping a new coach get started vs. mentoring a successful coach to even greater abundance).
It may seem contradictory to say you need to know yourself before you can know your ideal client, but it actually makes a lot of sense. They are your ideal client, the specific type of person you will find most enjoyable, energizing and uplifting to work with. Yes, they will find you to be equally delightful, empowering and inspirational, and what you have to offer will bring huge value to their lives, and solve a fundamental problem they have, but it has to start with you.
One of the biggest mistakes people make is to come up with a product or service and then try to fit people into it, rather than determining the right people to work with, identifying their core pain points, and creating products and services that meet those needs.
This is a huge motivation to figure out who your ideal client is; it will help you make your products and services better.
But there’s another component here, namely that you need to have a really clear understanding of what you are capable of offering.
There’s no point selling a product or service if you can’t deliver.
More than that, your offering should play to your strengths, your passions, and your zone of genius.
That is how you will build phenomenal success, and best serve your clients.
So while the specifics of the services you offer should stem from the needs and desires of your ideal clients, your ideal clients should stem from you.
Internal Questions To Discover Your Ideal Client In Yourself
Ask yourself the following questions:
- What am I exceptionally good at?
- What am I most passionate about?
- What is my Zone of Genius?
- Where do these three things converge?
Consider Your Best Clients
If you’re just starting out as an entrepreneur, coach, or creative business owner, you may not have any existing clients. Don’t worry - it’s actually great to figure out your ideal client right at the start. But if you’re already in business and have existing or former clients, it’s time to dig into your interactions with them and figure out which are a great fit, and which you could do without.
Questions To Find Your Ideal Client In Your Existing Clientele
- What problem does your product or service solve? Be as specific as possible!
- Who currently benefits from your product or service most? Describe these clients in detail.
- Who do you want to help most?
- Who do you totally love working with?
- Who do you really hate working with? (It’s okay to ask this - it doesn’t mean you hate them, just that working with them isn’t your fave!)
- Which of your clients has provided you with glowing feedback? Be specific - what do these people have in common?
- Which (if any) of your customers have given you poor feedback, actively complained, canceled a service, refused to pay, or asked for a refund? Be specific - what do these people have in common?
- If you could spend all your time doing just one type of work, what would it be?
- How did your existing clients, good and bad, find you and your business? Is there a common path taken by all your good clients, or all your bad ones?
- Are you happy working with your existing clients, or do you want to shift your focus?
The more details you can glean from your existing experience the better. Download my Ideal Client Workbook for a far more in-depth set of questions.
Once you’ve answered all these questions as best you can, go through looking for common themes. The common threads that repeatedly crop up are the beginnings of your criteria for determining your ideal client. A few widespread commonalities you’re likely to find are:
- A specific gender
- An age group
- A particular industry
- Common mindsets (i.e. you may love people working with a Success Mindset and hate working with pessimists who have a very defeatist outlook)
- A certain level of business (i.e. you love working with people just starting out in business, or adore mentoring people who are already doing really well)
- A particular income bracket (e.g. you love working with people who can afford to invest in themselves and their business, and don’t complain about your prices, haggle, or try to get as much bang for their buck as possible, leaving you drained. Alternatively, you might love working with low-income individuals and helping them transform their lives by earning more.)
Understanding Your Competition And USP
Finding your ideal client is one of the most important steps you can take in marketing because it distinguishes who you are targeting.
But that’s only one side of the equation.
You also need to know how your ideal client will distinguish you from your competitors.
- What aspects of your products or services are similar to your competition?
- What are different?
- What are completely, 100% uniquely you?
If you find yourself struggling to answer either of the last two questions, or answering the first with ‘nothing’, think again! The world of digital marketing has a lot of great benefits, but one of its downsides is how crowded and loud it has become.
There’s no such thing as an original idea anymore. That’s doubly true of products and services. Whatever you’re doing, someone else is doing it too.
But the very nature of creatives and entrepreneurs is that they do the stuff other people are doing in new and innovative ways.
Having competition isn’t an issue because the truth is, there is more than enough for everyone. However, you’ve gotta stand out from the crowd so the right people can find you.
The good news is, if you really can’t pinpoint your unique selling point, once you’ve figured out who your ideal client is you will be able to tweak your offerings so they are tailor-made to those exact clients. In doing this, you’re likely to come up with ways of making them unique, even in the crowded digital world.
But I’m betting that uniqueness is already there; it’s just difficult for you to see it yourself. If you’re really struggling, ask your existing clients, friends, and family what makes you different.
Step 2: Check Your Instincts
By now you should have a fairly clear picture of your ideal client. You should have a good idea of who you want to work with and why, and what it is about you that makes them want to work with you. But you’re not done just yet.
You’re (Probably) Not Psychic
The next step is to check that data. Even if some (or all) is based on feedback from existing clients, they are only a small sampling. It’s important to avoid assuming you know what your ideal clients are thinking and feeling, and what they truly need.
A huge mistake I often see people make is creating offers based on their assumptions about what their ideal clients want.
And you know the old saying as to why you should never assume.
This is a huge problem because you end up with a product or service nobody wants.
You’re not going to make that mistake.
Because you’re probably not psychic, it’s a safe bet you don’t actually know what your ideal clients are thinking. So ask them.
Discover Your IC With ONE Question
The second I suggested asking your ideal clients what they want, I’m betting your immediate thought was: “I’ll run a survey!”
Yes, you can absolutely do that. You can list out all the questions you want answered and try to entice your ideal clients to answer with pleas, bribes, and badgering. But there is (in my opinion) a better way.
Talk to people. YES! An actual conversation with someone talking and listening!
Immerse yourself in your ideal clients’ world. Hang out with them, chat with them, start conversations, and ask them specific questions that lead you to discover what they need, and the problems they face.
Here is one question that is an absolute goldmine. Whenever I talk to potential clients, I put a big *BC at the top of the page and ask, “What’s your biggest challenge right now pertaining to…?” (Fill in the blank for whatever area your work helps people with.)
This question is invaluable for your market research. If you ask it often enough, you will see patterns emerging in the answers. You can learn a huge amount about the problems and issues your ideal clients are facing. No more guesswork, this isn’t your voodoo powers at work, you know.
These are your ideal clients’ pain points.
Download my FREE Ideal Client Workbook for more details on exactly how to do this.
Step 3: Create An Ideal Client Avatar
You’ve done the hard part, now comes the fun part.
There's something inspiring about having an avatar for your ideal client. A ‘profile’ similar to what you’d see on LinkedIn or an online dating site.
Consider the core demographics of your ideal client:
- How old are they?
- Where do they live?
- Where do they work?
- What careers are they in?
- What are their hobbies and interests?
- What are their hopes, dreams, and aspirations?
- What are their fears?
- Do they have any common health, wellness or mindset troubles? (i.e. weight problems, mental health concerns, confidence issues, etc.)
Your avatar will depend entirely on the answers you came up with in steps one and two. If it helps, you can find a photograph or image that perfectly captures the essence of your ideal client if this helps you visuals them.
The idea is to see them as a real person. Someone you could take out to coffee for a chat. Because that’s basically what you’re going to be - every time you need to know what direction to take in your marketing, you’re gonna sit down with your avatar and talk it out.
Keep a flash car including all the need-to-know information close at: core demographics, pain points, and where you will find your ideal client.
Put Your Ideal Client Profile Into Action
Would you believe me if I said that loads of coaches and entrepreneurs go to a lot of effort to identify their ideal client, and then fail to do anything with them?
It’s really easy to figure all this stuff out, use it for deciding exactly what you will offer, and then forgetting about it entirely. But your ideal client is vital to every aspect of your business.
It should inform every aspect of your business.
Now you have your ideal client profile you need to put it to work. Your ideal client should infuse all areas, from your designing products and services to creating your branding, crafting content and other marketing, writing your sales language, organizing your customer service and beyond.
To really get actionable and get your ideal client working to supercharge your business, download my FREE Ideal Client Workbook. Use it to fine tune everything you’ve learned in this post, and check out the Action Checklist at the back to make sure you’re putting your ideal client profile to work as much as possible.