Who is your Ideal Customer and why does it matter?

I was listening to Graham Norton interviewing Kevin Clifton the other day on his radio show.  Kevin mentioned that he applied 3 times to be on Strictly as a professional dancer before he was accepted.  The first time he was going through a “grungy” phase – wearing all black, long hair, etc. Now there is nothing wrong with that look at all but it is not “Strictly”.  It doesn’t fit their target audience.  It doesn’t appeal to them.

Before you write copy for your website or any other piece of marketing material it is important to understand who you are targeting and what appeals to them.  This is sometimes called an “ideal customer”, “super customer”, “avatar” or “target audience”.

This is something many people struggle with, perhaps don’t see the point of. When I ask most businesses who their target market is or who their ideal customer is they’ll often tell me “anyone who wants to buy from me”.

The reality is the world of business is competitive.  Whatever you do, there will be other people who can also satisfy whatever it is that the customer needs.

How do you make a customer choose your service rather than someone else’s? Particularly the first time? You can compete on price.  But unless your costs are so much lower than others that is not going to lead to a successful business.  People buy from people, as they say.  What people actually buy is people who “get” them – there is a connection and they understand you.

Think about how you buy.

I want to buy fitness from someone who understands that I am juggling lots of things and don’t have the time (or the motivation) to work out a lot – that I need to exercise for my mental and physical health and to balance my love of chocolate – but I need it to be at my level.  I’m not going to go to a fitness class which is full of skinny, fit, athletic 20 something year olds.  Nor am I going to go to one which is touted as being “gentle exercise” for those returning from injury – but if that is you, then that is what you would choose.   I want one for people like me – or maybe as I want to be in a few months.  One which says it is for any age and any level of fitness?  Doesn’t work.

Most small businesses have difficulty defining a target audience. You want to appeal to everyone (“no job too big or too small”?) because you are scared that by appealing to a limited group you will turn business away.

You won’t.

That business would not have come to you anyway. What you are doing is making the business more appealing to the customers you can help the most and want to help. And it doesn’t mean you can’t take other business (anyone can listen to radio 2 – they don’t have to be over 30).

It’s a bit like dating (ok it’s a long time since I was on a date). Want to appeal to the goth, trendy person, nerd and sporty person? I find it hard enough dressing to go out with my husband. Just because you “dress” to appeal to one kind of person doesn’t mean you won’t attract others, but you are far more likely to attract the ones you want and the others probably wouldn’t have been interested in any event.

Defining your target market or ideal customer, no matter what stage of your business you’re at, is key to writing copy which gets you customers, because you connect with them.

Imagine you are in a large crowded room – there are thousands of people there. They all want to buy from you (wouldn’t that be amazing!). But you can only choose, say, 100. You need to choose those you can help the most, that you want to help, that will buy from you and that can afford to pay. People who will love what you provide. What criteria would you use to narrow them down?

This is not necessarily about demographics. It is about their needs, problems and values.  You need to get personal.  You need to put yourself in their shoes…

Your ideal customer may be you –  10 years ago, 1 year ago or now
.  It may be someone you’ve worked with or are currently working with.  It may be a family member, friend or someone you know on social media.  It may be someone you’ve totally made up

Your ideal customer will be different to other people’s ideal customer.  You get to choose who they are.  But they must be someone who will buy your product or service.

You need to really think about these people, where they hang out/shop, what their values are, what unites them, how they speak, what problems they have that you can help them with and what benefits they will see in your service. Some people like to give a typical person in this group a name, age, marital/family status, car they drive etc (this is a customer avatar). You can do this if you want or you can be more generic – their problems, how you can help them, where they hang out (online and offline), how they speak (which can be an age/education thing) and the values they have.

All your marketing copy (including your website) should be written to appeal to this group of people.

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