For most small businesses, finding qualified customers remains one of their biggest obstacles. Given that good customers are so difficult to find, we sometimes wonder if the ideal customer is a myth.
In this post, you will discover:
- The truth about ideal customers and where to find them
- How to avoid wasting time and money on the wrong prospects
- What most small businesses get wrong when targeting an audience
- How to create an ideal customer profile, whether you are a B2C or B2B business
Let’s get started.
Defining the Ideal Customer
Before exploring how to create an ideal customer profile, let’s address the elephant in the room.
Do ideal customers even exist?
The answer depends on how we define them. Many times, when we think of “ideal” customers, we imagine the perfect ones. While finding perfect customers is a nice thought, they’re rare, and there aren’t nearly enough of them to support a business.
How you define your ideal customers makes all the difference in how you market to your audience. Having a clear idea of who they are will also clue you in on where they might be.
Your ideal customer profile should identify someone who:
- needs and wants your product or service,
- will benefit most from your product or service, and
- has financial resources to pay for it.
This model for an ideal customer profile is much more practical and makes qualifying prospects easier.
How an Ideal Customer Profile Saves Time and Money
Most small businesses market to anyone and everyone. But casting a broad net means you’re spending marketing dollars on the wrong prospects. Moreover, this approach presents a couple of problems.
First, you’re wasting money on people who aren’t a good fit. Second, most of them won’t buy anything, and the leads you get will be tougher to close.
Another problem comes with the simplistic messaging meant to resonate with everyone but essentially connects with no one.
For example, if I create an ad for “business owners”, this could include anyone who owns—or thinks they own—a business. So I may get some leads, but I’ll end up wasting a lot of time with people who aren’t qualified to buy my product.
Many businesses run ads, and ads cost money. If the message doesn’t resonate with the audience, the ad will fall flat. Customer acquisition costs also increase.
Marketing to unqualified prospects is expensive and mentally taxing. However, an ideal customer profile will help you generate better leads and prospects from the start while keeping marketing costs down.
An ideal customer profile also makes all your marketing more effective by shortening the sales cycle.
Most prospects will not be upfront with you about everything in the first meeting—or even the second. In their defense, they’re assessing you and evaluating other options. They want to have more confidence in you before revealing more.
Market research shows it takes eight touchpoints to make a sale. Touchpoints are interactions with your business, such as a website visit, reading a blog post, or even an in-person meeting. The goal of each touchpoint is to move a prospect closer to a purchase.
The buying process consists of stages, known as the customer journey.
The more qualified a prospect is, the fewer touchpoints are required to move them through the customer journey. You may not make the sale every time, but your sales process will be more efficient.
Creating Your Ideal Customer Profile
Developing your ideal customer profile starts with your business objectives. The reason is simple. First, there must be enough demand for your product or service to support your growth goals.
Many small businesses get this first step wrong or skip it altogether. Instead, they jump to customer-centric data like demographics. But it’s essential to get clear on some other information first.
Take a moment to check your growth and revenue goals. Then, answer these questions:
How Many Sales Do You Need to Make?
Every business owner should know the answer to this question. It’s a simple calculation that determines what it will take to hit revenue goals.
Who Needs Your Offer the Most?
This question helps you identify the people who would benefit most from your product or service. The demand for it will be higher with people in this group.
Does the Person You Identified Above Want Your Help?
Many of the people who could benefit most from your help don’t know they need it. People who are unaware of how you can help them are tough to sell.
Instead, focus on the audience that knows your product or service is a solution to their problem. These folks are already looking for an answer and will be much more receptive to your offer.
Keep these discoveries in mind as we move through the next steps.
Ideal Customer Profiles for B2C vs. B2B Businesses
Many of you target businesses instead of individual consumers. You can apply what you learn in this post to both markets.
There are a few exceptions for B2B businesses. When targeting companies, your ideal customer profile will be of the business itself. Here are some characteristics of those companies you will need to define:
- Industry (Vertical)
- Company size (number of employees)
- Department descriptions (i.e., IT, Research & Development, etc.)
- Annual revenue
- Customer types
- Preferred media (i.e., website, advertising, social media)
Use this data to supplement the information you will gather in the sections that follow.
Ideal Customer Demographics
Demographics are the most common component of an ideal customer profile. Here are some questions to help you develop demographic data:
- Marital status
- Number of children
- A property owner or renter
Don’t worry about getting too specific yet. We’ll narrow these down later.
Ideal Customer Psychographics
Once you have demographic data, it’s time to explore your ideal customer’s mind. However, psychographics are intangible and not always evident at first glance.
Psychographics relate to your customers’ interests, values, and lifestyles.
Here are some examples:
Think of the problem they have that you can help them solve. How does this problem make your prospective customers feel? What effect does it have on their life?
These answers will provide valuable insight into potential buying triggers. In addition, knowing their pain points makes it easier to communicate with empathy. If people believe someone understands their problems, they’re likely to think that person can help them.
We don’t want to manipulate people or play on their emotions to make a sale. But communicating empathy makes you relatable and positions you as a guide who can lead them to a better place. Empathy also fosters affinity and makes the connection more personal.
Interests and Hobbies
Learning about your ideal customer’s interests and hobbies reveals something about the other products and services they buy. It also helps you uncover opportunities to market to them.
For example, if your ideal customer likes golf, you could place ads in a golf magazine or hold an event at a golf club.
Buying triggers, mentioned above, are emotions or circumstances that prompt a sale.
For instance, a facial scar might make someone feel self-conscious in public settings. Therefore, a cosmetic surgeon could leverage the emotional effects of facial blemishes in marketing and advertising. These emotions would likely “trigger” the audience’s—people with a facial scar—interest in corrective surgery.
There are many buying triggers, but the most powerful ones are emotional. The key is to uncover what they are and link your product or service as a solution.
Other Ideal Customer Profile Insights
As you complete your ideal customer profile, consider other qualities and traits, such as:
- How much research does the person do before they buy? What resources do they use to conduct research?
- What are their buying habits? Do they prefer high-end products and services or cheaper alternatives?
- If your product didn’t exist, what alternatives could people use? How can you position your product or service against these substitutes?
- Are there cultural or other social considerations that might help qualify prospects? These characteristics could also be physical, financial, or emotional.
Too often, businesses treat the members of their target audience the same. But your audience consists of human beings. Each person has their own set of problems, values, and goals.
Creating individual buyer personas helps us visualize a real person that we want to target. Personas bring our audience members to life. As a result, our marketing messages will be more effective and makes communicating with them much easier.
In this step, your ideal customer profile details must be more specific. Include as much as you can, such as age, gender, values, and interests. I’ll create one to give you an example.
Let’s assume the general target audience is women between the ages of 35-45 with a college education. In addition, we want customers who are professional women with busy lives who make $100,000 per year or more.
Now, let’s get more detailed by creating a buyer persona.
Meet Jill, a single, 37-year-old female from Oregon. She works as a program director for a local television station and just received a promotion. Her new position pays $125,000 and is the most money she has ever made.
She has never been married and doesn’t have children, though she hopes to change that soon. Jill made a conscious choice to focus on her career and takes great pride in her accomplishments. When she isn’t working, Jill spends a lot of time on the phone and video conferences with friends.
Jill is excited about her new role, but she isn’t sure how her co-workers feel. Before the promotion, she was one of “the gang”. Now, she is their boss.
The new position has fueled her motivation and inspiration. Now, she plans to reward herself.
Currently, she is trying to decide on new furniture for the living room or the bedroom. To research her options, Jill intends to check the local stores and compare them to what she can find online.
Let’s stop there.
Notice how in-depth this description of “Jill” is. Though she is an imaginary person, the detail provided here makes her more real. As a result, it becomes much easier to market our product or service using our ideal customer profile.
From this description, “Jill” falls into these demographic categories:
- Single female
- Between the ages of 35-45
- Has a college degree
- Income of $100,000 or more
- Corporate professional/management
- Not married
- Does not have children
Looking closer, we can also draw these conclusions about her using psychographics:
- Is a high achiever
- Takes pride in her accomplishments
- Intentional about her career choices
- Wants to find a life partner
- Wants children
- Is a social person
- She cares about her relationships with co-workers
- Rewards herself for significant achievements
- Values the way her home looks
- She will research to find the right solution
- Is receptive to making big purchases online
As you can see, creating a buyer persona for Jill tells us a great deal about the way she thinks. This information is much more valuable than the demographic profile.
Not every detail in Jill’s bio will apply to all females in your target audience. But we’re describing our ideal customer. It’s up to us to define who that person is.
Create a buyer persona for every ideal customer in your target market. Then, you’ll have an arsenal of information that you can use to create powerful marketing. Of course, the more information you have, the easier it will be to target a qualified audience.
Creating an ideal customer profile will help you focus on finding better prospects. These people will be more interested in your offers and easier to close. They will also appreciate your value and be more willing to pay your price.
Buyer personas provide a detailed description of individuals in your ideal target audience. These help you visualize the person you want to work with most and help you connect with your audience much faster.
If you need help developing your ideal customer profile, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Until next time,
More Branding Insights
Learn more about brand strategy.
Are you struggling to connect with your audience? Do you want to show them how you're different from competitors?