When developing our brand message for your website it’s easy to lose sight of this important fact: Our business exists only because of the customer.
Too often business owners make the mistake of making their website about themselves rather than their ideal customer. While knowing ourselves, what we do and the value we bring our clients is one part of the equation of an alluring brand, knowing our customers is the other half of an equation that works.
“No relationship can be one-sided and thrive. A strong brand must feature self and customer!” Scott & Elise Grice, Hey Sweet Pea
Getting to know your ideal customer and discovering more and more about them ensures a thriving business. By narrowing your target market, discovering what motivates them and knowing their problems and frustrations, you can create an experience on your website that attracts and engages them with your business and services.
Why You Need to Define Your Ideal Client
Let’s be clear on one thing: your ideal customer is not everyone on the planet.
Many business owners, myself included, initially think that their customer is anyone willing to hire them for their services.
Imagine your business is a skincare company selling facial products. You may be tempted to think your customer is “anyone with skin.” Not so! My husband has skin but he will never buy skincare products other than shaving cream, I promise. And I may not either. Even though I purchase facial skincare items, I have sensitive skin so I typically buy organic skincare. But if your skincare products gave a little anti-aging boost, I might be interested. Twenty-somethings? Maybe if they were interested in health and wellness and conscientious about being proactive in their youth.
See why you need to narrow down your customer?
Your ideal customer is one or two specific types of people for whom you and your company are a perfect fit and who are a perfect for you. They need or want what you have to offer.
At first, you may not know exactly who your ideal client is. You may have to make a hypothesis, as the saying goes in the Lean Startup method. “I think my customer is a middle-age, middle income woman who is a hard-charging executive…” But you can’t just guess. You have to know for sure and test each hypothesis.
And yes, you have to choose. You can always change it later as your business grows and develops, but start somewhere.
How to Get To Know Your Ideal Client
Once you think you know who your customer is, it’s time to get to know them — their habits, likes, dislikes, desires, problems, frustrations and the exact language they use to describe these things in order to create a brand message that appeals to them specifically.
“When you take the time to learn about your [ideal customer], it will save you time, money and frustration.” Christy Wright
So how do you go about this?
Develop a Survey
You absolutely have to get out of the building, to borrow another term from the Lean Startup method, or at the very least, stop guessing and get out of your own head to find out the truth.
The easiest way to do this is to develop a survey or questionnaire. Face-to-face interviews are most effective because interacting with potential customers provides more useful information than an online survey.
A fun book to read on this subject is The All-In Startup by Diane Kander. “It is a lifeline for entrepreneurs who are thinking about launching a new idea or for those who have already started but can’t seem to generate the traction they were expecting.”
The survey works best when you can vet the people taking the survey because you run the risk of getting skewed information from people who really aren’t your ideal client. You can share the survey in targeted Facebook groups, on your website, or if you’ve already worked with clients, you can ask them out for coffee and run through your questions.
Next, observe what your ideal clients do, say and think, both online and off. Join Facebook groups, follow people in your industry on Twitter and Instagram, and regularly read blogs.
Then take note of the conversations going on, the questions they ask, the complaints they make, the solutions others are giving them, and the comments they leave.
For example, I am part of a Facebook group where the facilitator is a master of creating engaging questions in order to craft exactly what her followers want. I participate because she is fantastic, but I lurk there, too, because her target is also mine. I learn tons about my ideal client that I can use in my own business even though I do something entirely different than the facilitator.
Analyze, Document and Repeat
After surveying and observing your ideal clients, analyze what you’ve learned and draw conclusions. Does the intel you’ve gathered change who you thought your customer was?
Not long into this process myself, I quickly realized that the picture I had painted of my client was a picture of myself or my friends. I wanted to work with creative entrepreneurs, because I felt I knew them best, but I wasn’t getting any clients.
One day during an entrepreneurship class a fellow student asked me why I wanted to work with creative entrepreneurs. When I told her, she replied with this simple truth that astounded me: “They don’t need what you offer. They are creative and capable of doing what you do. You need to find customers who don’t have your abilities or creative skills.”
She was right. And so I had to kill my darlings, as Hemingway was fond of saying.
After analyzing and getting a clearer picture of your ideal customer, document this person in a running file, ideally with quotes of things you’ve observed them saying, in a Google doc, Evernote or Trello.
Finally, repeat. Customer discovery is never done. Repeat as needed when you need clarity, launch a marketing campaign or when you want to refine or create a new offering or program.
Make a commitment to LURK once a week or at some regular interval so you stay up to date on your customer.
You can also create an onboarding system to capture your clients thoughts, feelings and desires before the project starts and a feedback survey to document the transformation at its conclusion, which has the added bonus of helping to gather testimonials.
I’d Love to Hear From You
Have questions, ideas or comments? Leave them below in the comments section.