If I asked you to describe your ideal customer, could you?
With the 5 criteria above, total and then divide to find the score. In this case the total is 24, divided by 5 and the score is 4.8 out of 5. They are a good match to the criteria and an example of an ‘ideal’ customer. If your niche is a first-time buyer, you have probably done more 'ideal customer' identification than most real estate professionals. However, if you have no specific niche or your niche is more a property type, such as the vacation/resort market, then you probably should spend some time actually analyzing the characteristics of your 'ideal.
For instance, if you know that your ideal customer is a 30-something mom of two kids with a college degree who loves to look for bargains online, you can tailor your products, services or content to what she likely wants to read or buy (e.g., a free guide to the best places to find Black Friday deals). Now, let’s talk about crafting your Ideal Customer Avatar. #1 List all the common traits of your idea customers So both demographic, think age and gender and occupation, and then also think about the psychographic, like attitudes and values and lifestyle and hobbies. Think of your customers.
If you’re a small business owner and can’t answer this question, you have some work to do.
Because, if you want to grow your business through marketing, you need to know who you are targeting. And creating a detailed persona of your ideal customer is a step you can’t skip.
Once you’re clear on who you want to work with, it’s waaaaay easier to do the following…
- Clarify your brand message (read: have a clear elevator pitch).
- Optimize your products and/or services.
- Develop a focused marketing system that attracts the right people (your ideal customer).
- Grow your business.
Don’t get caught in the energy-sucking grind of trying to be all things to all people. This grueling routine pulls you from what you should be doing—serving a specific group of people who qualify as perfect customers.
Step #1: To find your ideal customer you must be focused and a bit tenacious in weeding out the bad customers.
Visualize a scenario where you’re taking on less-than-ideal customers. They will…
- Distract you from your mission.
- Stifle your growth.
- Veer you off course by asking for help with things you don’t specialize in.
- Cramp your style, drag you down, and frustrate you to no end.
- Help you waste time, money, and precious brainpower on things you shouldn’t be doing, all for a person you shouldn’t be working with.
Yikes. I know, right?
Ideal customers are gold
Now that you know how “bad customers” can drag you down, think about a narrowly defined chunk of the market—a select group of “good people” that fit a set group of characteristics. Most small businesses are built to serve a small, narrowly defined section of the population.
And before I go any further, let me put your fears to rest. Just because you are narrowing down doesn’t mean you can’t work with people that are just outside of your ideal client range. Not everyone is a perfect fit and nothing is set in stone, so don’t worry about losing business by niching down.
In fact, targeting a select group of ideal peeps and positioning your business by focusing on them, will make it easier to market your business and grow.
The process is simple – you identify your ideal customer, spell out the details, and use that clear-cut description to build your marketing foundation.
Develop and amplify all your marketing efforts around this person, with the goal of attracting more that fit the mold. An ideal customer is a perfect, or at least, almost perfect fit. Meaning…
- Your ideal customer has a pain only someone with your skill-set can fix.
- Maybe this person simply likes the way you approach problem-solving.
- Or their values jibe with yours.
- Some customers will simply love to work with you. They value your service and let you know it.
But lousy customers will stifle your growth
There are many variables to consider, but here’s the thing—a lousy client might do a variety of things to strangle the life right out of you. They might…
- Not pay you on time.
- Take you away from the fine people you really want to work with.
- Fight you on everything, from deadlines to pricing.
- And they will surely suck the lifeblood out of you.
Bad clients can be energy vampires of the worst kind. And they’ll become a huge drag on your business and your life.
How To Find Your Ideal Customer Profile
You do not want that!
Another possibility is that there is someone you want to work with but they simply aren’t a good fit. This is when it’s good to have an active referral network so you can send them to someone you trust. But that’s a topic for another day.
Step #2: Focus on the person you’ve earned the right to work with.
So, what is the best way to find your ideal customer? (Switch it up!)
If you’ve spent any time trying to figure out who your ideal customer is, you’re probably familiar with terms like demographics and psychographics.
Demographics include characteristics like income, age, and education. Who is this person?
Psychographics dial into your ideal customer’s behaviors. What are their values, interests, opinions? Why would this person buy from you?
So, you can easily see how finding your ideal customer is part art and part science.
I could go on all day about the “science” part but my goal today is not to bore you to death. My goal is to show you an easier way to find that ideal person.
And to be perfectly honest, I would advise you to not get caught up in the science part (demographics and psychographics) and instead focus on finding out more about a potential customer’s buying process. But I’ll detail that a bit later.
Instead of trying to woo a certain type of customer, it might be better to pivot and think about the person you’ve earned the right to work with.
You’re experienced and bring something unique to the table…
- Think about past customers, like the energy vampires above, who didn’t appreciate what they were getting. (You know who I’m talking about.)
- Now, think about the type of person who values your work and would gladly tell the world about it.
I think you’ve earned the right to work with someone who recognizes the full worth of what they are getting – your business, your service, and you.
Think about ideal Susan or just-right Phil. What are they like?
Do they have distinctive characteristics that translate to your success?
Write out a list of current customers or people you’ve worked with in the past. The good ones. Now, clearly define the traits that you value and bring success.
So, step #2 is basically defining the really, really great customers 🙂
Step #3: Create an imperfect customer list.
Now write out a “don’t want to, never, ever work with again” list.
What are the common characteristics of these people? The rotten eggs. Clearly define the traits that you do not value and bring on a bad case of business constipation.
Get clarity around the good eggs and the bad eggs.
Once you have a clear vision of the people who truly value what you do, those you need to work with—made easier by visualizing those who drag you down—you’re well on your way. (I see you smiling :))
So, think hard about people you DO NOT want to work with because completing personas of those you don’t want to work with will make it much, much easier for you to clearly define those you DO want to work with.
Gaining this “good/bad” clarity is one of the most important things you can do as a business owner. Because until you’re 100% clear on the type of person you really want to work with, it’s almost impossible to turn down work from clients who will take you away from the work you really want to and should be doing.
Step #4: Drill-down and find your ideal customer.
Create a sketch of the person you don’t want to work with.
Then, create an ideal buyer persona.
You can detail background and demographics. Things like age, gender, education, job title, experience, income, relationship status, etc., but ponder this for a moment…
If you want to create a valuable persona, shouldn’t you focus on how and why they go through a buying process?
To dig deep and get into the things that really matter…
- What motivates them to buy from you?
- What are their buying concerns?
- What are their challenges? Worries? Pain?
- Are they focused on price, speedy turnaround? Or do they know quality work takes time?
- What do they read? Where do they hang out online? Get their info? And how does this influence their buying decision?
- Why do they want to work with us? What will they gain?
The questions above are just to get you started, but they are the best way to clarify who that ideal customer is.
When they visit your website you want to…
- Have a brand that makes it crystal clear what you do.
- Quickly communicates how you will fix their pain.
- And makes it obvious what they should do to start working with you.
Creating an ideal buyer persona makes creating this 1-2-3 messaging punch much, much easier.
Step #5: Understand the difference between buyer profiles and buyer personas.
When creating customer “profiles,” most businesses simply pick a name like “Value-obsessed Jane” or “Tech-smart Brian,” find a stock photo, list a few characteristics they think will matter, and call it a day.
This kind of futile exercise will NOT help your marketing because it’s incomplete guesswork.
You need to build a true representation of your ideal customer. And to get the insights that will move the needle in your business, you need to dig deep to reveal their approach to buying.
A detailed “persona” of your ideal customer symbolizes a real person you should focus on. Most businesses create what they think are personas but they are actually buyer profiles – profiling someone like “Tech smart Brian” without diving deeper, to learn about Brian’s journey to making a buying decision.
You want to go beyond a simple buyer “profile.” Demographic and psychographic insights are certainly not useless. I’ve just found that it’s way more valuable to…
- First define the type of customers (businesses) you should be working with, using the methods above. (Your ideal buyer profile)
- Then dive deeper by interviewing people, getting the insights you need, then developing an ideal buyer persona.
And, if you interview these people the right way, they’ll give you so much valuable intel – WAAAAY more than if you simply profiled them as someone like “Tech smart Brian is the Director of Global Cloud Solutions at IT company B with revenues of 10M.”
“Profiling” someone like this is certainly helpful but you need to dig deeper.
As Adele Revella writes here, “a buyer persona tells you what prospective customers are thinking and doing as they weigh their options to address a problem that your company resolves.”
And the best method to gather this crucial intel is by interviewing those individuals who might buy your stuff! THIS is how you gain the awareness you need to develop the type of messaging you need to improve your marketing.
Step #6: Interview people and start crafting your buyer personas.
If someone has recently bought from you, the buying process is still in their cranium, so ask them for an interview. Learn the how and why of their journey.
Start by asking a question like the following…
- “Think about your first step in the process. There was a problem you had to solve and finally decided you had to act. What was your first step?”
This is simply an opening you build on. Have a friendly conversation but start layering your questions to learn about their journey.
You want to dive deep into the buyer’s journey so you know the kind of questions your ideal customer will ask and then craft content that gives them the info they seek.
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- List the people who’ve just started working with you, and ask them if they would be available for a short call.
- If someone has decided not to work with you, ask them for an interview too. They might blow you off, but if you can book a call, think about how valuable that might be. A call like this will answer one of the most important questions you could ever ask – Why did you decide to not work with us?
Just work to unearth everything you can about their buying journey.
Dig, dig, dig…
What triggered you to start looking for a solution?
What was your next step?
What were the barriers that stopped you?
Book a call, interview them on Skype or Zoom, transcribe the call, then look it over to pull out the golden nuggets you need to build you ideal client persona.
I use ECamm Call Recorder for Skype, send the audio to rev.com and in roughly 12 hours I have a transcript to work with.
Step #7: The final step
Go over your transcripts, find the most important information and start building your profile.
Try and interview at least five people, preferably more. 5-10 is usually enough to get the details you need.
The Buyer Persona Institute offers a great profile template. But don’t agonize over getting this perfect, just go! It’s not necessary to get this detailed when you first start. It is, however, a great framework detailing the kind of questions you need to be asking.
Once you gather the type of information your ideal customer is searching for, your marketing and the way you conduct business will change.
You will find it so much easier to create the kind of content these people (your ideal customers) are looking for.
Or in the words of Marcus Sheridan, “They ask, you answer” will drive all your content marketing 🙂
And, don’t forget to weed out the bad eggs. Detailing the type of clients that drain you will make it easy for you to avoid working with them in the future.
When you’re armed with a clear picture of your ideal customer, it will be SO MUCH EASIER to answer the following…
How To Find Your Ideal Customer
- Is my pricing right?
- Should our products and/or services change?
- What content do I need to produce? Whitepapers? Detailed blog posts? Explainer videos?
- Is my client onboarding process in need of an overhaul?
- How important is social media and what channels should I be on?
- How, exactly, will I get this information in the hands of the right people?
And know that this is an ever-evolving process of discovery. Your business evolves, your marketing strategies change, and your ideal client might change over time as well.
But the more you discover, act, and evolve, you’ll see how incredibly important this is.
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Over the years I’ve helped hundreds and hundreds of SaaS providers from around the world rapidly accelerate customer acquisition and reduce their SaaS churn rates.
And in just about every instance I found myself asking them the same questions.
The fact that these questions were not easily answered or – if they were – that the answers were ignored, often shed light on the underlying cause of several different problems my SaaS provider clients faced.
From stagnating growth, to unacceptable churn, to a less-than-acceptable ROI on AdWords and other paid traffic spend, it became clear to me that we have a problem.
And this problem isn’t small or to be ignored.
To the contrary, it is resulting in SaaS provider executives – just like you – going back to their investors and board with less-than-stellar results, for Founders and CEOs of SaaS companies who know they have the best product out there pulling their hair out at the lack of new customers or the super-high churn rates.
And for the SaaS CMO and Marketing teams who have implemented rigorous A/B testing programs that are functioning properly but not resulting in statistically significant lift, the crisis is mounting.
What is going on here?!?!?!
Simple… you’re attracting the wrong audience and here’s why.
Attracting Your Ideal Customer Is Not an Accident
We know that attracting the right customers is critical to growing your SaaS business, and this includes reducing your SaaS churn rate.
The reality is, you’re not attracting your Ideal Customers, at least in the numbers you’d like, because you either haven’t identified your Ideal Customers or you have, but choose to ignore that fact and continue trying to be all things to everyone so you “don’t miss any opportunities.”
But you also know that’s wrong and goes against everything we know to be true in marketing, right?
And the rules apply to you just like everyone else, right?
So, to ensure that you’re attracting the right customers, take some time with your team and answer these questions.
- Would they know they’re your ideal customer if they looked at your marketing site?
- Of your current customer base, what percentage does your ideal customer represent?
How To Find Your Ideal Client
Question #3 is a super-interesting metric that few SaaS companies actually monitor (but should).
In fact, when I go through this exercise with a SaaS provider who is struggling to achieve the results they’re looking for, the answer is generally less than 10%, indicating that 90% of their customer base is made up of customers outside the “ideal” spectrum.
BTW, I’m very interested to see your answers (especially #3) so email them to me when you’re done.
Look… when you don’t know who your ideal customer is, you can’t talk to them using their language.
Whether on your marketing site, your ad campaigns, inside your app, through your email follow-up, or even your sales conversations, if you don’t know who you’re talking to you’re in trouble.
When you don’t know who your ideal customer is – or aren’t willing to focus on just them to, you know, avoid missing all those other opportunities – you can’t speak the language of that particular audience.
We can agree that HR Pros use different words than Chefs who use different words than Attorneys and so on, right? Maybe different tones, formalities, etc. Perhaps they even want different things, have different needs, desires, and so forth, right? Sure.
Well, when you try to speak to everyone, you can’t use the words of the HR Pro or the Chef or the Attorney…
… instead, you have to drop to the lowest common denominator among every potential customer, which means you aren’t saying anything of value to anyone!
Said another way:
People don't buy from you because they understand what you do… they buy from you because you understand what they do.— Lincoln Murphy (@lincolnmurphy) March 20, 2013
Oh… but the language issue that comes from not speaking to an ideal customer gets even worse for SaaS companies!
Because most SaaS companies don’t see themselves as “services” and instead hold on tightly to their technology pedigree, you often won’t stop at “lowest common denominator” language…
… nope, you drop even lower and stop talking about the customer at all, instead focusing 100% on your product, features, technology, APIs, and all the other stuff that doesn’t matter when you’re trying to connect with your potential customers (beyond early adopters).
And because you should extend your marketing/sales funnel into your app knowing who you’re attracting will help you create an in-app experience congruent with their needs/desires/expectations.
Zuora Puts Their Customers Front and Center
Look, I can tell when a SaaS company hasn’t identified (or chooses to ignore) their ideal customer before I ever talk to ’em…
… because their marketing is all about their product!
Which means I’m not surprised when I talk to those same SaaS providers and hear that their business is stagnating, their churn is high, etc.
So it’s refreshing to see a company like Zuora take the opposite tack and really put their customers front & center:
Now, I’m not saying you have to go that far, but what a great example of using your (best) customers to help you resonate with more customers LIKE them.
And something to note here is that Zuora isn’t a small, vertical-specific company; anyone that fits into the “subscription economy” is a potential customer of theirs.
But they know who their Ideal Customers would be and they’re actively marketing to them so they (the ideal customer) will KNOW that they’re Zuora’s ideal customer, too.
Other customers who may not fit into the “ideal” mold aren’t prevented from doing business with Zuora, but by drawing a line in the sand Zuora is saying “these are the types of companies we most want to do business with.”
And, frankly (these are my words… Zuora hasn’t been and isn’t a client), Zuora is – by identifying with certain customer types – also subtly pushing less-than-ideal customers away.
Zuora, without saying it directly, is indicating that early stage startups and smaller companies might be a better fit for less-complex billing solutions like Chargify or Stripe.
But I also happen to know that some companies are starting to outgrow those smaller billing solutions and, as one of the companies I’m working with recently said about Zuora, “we want to be a $250M/ARR company, so we want to use the systems a $250M/ARR SaaS provider would use.”
That’s what I call an aspirational customer.
So just because you draw a line in the sand and actively try to resonate with your ideal customers, doesn’t mean you won’t get customers from outside that ideal spectrum… it just means you’ll DEFINITELY get customers within that spectrum, predictably, which is probably different than what you’re experiencing now.
Get Crystal Clear and Take Action
So we know a picture is worth a thousand words, right? Well that product screen shot on your main marketing page is speaking to me loud and clear… you don’t know who your Ideal Customer is or you’re unwilling to draw that line in the sand.
And it should be speaking to you, too… but are you listening?
You can make some quick changes by simply taking your existing product-centric “sales copy” and replacing it with customer-centric, value-based, actual sales copy.
Remember… What’s In It For Them (WIIFT)?
What will your ideal customer get from your offering?
Make that your headline and bullet list, instead of you-centric messaging and lists of features.
Then you can evolve from there and spread that messaging throughout the rest of your sales funnel.
But it’s at least better than what you have today…
…of course, to do that means you have to know who your ideal customer is!
Who’s your ideal customer?
That’s one of the most powerful questions you probably don’t have a clear answer to.
It’s time to get clear.