Defining your target market for your service-based business is both:
a) incredibly important for establishing a strong brand, and
b) quite a bit more difficult than most business owners expect.
I know you’ve heard the advice to pick a niche and you know you’ve got to have an target audience for your marketing and branding. But have you been able to define yours? And when you try to describe them, do you just end up with a list of very wide demographics that covers half the population?
Something like: “18—40 year old male or female who lives in Australia and likes using social media…”
I know I’ve been there!
As people try to grow their businesses, marketing to a very broad and diverse group of people is a common issue. Casting a net that’s too wide can actually hurt your ability to grow your business and attract high-quality clients. So, here’s why you should define your ideal client and how it helps your business to gain traction.
Related post: Branding tips to get more clients to your small business
The freedom of choice
Prospective clients are faced with a lot of choice these days. From the prospect’s perspective, this is awesome! They can be picky about who they choose to work with and can select service-providers who look to be the best possible fit. They can type almost any question into Google and come up with answers that lead them to the people who can help them.
All prospects have a problem they’re looking to solve. And no matter how common their problem is, they’re going to see their situation as being very unique and specific. With that kind of mindset, they’re going to seek out the most specific, specialist help they can find. Given a choice, they’re not going to go with the generalist.
Clients are looking for specific solutions
Let’s imagine that you’re a restaurant owner who needs a website. Would you choose a graphic designer who has “websites” as one of many, many capabilities listed on their services page, or a web designer who specialises in high-converting websites for restaurants?
It’s a no-brainer, right?
If you’re a business owner who offers very vague and general services for all sorts of people, you’re going to keep missing prospects who are looking for something specific. And guess what — that’s describes all prospects. It’s not that you couldn’t help them. In fact, maybe you would have been able to do a great job helping them! But far fewer people are going to reach out to book your services when it’s not clear who exactly you exist to help.
The struggle of defining an ideal client
I think the biggest fear that business business owners have, when it comes to narrowing their audience, is losing potential clients. When it comes to the idea of focusing down on just one niche, all you can think of is all the other people out there that you’ll be excluding.
But remember my website example above — being a generalist can actually make it easy for people to overlook your services. And you can’t “lose” work you were never going to get in the first place.
“Niching down” feels limiting!
Maybe you feel like focusing on being a solver of a specific kind of problem or only working with certain types of clients to be limiting. No doubt, you’re a multi-talented go-getter (such are the types of people who start their own businesses). If limiting yourself is a concern, let me try to ease your worries a little.
Just because you brand and market yourself as the go-to person for a particular type of client doesn’t necessarily mean you’re limiting the kind of work you do. It simply helps you attract the right kind of clients to begin with. What you go on to do with that client in the long-term might cover a whole range of service! What’s important is that you were able to gain their business and establish a relationship with them.
The advantages of a defining an ideal client
The main advantage, as I’ve covered already, is that it helps you attract more work. When you have a clear, well-defined ideal client in mind, it becomes far easier to focus your brand and market yourself to a specific audience.
That makes it easier for those best-fit, high-quality clients to find you and reach out to you, so you’re not always hustling for clients. When you’re putting out a very targeted message, it’s far more likely to be heard by — and resonate with — the right person (compared to sending very vague and general messaging that is ignored by everyone).
However, helping you gain clients not the only advantage though. When you’re focused on solving a very specific problem for a targeted audience, it also means you can charge higher prices. If you’re helping a particular kind of client with a particular kind of problem, you’ll be seen as a specialist in your industry.
And guess what? Clients are willing to pay premium prices to work with a specialist because they know the specialist has high-level knowledge and experience. Plus, you can also build a reputation and become know for “a thing”.
Read more here: 4 major benefits of choosing a niche for your services
How to define your ideal client and how it helps your business
In the world of branding and marketing, having an ideal client allows you to craft a very targeted approach that helps you gain traction faster. The way I like to encourage business owners to think of their ideal client is to really drill down on the idea that they are a single person. The perfect client that they’d love working with over and over.
What kind of person is your ideal client? What sort of work do they want your help with? How are they struggling? If you can solve their problem, what does their ideal outcome look like? These are the kinds of questions you need to answer as you drill down on who this person is.
Now, of course not every client you ever work with is going to fit the image of your “ideal client”. The point of this exercise is to help strengthen and focus your brand’s messaging so you can speak in a way that resonates with people. Imagining you’re talking to a single person makes it easier to identify pain points and communicate your value. It makes your copywriting more fleshed-out and relatable.
Related post: The importance of branding in marketing
Examples of ideal client questions you can ask yourself
Some traits — for example, demographics like age, gender and location — are easy places to start. But stopping there is pretty superficial, and they don’t always help you create messaging that speaks to the deeper desires and needs of your prospective clients. What you really want to do is uncover the reasons why a person would reach out to you for your services.
Try some of these questions:
- What is your ideal client struggling with?
- How does their problem make them feel?
- What is their goal (in relation to their problem)?
- What’s stopped them from finding a solution up to now?
- If they can overcome their problem, what does the ideal outcome look like?
- What are their expectations with hiring a service like yours?
- How can you exceed their expectations?
Knowing your ideal client is a critical part of building an effective brand and developing a message that helps you gain more work. If you’re just starting out and have no idea who your idea client is yet — don’t worry. It’s something that can take time to gain clarity on.
Sometimes it takes working with a few “bad” clients before you realise what kind of client you do want to work with. Branding is something that evolves, and you’ll always be tweaking things to match your business growth and definition.
For more guidance as you define your ideal client and other key components of your brand, check out my free Core Brand Pillars Workbook for a step-by-step guide to branding.
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