If someone were to ask who your ideal client is, you might jokingly respond, “Anyone with a wallet!” But most business owners know there are very real dangers associated with trying to be all things to all people. No company excels at everything. When you don’t get clear on what you do best, and thus whom you’re best equipped to work for, you actually do yourself a big disservice. Your identity and your marketing messages get so diluted that they don’t resonate with anyone.
That’s why it’s essential for all business owners to have a clear mental picture of their ideal client.
The more you zero in on precisely the type of client you want, the greater the likelihood you will attract precisely that person. The world is overloaded with marketing messages, and one of the most difficult challenges we face is getting our message heard. The more your prospect sees a reflection of themselves in your website and other marketing messages, the more they will pay attention to what you have to offer.
In my book “The One Week Marketing Plan“, I explain the way to identify your ideal prospect and to develop your strategy to appeal to them is through a series of questions. Here are a few of the most important questions you should ask and answer now:
1. What fear or anxiety keeps my ideal client awake at night?
Start by considering this prompt: John (or Jane) is my ideal client. He/She is __ years old. His/Her three biggest frustrations are ___, ___, and ___. Sometimes he/she even wakes up in the middle of the night worrying about___.
The key to this exercise is specificity.Really try to drill down on what the biggest frustrations are for this individual. We’ve all had those terrible nights when we wake up at3:00 a.m. in terror about something that might occur. A common fear at this stage is to feel that if you decide on one group or another, you’re eliminating part of your potential market. What we want to do at this stage is to create a mental avatar, a true representation of your client. If, for example, you start with a guy, you can always go back and do this exercise for a woman. Since I operate my business in a number of niche markets, I do this exercise for each one of those.
2. What are their three big wishes?
If your ideal client had a magic wand, how would they use it? What ideal outcomes or benefits are they looking for? Let’s say you run a lawn care business. One of the benefits your ideal client would be looking for is a lush, green lawn.
When you talk about benefits, you appeal to your prospects’ emotions. As the old marketing saying goes, people make their buying decisions based on emotions and justify them with facts.
3. What keywords relate to their number one problem?
Let’s say you’re a financial advisor. Your ideal clients might be people who are worried they haven’t saved enough for retirement. So, if they’re looking to solve that problem, they might go to Google and search “retirement planning.” If you’re a chiropractor, your ideal client might search “back pain.”
When you know what keywords your ideal client uses, you’ll know what keywords to include in your marketing messages. In doing so, you hugely improve the chances of getting your pay-per-click ads in front of the right people and improve the SEO for your website and blog.
4. What do they need to believe you can do?
Let’s go back to the financial advisor example. If you’re a financial advisor and your ideal client is someone who’s worried about not having enough saved for retirement, what will that person want you to be able to do?
One thing is, they’ll want you to be able to create a savings plan for them that will grow their nest egg. They might also want you to be able to make smart investment choices and help them save as much as possible on their taxes. In their eyes, these are all factors that will contribute to their ability to have enough money when they retire. So these are needs you’ll want to address in your marketing messages.
5. What myth do they (wrongly) believe?
This is a good angle to consider, because when you know what myth your ideal clients have bought into, you can present yourself as a credible expert who can set them straight.
What does this look like in practice? Well, my book debunks the myth that many business owners believe, which is that marketing is too complicated, too expensive, and takes too long. Another example is a successful report in the insurance industry — its title: ‘The #1 Health Insurance Myth: The More You Pay, the Better Your Coverage.’ A company that used this report would get credit for enlightening the reader and would also get to position itself as the source for lower-cost but just-as-good policies.
6. Why would they choose not to invest in your products/services?
They might think your prices are too high. If you have a brick and mortar store, you may be outside the distance they’re willing to travel, even if you really are the best business for meeting their needs. They may be loyal to whatever business they’re currently using. When you’ve considered why they wouldn’t go with you, you can figure out how to mitigate those factors.
7. What is their biggest obstacle?
Sticking with the retirement example, your ideal client’s biggest obstacle might be that he won’t be able to retire when he wants to because he won’t have enough money saved. If you can show him that you can help him overcome that obstacle, it will be hard for him not to hire you.
In order to create marketing materials that will motivate your prospects to engage with you and to take action, you need to have a very clear vision of who they are, of their fears, hopes, and aspirations. This is true regardless of whether you are selling products to consumers or services to businesses. The best way to get a clear picture of whom your ideal clients are is to carefully answer these questions. It’s an exercise that will greatly impact and improve your marketing efforts.
Mark Satterfield is the founder and CEO of Gentle Rain Marketing, Inc. He specializes in working with consultants, advisers, and small businesses on how to get consistent streams of new business. Since 1992, he has helped clients in financial services, insurance, health care, consulting, real estate, advertising, training, recruiting, and more than 75 niche industries grow their businesses without cold calling or hard selling. He is the author of “The One Week Marketing Plan“.