Defining Your Ideal Client

Posted by Chuck Kocher
On November 30, 2015

Defining-your-ideal-clientMany of the companies I work with spend a lot of time crafting their core values. That’s important, because it shapes the very character of your company.

Many spend equal amounts of effort defining and fine-tuning their unique value propositions. You’ve probably gone through the “elevator pitch” exercise—in which you have the length of an elevator ride from the ground floor to the top floor to explain your unique value proposition (UVP).

Personally, I like the “burning match” exercise better. You need to be able to express your unique value proposition in the time it takes a lighted match to burn down to your fingertips. In truth, that’s closer to the real amount of time you have to convey your value to a potential client.

As important as those things are, there’s something else that’s absolutely critical to your business’s success: Having a clear understanding of your customer. If you miss that, it doesn’t matter how great your core values are or how well honed your UVP is. If you don’t know who your customer is you’re creating your products and services for someone that doesn’t exist.

It’s not that companies don’t try to identify their customers—it’s just that they often approach the process from the wrong perspective. They focus on demographic information such as: age, sex, income, spending patterns, past purchases, zip codes, industry affiliations, etc.

Those things aren’t necessarily wrong (and can actually be of some value), but they don’t give you enough information. And to be honest, your potential client won’t be all that impressed if you identify him as a 50-year-old male earning $75,000 who has bought 2 luxury cars over the last 6 years and is in a director-level position with a software company.

Here’s what you really want to know. What issues does your client face? What are the major obstacles that keep him or her from being successful? What frustrates her? What keeps him up at night? What can you offer that will make his or her life better?

That kind of information should be driving your products and services—and it should be shaping the kind of messaging you present to prospects. It’s not about you and your products—it’s about how you can meet their needs.

So where do you get this information? You ask existing customers. You read voraciously and look for clues about what people mention as obstacles and frustrations. You listen more than you talk.

Here’s a little exercise that can help. Get your team together and come up with a description—in 25 words or less—of your ideal client. Stay away from demographic information as much as possible and focus on what you think your ideal clients wants, needs, and struggles with.

Then meet with some of your existing clients and prospects and ask them to describe their challenges, frustrations, wishes, plans, and aspirations. Ask them what keeps them from success and what would help them overcome those obstacles. Then meet again as a team and compare what you’ve learned with the description you originally created. And keep doing that on a regular basis.

Here’s the crux of the matter: If you don’t really know your ideal client (and what makes him or her tick) you don’t know enough to succeed.