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“Who is your ideal customer?” seems like an easy question, but it’s actually a big, hard, soul-searching question. Surprisingly, most people I ask haven’t even given it that much thought. They tilt their head and look at me like I’m crazy and say:
“Anybody who needs what I sell… duh!”
When is the last time you really thought about who you really want to be working with? Or how you want your future-business to be?
As entrepreneurs, we get caught up in the day-to-day hustle and forget why we started down the path of self-employment to begin with:
- To have more joy in our lives
- To be free to call our own shots
- To find more meaning and fulfillment in our work
- To be financially rewarded in the way we deserve
And yet, oftentimes what that happens is instead of running our business, our business starts to run us. When we don’t define who we want to serve clearly and set boundaries around that, we take whatever comes along and wind up miserable.
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Attracting your ideal customer requires being specific
If you’ve ever described your target customer as any of these things:
- Local businesses
- Online businesses
- Small business owners
- Anybody who needs what I sell
You’re setting yourself up for taking whatever comes along.
When you’re running a small service-based business, you depend on having a steady pipeline of clients so you can have a consistent income. It’s natural that you don’t want to exclude anybody.
But I just want to make sure you know that everybody else–all your competitors–wants to attract these target audiences too. What’s more, they’re all speaking to them in pretty much the same way… and maybe you’re speaking to them in the same way too.
By speaking to “just anyone” with the same-ol’ messages they’ve heard a thousand times before, you’re actually speaking to no one–lost in the noise–and that’s no good.
Before we get to fixing all of that, let’s step back and look at this from 10,000 feet:
To know who your dream customer is, you gotta dream a little
Let me ask you this: In an ideal, dream-world scenario, how do you want your business to really be? What work do you really want to be doing, and what don’t you want to be doing? Who are you serving? Who would you rather not serve?
Let go of all the pragmatic thoughts you’ve been clinging to for a sec and create a client vision that is unique to you.
And I don’t just mean audience demographics, I mean what are they like?
- How do they feel when they work with you?
- How does that make you feel?
- Who benefits, appreciates, and values what you offer the most?
Maybe you don’t start with a demographic at all, maybe it’s a type of person. A person with certain qualities and personality attributes and struggles. Get so specific about this imaginary customer that it makes your heart tingle. Go ahead, cut loose!
And then think about which “categories” they came from. Maybe they work in the non-profit sector, maybe they’re budding entrepreneurs, maybe they’re creative professionals…
I’m giving you permission to let go of all of the formulas you’ve seen for creating a customer persona and just form a mental picture of what an ideal client relationship really feels like.
Getting crystal clear about your target customer will help you create the type of business that fulfills and rewards you rather than just waiting around for anybody with money or somebody who needs what you sell to happen upon you.
And guess what? The people who light you up? You light them up too. Now that’s a target worth shooting for.
Tap into the power of your intuition and emotions, go on, seriously
Here’s why: People do business with other people. People they trust, people they like, and people they feel aligned with.
That lights-you-up feeling when you imagine a dream customer is what you’ll need to get your courage up to get more specific and narrow. You’ll be able to see the future and you won’t want to go back…
“Hey, you know what? I don’t want to work with [these types of people] at all, I really want to be working with [these people].”
Then go ahead and put your business hat back on and begin to think more strategically and in terms of targets and niche markets. Does your dream customer need what you sell? Are there enough of them to sustain your business?
It’s not just a pipe dream to only work with people you love, I’ve been doing it for over 15 years.
That is not to say that a few bad apples haven’t slipped through, or that I’ve never taken on a client who wasn’t a good fit for me when I needed the cash. But somehow, my brilliant younger self adopted a motto that resonated back then, and I’ve kept it close:
Reaching clients you love requires knowing exactly who they are
Once you’re clear about who your dream customer is, the puzzle pieces will start to naturally click into place:
• You’ll know where they’re likely to hang out online, so you’ll show up there
• You’ll know what they struggle with, so you’ll create service packages to help them
• You won’t need to write for “just anybody” anymore, you’ll be able to write copy and website content with them in mind, and they’ll notice
• You’ll be able to articulate why you’re different from your competition because you specialize in serving a specific type of customer
• You’ll get visible with the right people because your message won’t blend in with everybody else’s — they’ll say, “Hey, that’s for me!”
When you stop trying to speak to everyone and anyone and start speaking directly to only your people — they’ll notice. You won’t be just another choice for them to sift through, you’ll be the one tailored specifically for them.
Taughnee Stone is an award-winning designer, brand strategist, and location-independent business owner for over 15 years. Originally from Anchorage, Alaska, she now lives in Croatia with her husband, energetic Samoyed, and three bossy cats.