Identifying Your Ideal Clients (then what to do next)

by | Jul 21, 2020

One of the biggest incentives to becoming your own boss is that you only have to work with people you like (aka your “ideal clients”), right?

Well, those of you who have been in business for a while are probably laughing a little at that idea — but the truth of it is, we all want to work with more of the clients we like, and fewer of those who we… like less.

So, how do we make that happen?

….If you guessed marketing, you’re right!

While we may not be able to completely filter out those clients we don’t want to work with, there’s a lot we *can* do to help attract more of the kind of clients we like. But, we can’t even do that unless we’ve taken some time to think about who those clients are and what they have in common.

Identifying Your Ideal Clients

The first step to identifying your ideal clients is figuring out what traits you consider “ideal.”

My favorite way to do this is to think about your 3 favorite and 3 least favorite clients. Describe them (in writing) in as much detail as possible. Some things to include:

  • What kind of dogs do they have? Multiple? One?
  • Age of owners? Life stage? Are we talking “first dog ever” or “empty nester”?
  • Kids and dogs, no kids? Dogs are kids?
  • What kind of problem did their dog have, that led them to seek you out? Why did they go looking for a trainer?
  • What services did you sell them?
  • How effective were you in helping them solve that problem?
  • What feedback have you gotten from them? What did they like/dislike about working with you (if you know)?
  • How did they find you? If you don’t know, can you reach out and find out?
  • What kinds of jobs do they have? What level of education? What is their financial situation?
  • What hobbies do they have? What do they do for fun? What kinds of places, other than your business, do they go often?
  • Why are they your favorite/least favorite clients?

… and literally any other details you can think of! Jot it all down for all 6 clients (remember: 3 of your favorite clients, and 3 of your least favorite clients).

From Favorite Client to Marketing Persona

What we’re doing, in “marketing speak” is trying to figure out a marketing persona (sometimes called a buyer persona) for our ideal clients.

The fancy marketing definition (via Hubspot)?

“A semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers.”

To create that “representation” we’re going to look at our descriptions of our favorite clients for similarities; then we’ll look at our least favorite clients, again trying to find the traits they share.

Do all your favorite clients have dogs who are rescues? Are they all financially comfortable? Or are they just starting out, fresh out of school, and working on building a life for themselves that includes their dog? Do all your least favorite clients tend to miss class regularly, come to you complaining about leash walking, or have spaniels?

These are all things we want to know!

Pay special attention to how they found you, what services you sold them, and what problems they had when they met you.

Ideal Clients: What Do They Look Like?

Now that you’ve identified the similarities your favorite clients share, and those that your least favorite clients share, it’s time to write up a “marketing persona” for them. Don’t over think this step — really all we’re looking to do here is create a rough description of those traits they share, so we can use that information to help us make marketing and business decisions going forward.

For example, our “marketing persona” for Dog Trainer’s Umbrella might be something like:

Dog trainers who are interested in running their business more successfully—whether that means having a better work-life balance, making more money, or building a bigger business. They tend to set goals for themselves, then follow through. This often means they’re at least a little competitive, so they may compete in dog sports. They’re interested in continual learning, which often leads them to taking online courses or earning multiple dog training certifications. Age, time in business, and location all vary drastically. Services they offer tend to vary quite a bit as well. However, they typically find us because they’re looking to improve some aspect of their business (right now, that’s most often marketing and/or sales).

Inevitably this won’t fit everyone reading this to a “T” — that’s okay! The person (or people) we’re describing here don’t even have to really exist. They’re an “ideal.” Our goal is just to look for clients in successive approximations to this description (you know, sort of like shaping).

If  you create the description and then think, “Well s***. None of my current clients (or very few of them) have ANY of these traits…” That’s okay too! Going forward, we’ll use this information to make decisions that will allow you to gradually work more and more often with clients that get closer and closer to that ideal, and fewer and fewer of those who don’t.

Now What? How Your Ideal Clients Influence Your Business Decisions

Once you’ve got a clear picture of what your ideal client looks like… what do you DO with that information?

In short: Everything.

Once you know what your ideal client looks like, it can influence almost every decisions you make about your business. It can help you decide what services to offer (Would my ideal client want this?), how much to charge (What would my ideal client pay for this?), where you choose to focus your business (in person? online? what city?), and how  you market your services.

For example, let’s say you’re working on your website and need to add a few new photos. You know your ideal clients are empty nesters, who have gone out to get a dog they can baby now that their kids are all grown up and out of the house. Many of them seem to tend toward rescue dogs from the local shelter, which means (for your area) many of them are lab-looking mixes.

What kind of pictures should you choose?

If you said slightly older people, with lab looking dogs, doing fun things together (or, inversely, looking like they may need training help) then you’re starting to understand the idea!

Similarly, if all your favorite clients initially found you because they were looking for help with polite greetings, then you’d want to make sure the content on your website (and in any ads you run, and … really in all of  your marketing) addresses that issue in particular.

Further, you might want to consider offering a class specifically on polite greetings as a way to draw more clients that closely resemble your “ideal client” description to your business. (Then, once you’ve done that, you’ll want a plan for hooking them long term… but that’s whole ‘nother blog post.)

… And so on!

Hopefully can you see how powerful having an ideal client description can be! Need help creating your ideal client description? I created a simple worksheet to help you as you work through the exercise I share in this post. Click here to download it — no opt in or email address required. 

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