How To Define Your Ideal Client And Make Your Marketing More Effective

Discover 10 ways to gather data on and better understand the ideal clients you want your marketing to attract and how to create an ideal client profile.

Map with three darts all in the exact same perfect spot

When you first start a service-based business, you say yes to every project and every client because you need experience and you need to build a body of work. As you go, you learn the types of clients you like and don’t like working with and the types of projects you like and don’t like working on. This clarity eventually leads you to narrow your focus and establish some parameters for what projects and clients you accept.

Eventually, you realize that to make room for perfect-fit clients, you have to learn to recognize and say no to ill-fit clients. To do that you have to know what makes a perfect-fit client a perfect-fit client. That process starts with defining your ideal client.

An ideal client is a client who sees your value, is happy to pay your full fee, is excited to work with you, and is ready to get started. They are a client who follows and participates in your process, communicates well, and treats you with respect.

An ideal client profile, also called an ideal client persona or ideal client avatar, is a representation of a real perfect-fit client that is based on data, research, and feedback.

It is not a wish-list for a client that doesn’t exist.

An ideal client profile describes the person you are speaking to when you develop your brand messaging, craft offers, create marketing campaigns, and host sales conversations. It shapes the stories you tell to attract attention, create resonance, build relationships, and inspire action. It increases the effectiveness of your sales and marketing efforts, which in turn, reduces marketing costs, shortens the sales cycle, and increases conversions.

Learning About Your Ideal Clients

Before you can create an ideal client profile, however, you need to get clear on exactly who your ideal, perfect-fit client is and that means gathering data.

The three most common types of data to gather when creating an ideal client profile are demographics, psychographics, and behaviors:

1. Ideal Client Demographics

A demographic profile is a collection of objective, factual, statistical data, similar to that collected in the census, that represents your average ideal client.

Demographic data may include things like:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Ethnicity
  • Geographic location and time zone
  • Education level
  • Economic status or income level
  • Living situation
  • Marital status
  • Number of children
  • Vehicle type
  • Business type or industry
  • Business size/revenue
  • Business maturity
  • Occupation or title

Do you need to define all of this data for your ideal client profile? It depends. If the information is relevant to your offers and will help improve your marketing, then the answer is yes. If it doesn’t matter, the answer is no.

2. Ideal Client Psychographics

A psychographic profile focuses on attitudes, aspirations, interests, lifestyle, and other criteria. Unlike objective demographic facts, psychographics are more touchy-feely. It explains how clients think, what motivates them to take action, and why they buy.

A psychographic client profile covers things like:

  • Mindset and attitude
  • Beliefs and opinions
  • Aspirations, goals, dreams and wishes
  • Interests (parenting tips, pet ownership, health and wellness)
  • Activities (hobbies and how they spend their free time)
  • Personality and values
  • Lifestyle and priorities
  • How they spend their money
  • Worries and fears

Pay close attention only to the characteristics that align with your products, services, and programs and those that stand in the way of a prospective client saying yes.

3. Ideal Client Behavior

A Behavioral profile focuses on your ideal clients’ behaviors: how they make decisions, when they make decisions, when they buy, and what they buy. It is about understanding how their actions (or lack thereof) relate to your offers and sales.

Behavioral considerations include:

  • Internal marketing data, such as email open rates, blog post traffic, social media likes, and social media shares.
  • Analytics data highlighting what actions led to or triggered a sale.
  • Listening to feedback from clients and customers about their experience with your brand, products, and services — why loyal clients stay and why new clients chose you.
  • Reviewing spikes in sales numbers and what drove the increase.
  • Learning how and when clients and prospective clients engage with your brand.
  • Discovering how potential clients gather information before making a purchase.

Understanding Your Ideal Client

It’s easy to list all of the data that you could/should collect about your ideal clients. And yes, having access to and being able to assess the data will help you architect better offers, sales pages, and marketing campaigns.

But what do you do when you don’t have access to demographic, psychographic, and behavioral data? How do you identify your niche and define your ideal client profile without it?

The answer is simple:

Learn about your favorite clients or the types of clients you want to work with, and invest time and energy into getting to know them and understanding them on a deeper level.

If you’re not sure where to start, here are a few ideas:

Background Story

The best way to learn your ideal client’s buying journey and what motivates them to buy is to first uncover the common thread in their background stories.

A background story is a story of how your ideal client got to where they are today; where they began, what challenges they faced, what they achieved to this point, and where they are right now. This information can be uncovered through research, interviews, and surveys.

When you understand your ideal client’s story and what their buyer journey looks like, you can ensure all sales and marketing efforts have resonance with perfect-fit leads and new clients.

Desired Destination

Marketing experts will tell you to sell the benefits of your offer rather than its features. They’ll also explain how benefits highlight what’s possible and tap into emotions that drive buying decisions, while features offer the justification needed to feel good about a purchase.

For your message to capture your ideal client’s attention, stir up their emotions, and persuade them to take action, you must move beyond the basic benefits of your offer and speak to the final destination. In other words…

You must understand the greater impact benefits have on your clients’ lives and businesses.

Learn the benefit of each benefit, know why each benefit matters, and be able to communicate the dream destination the benefits lead to.

Future Story

Once familiar with your ideal client’s background story and dream destination, it’s time to ask what’s possible if they say yes. What will clients be able to do, be, or achieve in the future as a result of reaching their dream destination?

An ideal client’s future story brings to life their big vision, illustrates the path from where they are now to where they most want to be, and highlights how your offer can help accelerate the journey. When the future story you tell reveals the secret dreams and wishes your ideal clients haven’t yet said out loud:

  • It will feel as if you’re reading their minds
  • They will believe you truly understand them
  • You will be positioned as the best and only choice

Common Objections

Objections are an inevitable part of any sales process. At some point, a prospective client will have an objection and consider saying no.

Sales objections often show up as excuses:

  • Wanting to ask a spouse or consult with a partner
  • Needing more time to think about it
  • Feeling unsure about the value of the investment
  • Thinking that more research is needed
  • Not having enough money or enough time
  • Fearing judgement, failure, or commitment
  • Taking a step back to reassess what they need

Understanding the most common concerns prospective clients have during the sales process gives you the ability to address those concerns head-on, reduce risk, and overcome objections. By setting a prospective client’s mind at ease and providing extra reassurance, you can more easily close the sale with hesitant clients.

Potential Risks

What’s most often left out of the conversation about benefits is the one thing that is even more powerful than the benefits your offer delivers: Risks.

People will pay more to avoid pain and loss than they will to experience gain. So when discussing the benefits of saying yes, you also must address the risks of saying no.

There are two types of risk ideal clients face:

  • Positive Risk: Risks that create good outcomes, like having too many clients, needing to hire more people, making so much money they need an investment strategy, needing a larger warehouse, or being bored from too much free time.
  • Negative Risk: Risks that create bad outcomes, like missing out on an opportunity, losing new business, losing a client, falling behind the competition, feeling overwhelmed, or not being able to pay bills.

Understanding the positive and negatives risks that will appear if a prospective client says no, means that you address them in your marketing messages, sales copy, and calls-to-action.

A Day-In-The-Life

Another option is to document a “day-in-the-life” of a typical ideal client. Again, this information can be uncovered through research, interviews, and surveys. The trick to make this strategy work is to ask questions that are relevant to your business, offers, and results.

These questions may include:

  • Do they wake up early and make time for coffee and reading before their workday begins? Or do they hit snooze three times struggle to get out of bed?
  • Do they eat a healthy breakfast, skip breakfast, or grab something quick on the go?
  • Do they work in an office or at home? Do they have a commute?
  • Do they chauffeur their kids back and forth to school? Are they the official taxi for after-school activities?
  • How many meetings do they have in a day or week? Is one day typically busier than other days?
  • When do they run personal errands or take care of tasks at home?
  • Do they have to dress up or is their work attire casual? Are they uncomfortable or comfortable? Do their feet hurt?
  • Do they cook dinner, eat out, or order take-out? Do they meal prep or fly by the seat of their pants?
  • How do they relax and unwind?
  • When do they fit exercise into their schedule?
  • What time do they go to bed?

Knowing what a day in the life of your ideal client looks like is extremely valuable. For example, if your clients typically spend their mornings in meetings, you know not to publish new blog posts or social media posts in the mornings when they’re not on social media.

This clarity can also ensure the marketing stories you tell help ideal clients identify as ideal clients by positioning them as the lead character and hero.

Past And Existing Clients

If you have an established business, evaluate all of your past and existing clients.

First, create a client report card and assign each client a grade of A, B, C, or F. Consider everything from ease of collaboration, likability, quality of projects, and profit margins to lifetime value, referrals made, and speed of payment.

Second, review all clients who earned an A and identify all commonalities between them. Then, add your most profitable B clients and again identify common traits and descriptors.

This insight into your favorite and most profitable clients will ensure your ideal client profile is based on real clients and not an aspirational client that doesn’t actually exist.

Creating An Ideal Client Profile

The bad news is that there is no one right way to create your ideal client profile. Luckily, that’s also the good news.

Your ideal client profile is a representation of a real perfect-fit client that is based on data, research, and feedback. It’s a description of the average perfect client. That means it can be:

  • A bullet list of characteristics and traits,
  • A single paragraph describing a typical client,
  • Or a full page narrative or story

The format of your ideal client profile doesn’t matter. What matters is that the data, information, and understanding are directly relevant to your business, offers, and sales objections — and that you actually use it once it’s created.

Using An Ideal Client Profile

Now, you may be wondering, “What do I do with an ideal client profile? How do I use it?”

Don’t make the mistake many freelancers and small business owners make by checking it off your to-do list and filing it away in some obscure Dropbox or Google Drive folder never to be seen again. Instead, use it to improve your brand messaging, marketing, and offers.

  • When writing copy and creating content, tailor your message to speak directly to your ideal client as if they are sitting right next to you. Use the details in the ideal client profile to help your audience see themselves in your stories and identify as a perfect fit for your services, products, and programs.
  • With the right data, the ideal client profile can be segmented and refined to align perfectly with each stage of the buyer journey and customer lifecycle. This approach meets buyers where they’re at with exactly the right information they need to make a buying decision and feel great about saying yes.
  • When investing in advertising, details about your ideal client can be used to narrow your audience and refine your market, which helps ensure your ad spend produces the result you want.
  • When making decisions about new offers, partnerships, and opportunities, make sure anything you say yes to aligns with and supports your client attraction goals. This means things that don’t build your brand reputation and grow your brand equity may be a no.

Gaining a deep level of clarity about exactly who your perfect client is makes marketing much simpler and closing sales much easier.

Instead of attempting to create broad messaging that magically grabs the attention of someone, you can create highly targeted, specific messaging that makes ideal clients stop in their tracks and say, “I need to know more” or “That’s exactly what I’ve been looking for.”

If you’ve struggled to attract the right clients with your branding and marketing, it may be time to take a step back and clarify exactly who you want to do business with. That way you can target the right person, with the right message, at the right time, and land amazing clients who see your value and are happy to pay your full rate.

This post is an updated version of the original written for GoDaddy.