Why You Should Rethink Your ‘Ideal Client Avatar’
Countless Ideal Client Avatar exercises have crossed my path since I started my business.
Just about every course, workshop, and book I’ve read has prompted me to sit down and imagine I was meeting my ideal client, then write out dozens of details about what that person is like.
These exercises generally instructed me to come up with obvious facts like age, income, education, and occupation, as well as more obscure details like hobbies, favorite places to shop, and what kind of car they drove.
I understand what these exercises are getting at – they want you to picture your ideal client as an actual person, not some obscure marketing metric.
But I think these Ideal Client Avatar exercises have a few major problems – and it could hurting your business.
Knowing your “ideal client” or “target market” (marketing speak for simply knowing what type of person you best serve with your products or services) is very important.
I’m not suggesting that taking the time to find your focus in this area bad. I’ve actually found is vital to business success. But I think it’s time to change up the way we approach identifying these ideal clients.
So before you fill out another ideal client avatar worksheet or commit to a specific target audience, consider these points:
You need to work with “bad” clients before you know what makes a “good” client
I personally struggled with completing an ideal client profile and finding any value in it when I first launched my business.
What did help me recognize the type of people I worked best with (and created the best results for) was by collaborating with all types of clients. Some were big successes, and some were very challenging. But each time I worked with someone new, I became more confident in who I best served.
Instead of conjuring up a fictitious client, go work with real ones. Learn from partnerships that didn’t click, and take note of the ones that go successfully.
Once you have that experience under your belt, completing a profile of your ideal client will feel much more concrete and productive.
Throw out the irrelevant details
I understand that adding details like hobbies, favorite movie, and shopping habits to an ideal client profile helps you feel like you’re talking about a real person, and not a marketing statistic. It makes it fun. It feels like getting to pick out your best-friend-slash-client.
But does it make actual business sense?
If a prospect shows up on your doorstep needing your services and is a good match for your expertise – does it really matter that they shop at Kohls instead of Anthropology? Does it matter that they watch movies on the weekend instead of training for a 5k?
I’ve always found it limiting to add so many tiny details to an ideal client profile. Those things don’t really impact whether or not I can work successfully with someone.
Instead, I’d recommend focusing on the big things that will help you tailor your marketing and your message towards people who really need your services and who you can serve well.
Industry – do you have specific knowledge of an industry, and therefore work best with people from that niche (e.g you’re a copywriter with a background in animal care, and so you focus on writing copy for veterinarians.)
Goals/problems – what goal are you best at helping people achieve, or what problem are you best at helping people solve? (E.g you’re a health coach that focuses and establishing good eating and exercising habits for a sustainable lifestyle change, but you don’t help people lose 30 pounds fast).
Common factors you’ve identified over time – as you work with more and more clients, do you notice a specific factor that separates successful partnerships from the rough ones? Do all your favorite clients have the same thing in common? As you get real-world client experience, track what works and what doesn’t, and use that to refine and focus your ideal client profile.
Don’t be exclusive
I believe you should never turn down someone who wants to work with you and is willing to pay your rate simply because they don’t fit your “ideal client profile”.
I may be in the minority here, but turning a willing client away feels like bad business.
You never know who may turn out to be a fun, lucrative, and enjoyable client. And if you turn people away when they don’t fit a specific set of ideal client criteria, you’ll be missing the opportunity to challenge yourself, expand your skill set, and discover new ways of looking at your craft and business.
There is an increasing trend (especially in the internet-based business world) to create a business that fulfills your dreams, goals, preferences, and whims – often at the expense of being of service to the people that come in contact with our brand.
This isn’t to say that it’s smart to take on every project that comes your way. I’m suggesting you give clients who are interested in your specific offering and willing to pay your rate a fair shot – even if they fall outside of your ideal client profile.
Clients who want a variation of your services that isn’t in line with what you do best, or who want you to adjust your rates could be bad for business, and sticking to your prices and packages is completely fair.
But the next time an enthusiastic, outside-the-norm prospect approaches you, consider ignoring your ideal client profile and giving them a shot.
How have you developed your niche and discovered your ideal client? Have you tried something unique that’s had a positive impact on your business?
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Grand Rapids, MI