3 Tips to (Finally) Find Your Ideal Client
When you start building your brand, what’s one of the first things you need to figure out?
That’s right: who you’re serving!
Your ideal client/target audience drives so many decisions when it comes to branding: from the colors you choose to the style of photography to the tone of copywriting used in website copy, your social media captions, email newsletters, and beyond.
I’ve had so many discussions with business friends and clients who’ve struggled to precisely pinpoint who their people are, so I wanted to write a post that will give you some clarity in case it’s been a trouble spot for you too!
In this post, I’ll be diving into 3 do’s and don’ts that will help uncover your ideal client in a way that is heart-centered and will ensure you’re working with people who appreciate you, inspire you, and trust you.
There are all sorts of exercises online that help you find your ideal client, perhaps the most popular one being creating a client avatar.
I think creating client avatars just simply isn’t the best way to do it.
I only say that because it didn’t work for me and it hasn’t been what’s worked for my clients. It might get you started in the right mindset, but it doesn’t put the focus in the right spot.
You see, I think finding your ideal client is about SO much more than dreaming up a fake person, giving them a name and deciding their wardrobe, their favorite stores, and what’s in their purse.
It’s about pinpointing the common threads that connect the type of work you love to create and the (sometimes not so obvious) qualities of the people you love to serve. Sounds simple, right? It can take a little digging but here are some tips:
Don’t get distracted by focusing too much on the surface level things or the pure data.
Do look for the deeper connections between the people you’ve loved serving.
Like I mentioned earlier, the problem with the avatar exercise is that it focuses too much on the surface level things, rather than diving deeper into the core motivations, desires, and feelings of your ideal client.
For example, here are some things to consider to help you get to the heart of your ideal client (depending on if you’re a B2B or B2C, you may need to tweak the questions):
What do they value personally?
What do they value in relationships?
What motivates them?
How are they feeling in their business/life/home/family/exercise routine/fill in the blank, and how can you help them with frustrations they encounter?
What does their day-to-day look like?
You can answer these questions based off observations of favorites clients and projects from your roster. Or, if you’re just starting out and don’t have past clients to use as a base, you can use these questions to help create a list of core characteristics, traits and values and then continue to refine and round out your ideal client profile as your calendar books up.
The other way people can get stuck on the surface level is by focusing too much on the pure data.
The above questions will help you get the ball rolling to connect the dots in ways that aren’t as obvious as age, industry, or median income. Is that sort of data helpful? Absolutely. But I’m a firm believer that a truly ideal client is defined by these deeper things.
By answering these questions, you’ll then be able to craft a brand message and write copy that speaks to the heart, motivations, and needs of your tribe.
Don’t let your niche put you in box.
Do free yourself to explore and niche down in creative ways based off of who you love serving and who lines up with your core values.
Your niche and your ideal client go hand-in-hand, but they aren’t the same thing.
When B2B service-providers typically outline ideal clients, one of the easiest ways is to niche down and focus on serving clients in one particular type of industry. And that can be such a great way to do it when done correctly!
Oftentimes, niching down based on the industry of your clients is done because it fits a business’s particular expertise/experience, core values, design aesthetic, etc.
Examples can include:
Being a designer for wellness professionals because of passions and interests you share with your clients.
Being a coach for photographers because this is where your past expertise and knowledge lies.
Being a wedding planner for elopements because it aligns with your core values and aesthetic.
All of those examples feed into specific skill sets and showcase talents in the best light.
If you’re defining your ideal client based off industry (which isn’t a must!), just make sure that there’s a deeper reason WHY you want to serve that particular industry or group of people.
Assess the common values of people in that grouping and if they share a particular set of desires/frustrations/motivations. Find the connecting threads that are hiding under the surface of your niche and you’ll book even more dreamy clients.
But, there’s one thing I want to note:
You don’t have to have a precise checklist that each potential client needs to fit perfectly or it’s a no-go. That can be stifling to your creativity and bar you from discovering a new dimension to your ideal client.
Having a niche based off of industry is great, but don’t let it permanently put you in a box. Let’s say you’re the designer who’s niche is wellness professionals. You get approached by a photographer, but you click on every other level—your personalities mesh and you both share a passion for wellness in your personal lives. Go with your gut and take them on, because even if it’s outside the niche you’ve defined, that person still fits your ideal client profile.
This leads me to my next point…
Don’t think you have to get it perfect from the beginning
Do realize that your ideal client may shift and refine as your business shifts and refines.
As with anything in your business, your ideal client may shift as you discover who you love serving more and more. And you know what? That’s totally okay.
Of course it’s important to nail down your ideal client as firmly (and as soon) as possible, but in reality, as you work with more people, you’ll be able to add onto the list of traits you see connecting the people you’ve loved serving. And that refinement will create an even clearer diving line between the clients you want to attract and the ones you want to repel.
You may even experience a shift in your personal life that reveals a new niche of people you’re passionate about serving. But even as your business pivots and shifts, you may find the core characteristics, traits, and values that you’ve uncovered still remain true.
Discovering your ideal client takes time and patience and observance, so just remember to be open and to enjoy the journey!
I hope you found this post helpful as you work to uncover your heart-centered ideal client! If you need further help, I highly recommend reading through “Building a Story Brand” by Donald Miller. It’s the book I worked through when I was rebranding, and it helped me get clear on who I really loved serving and the problems I was solving.
Or, if you’d prefer some one-on-one help, a Brand Discovery coaching session with yours truly could be a good fit! Basically, we chat about what pain points you’re experiencing in your business and then figure out ways to create alignment within your brand to resolve it. Uncovering your ideal client is a great topic for one of these sessions! You can find out more here, or feel free to shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or through my contact form.