How to Identify Your IDEAL Client

If there’s one mistake that new—and sometimes even established—business owners make, it’s this: failing to develop a clear vision of her ideal client.
Too often we think our service or product is “for everyone.” And while it might be true that everyone could use your help, it’s simply not possible for you and your brand to appeal to everyone. Your prices might not be in line with what some can afford. Your branding might not resonate with others. Your story may not touch everyone with the same sense of urgency.
And when you try to reach everyone, rather than narrowing your focus to your truly ideal client, you dilute your message, making it even less likely that those perfect customers will find you.
But if you’re just starting out, it can seem an impossible task to know who your ideal client is. Start with these three points.
1. Gender. Is your audience male or female? While men and women might both read and enjoy your content—and even buy your products—you will most likely find that your market is skewed heavily one way or the other. Men and women are different, and they are affected by stories and branding in very different ways, so what appeals to a man will not always appeal to a woman. Look around at some of the brands you buy, and you’ll quickly see how they form their messages to appeal to one or the other, but very rarely both.
2. Goals. What does your client hope to achieve, and how do your products and services help to realize those goals? Whether she’s trying to build a profitable crafting blog so she can stay home with her children, or he’s working to create an online resource for muscle car fans, if you don’t know where they’re going, you can’t help them get there.
3. His or her point in the journey. Is she a beginner or well along on the path? How you speak, how you write, what marketing methods you use, and even what prices you charge will all be determined by your ideal client’s level of sophistication. Whether you’re teaching beginning knitters how to cast on, or helping couch potatoes train for their first 5k, their level of commitment (and willingness to spend) is far different from a long-time knitter who is discovering intarsia, or a runner working up to a triathlon. And you will not reach your market effectively if you don’t know exactly where they are and what they need at this point.
Of course, if you’re just starting out, you might not yet know who your ideal client is. That’s okay, too. But pay attention, because they will tell you. They’ll tell you through the products and services they buy. They’ll tell you by following you (or not) on social media. They’ll tell you by commenting on your blog and asking questions that are relevant to them.
Watch your interactions, study the businesses of those who contact you for help, and take a look at what your competition is doing, and soon enough you’ll have a clear understanding of who your ideal client really is.

You Are Your Brand

Here’s secret successful marketers know: customers don’t buy a product. They buy you.

Your personality.

Your experience.

The unique qualities only you possess.

There was a time when “branding” meant a corporate-looking logo and a slick catalog, but in today’s online marketplace, the real value is not in appearing to be a big company, but rather in just being you. And your personality shines through in a variety of ways.

Your Authentic Voice

How you speak and write and even how you act on camera or in an audio interview has the power to instantly identify you to your audience. You can see this in action if you scroll through your Facebook feed. It’s easy to know who has posted a particular image or status update, just by recognizing the voice with which they generally speak.

Here’s an even more important aspect of your “voice” though: it has the power to attract a specific audience. In recent years, a few high profile coaches and product sellers have become celebrities of a sort, largely because of their harsh, “don’t hold back” language. Ash Ambirge over at www.TheMiddleFingerProject.org makes no apologies for her use of offensive words, and her fans love her for it. And those that don’t? Well, as she says right on her home page, her site and services are “not for humorless bores.”

Snarkiness and foul language is not the only way to go, though. Carrie Wilkerson has built her brand almost entirely on her ability to be kind and generous. She always has a nice word, never appears defeated or overwhelmed, and is an inspiration to her fans and clients.

While very different in their approach, these two women have one thing in common: authenticity. It’s clear that if you were to meet either of them in person, they would speak and act exactly as they do online. And their brands are stronger for it.

Your Story

How did you get to where you are today? The backstory—which to you might seem boring and uneventful—is a powerful tool that can help solidify your brand and attract just the right audience.

Melissa Ingold tells of being a struggling single mother, and of creating an online business rather than simply choosing to work one dead-end job after another. Her success is an inspiration to her audience and is a huge part of her branding.

Kelly McCausey speaks often of how she got started online when she was looking for a way to earn just a few extra dollars every month to keep the lights on. Creating graphics at $5 each quickly turned into a full-time online career.

Your story doesn’t have to be dramatic, and you certainly don’t have to share more than you’re comfortable with, but it does have to be yours. Be your true self, and you’ll never have to worry about attracting the right audience. They will self-select, and your perfect client will find you.

The Art of Storytelling

Whether you want to touch a nerve, reach a new audience, or boost your sales, storytelling is the most powerful tool in your arsenal. As humans, we love a good story, and when it resonates with us, it can drive us to take action when nothing else can.

Think about it. Which would you rather read, an interesting story, or a sales letter? Which are you more likely to remember a week from now, a compelling story, or a features and benefits comparison? And which are you more likely to buy, a story you can see yourself in, or a product that does x, y, and z?

If you think back on your most recent purchases, from the business coach you hired to the car you bought last summer, chances are you’ll find a story that resonated with you, and that drove your decision to purchase.

Stories About You

You’ve heard it time and time again: People buy from those they know, like, and trust. And part of getting to know you is hearing your stories. Your potential clients want to know how you came to be in business, what experiences you’ve had that drove your decisions, what lessons you learned along the way.

Your stories don’t have to be directly related to business to be powerful, either. That anecdote about the time you nearly got arrested for not having a valid driver’s license is the perfect lead into a blog post about better record keeping. Or the story about how you accidentally seated two warring families together at your wedding reception? It’s just what you need to drive home a point about relationship building.

Stories About Your Clients

Otherwise known as social proof, stories about your clients are incredibly useful in your marketing and branding strategy. Testimonials, white papers, case studies and the like are all just stories, after all, and they showcase how you and your products have changed a life or a business for the better.

Stories About Your Products

Yes, even your products have stories to tell. Why did you decide to create that new coaching program? What will it help your clients achieve? Who is it not suited to? These stories and more can show your potential clients more about your products and services than any sales page ever will. When you openly share your thought processes as you were creating your program, buyers will instantly know if it’s a product that will work for them or not.

Clearly, stories have a lot of power when it comes to branding and marketing, but you have to use caution. Beware of the awkward insertion of a story just because you’ve heard it’s good for your marketing. If you find yourself midway through a blog post and you write something like, “but anyway, enough of that, let’s get on with business” and then making a total shift to a completely different subject, chances are the story isn’t working.

But if you can tie your story in naturally to what follows, that’s your golden ticket to better branding, more sales, and a more profitable business. We love stories. Don’t be afraid to tell yours.

How Much Transparency Is Too Much?

We’ve talked before about storytelling and authenticity, and how being your true self is your most powerful branding tactic. But just how open and honest should you be when it comes to sharing your story?

Pat Flynn and Jon Lee Dumas are notorious for their transparency, even going so far as to post monthly income statements. You might argue that when you’re making the kind of bank they do (6+ figures each month) it’s easy to share—perhaps even inspirational to your audience. But it might also be off-putting to some, since talking about money is often seen as vulgar. In this case, though, it works to attract the exact audience they are after. Others will find other mentors, and that is, after all, the point of marketing.

Transparency comes in other forms as well. Struggles with alcoholism, depression, cancer and other health concerns are commonly shared. Stories of marriage and relationship triumphs (and tragedies) are told. Even spats between competing businesses aren’t off limits for some marketers.

That doesn’t mean, though, that you have to be frank and honest about all areas of your life and business. With a little forethought and planning, you can keep certain aspects of your story private.

Watch Your Social Media Profiles                                                               

Here’s where a lot of business owners falter, especially when it comes to Facebook. You have your personal profile, to which you invite friends and family, and your business page, where you talk, well, business.

But there will inevitably be some overlap. Colleagues will slowly filter into your personal timeline, and you into theirs. Pretty soon, your business people are hearing all about your latest bout with the flu and that snarky thing your mother in law said yesterday. Too much? Maybe.

When it comes to your social media sharing, it’s important to pay close attention to not only what you say, but who you’re saying it to. Using privacy settings, contact lists, and even limiting who you “friend” can help maintain your privacy while still being transparent about your business offerings.

Remember, the Internet is Forever

While privacy settings can help, a better way to keep your personal business away from prying eyes is to simply not post it at all. Think of every blog post, Tweet, Facebook status update and Instagram pic as a billboard. If you wouldn’t post it on the side of the highway for all who pass to read it, don’t put it online either. The chance that it will “leak” (despite your best efforts) is great, and once it’s out there, you will not ever get it back.

So think twice about those nasty replies, intimate details, and other confidential information. You just never know who might be reading, and they will affect your brand image.

The bottom line? Know your audience and know yourself. If you’re not comfortable sharing certain aspects of your life and business, chances are they won’t be comfortable hearing about it, either. It’s okay to maintain some privacy, even in this transparent world of online marketing.

Four Publishing Options Worth Exploring

For many people, writing the book is the easy part. Whether you have a body of work ready to repurpose (such as a blog you’ve maintained for several years) or a ghostwriter at the ready, or you just really like to write, getting your book on paper is simple.

Publishing and selling it is another matter all together. You basically have four options when it comes to publishing your book, and each one has its pros and cons.

PDF Ebook. Probably the simplest method to publish a book, all that’s required with an ebook is to click “Save as…” in your Word document and choose “PDF.” Then you can sell the resulting file on your own website, list it on ClickBank or E-Junkie, or upload it to a number of other ebook marketplaces online.

Ebooks don’t quite have the authority that printed books carry, but if you’re on a budget and don’t have the skills to format your book for print, then this can be a viable option to get you off the ground. It’s also a great way to share your book with advance readers to get those all-important testimonials.

Kindle. The darling of the self-publishing world, Amazon’s Kindle marketplace makes it easy for you to publish your book. In fact, with just a few minutes of formatting, and another several minute spent on their step-by-step uploading system, you can have your book on their virtual shelves in less than an hour.

With its incredible popularity and the ability to offer “free days” during which anyone can download your book at no cost, Kindle is a great way to build a buzz quickly.

Print on Demand. The best choice for self-published authors is a relatively new technology that allows for a single book to be printed on demand. Until just a few years ago, if you chose to self-publish your book you’d likely have to shell out for hundreds if not thousands of copies up front, leaving you with a garage full of books to sell on your own.

Print on demand is different. Buyers order your book from sellers such as Amazon (whose Create Space arm is itself a print on demand enterprise), and the book is printed and shipped the next day. This makes it easy and cost-effective for everyone to become a published author.

Traditional Publisher. The most difficult and time-consuming option, getting your book published with a traditional print publisher will also get you the most audience and press. The drawbacks are many, though. To start, it’s extremely difficult to get a traditional publishing house to take on a new author. If you do manage to get the attention of a publisher, your royalties (the amount you earn from your book) will be very small—maybe as little as 8% of the net cost. Finally, the length of time it takes from manuscript submission to final publication can be years.

All that said, a book with a traditional publishing insignia on the spine does carry a bit more weight when it comes to press opportunities than does a self-published book.

Many new authors initially choose the ebook format and then move to Kindle and print on demand. Given enough buzz and sales, traditional publication becomes easier to attain as well. The important thing is to get your book written, and then publish where you’re most comfortable. The rest will come naturally.