Ideal Clients vs. Not-So-Ideal Clients
- Value what you do
- Respect your time and your process
- Have problems and know that YOU are the solution
- Refer you to friends
- Are happy to pay you a fair rate
- Don’t understand what you do or why you do it
- Demand too much of your time and expect you to change your business practices to fit their needs (“The customer is always right” mentality)
- Have problems and don’t really care who solves them or if they really get solved
- Promise to refer you but probably won’t
- Want a discount, a special deal, or more service for less price
Small businesses and sole entrepenuers generally hate marketing. It’s hard, it’s confusing, and it often feels like screaming into the void. I’ve been there…and I never want to go back.
Those of you running your business without a marketing strategy (or with one that isn’t working) probably find yourselves working for Not-So-Ideal Clients more than you’d like. You’re underappreciated, underpaid, overworked, and over it. You’re grateful for the work you get, but you want to be working with people who GET you, not just use you.
So how do you find your ideal client? How do you know who they are, get their attention, and get away from those Not-So-Ideal clients?
Create an Ideal Client Avatar
Let’s start by using your imagination. You’re never too old for an imaginary friend!
Get your creativity hat on and start thinking about the perfect client. Write a profile of this person and create an avatar to represent the kind of client you’d like to work with above all else.
What’s their name? How old are they? Where do they work and what is their education level? Where do they hang out online? What’s their idea of a fun Saturday night? What scares the beejeezus out of them?
Describe their sense of humor and what kind of things they might find offensive. Think about what places they like to shop, what movies and music they enjoy, and what they value in life.
The profile options are endless – the point is to create an avatar that you can keep in mind when writing your website copy, creating social media posts and ads, and speaking on camera. When you’re thinking about this person, you’ll craft your message and your marketing towards them – and they’ll hear you loud and clear.
(pssst: I have a very handy questionnaire for those who book my Branding Makeover photography session that includes loads of questions for identifying your ideal client.)
Develop Your Brand Voice
You know how when you’ve worked in Customer Service for a while, you start to speak in a “customer service” voice?
Don’t do that in your business.
Client’s know when you’re being fake or putting on a weird persona just to please them. And your ideal client will NOT like that. They’ll think “You’re being weird” and move on to someone who doesn’t talk like a robot.
Whenever you are speaking or writing about your business, it should come across as fluid and natural as a conversation with a friend. After you write a post for social media, read it out loud. Does it sound weird?
For example: if I ended every interaction with a stranger with the words “DM me for more info!” or “Book now and get 10% off!” they would think I am a weird jerk. If I started every conversation with “NOW OFFERING FREE ESTIMATES” people would run away from me and call the police.
But if I start by telling them a story, asking them a question, or offering them a glimpse into my process…they’ll be interested in me and my business. And they’d see that I’m more interested in getting to know them and helping them solve a problem than just shouting at them to hire me.
You’ll find your ideal client once you start speaking their language.
Scare Away Not-So-Ideal Clients
I want to tell you guys a story (see what I did there?). It may or may not be a true story, but I heard it and I choose to believe it.
There’s a local bar/pizza place in my town. When they opened a few years ago, they wanted to become the place for young people to hang out. But when you open a restaurant in a tourist town in Florida, you’re eventually going to get what I called “The Sunday Brunch Crowd”. Now, there is nothing wrong with Brunchers…unless your ideal client is hip folks with tattoos, weird taste, and a love for loud music.
Soon they found themselves flooded with people who complained about the loud music and weird art on the walls and the dim lights. They were getting customers who liked something about their restaurant (the food) but wanted the restaurant to cater to their other tastes (being quiet, brightly lit, and basically like every other restaurant in town.) So what did they do?
They glued images from old Playboy magazines to the bar. And they tuned up the music.
This is a pretty extreme example…but it worked. These Not-So-Ideal clients weren’t willing to endure the new decor just for some pizza, and the ideal clients appreciated the sense of humor.
Moral of the story: your marketing and branding should attract your ideal client and repel the types of people you’d rather not serve. As soon as someone starts reading your website copy or your social media posts, they should be able to tell if you’re speaking to them or to someone else.
Be Where Your Ideal Client Is
I’m not telling you to uproot your life, pack up the kids, rent a UHaul, and move in next door to your ideal clients. That would be wild. But you need to be visible wherever your ideal client is, whether that is online or in the Real World.
If you’re selling custom sneakers and your ideal client is 18-24 years old, honey…you need to be on TikTok and you better be wearing your own creations everywhere you go.
If you’re licensed contractor and you’re ideal client is a homeowner over 40…get your butt onto NextDoor and chat up every Gen X and Baby Boomer you see in line at Whole Foods.
And if you’re teaching piano lessons to all age groups…I sincerely hope you are using YouTube to post free beginner lessons and making friends with every band and choir director in town.
Find your ideal client and get in front of them as much as possible.