If there’s one part of strategy that new—and sometimes even established—business owners miss, it’s this: failing to develop a clear understanding of your 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 all and sundry. Your offer might not come at the right time. Your prices might not fit with what some can afford. Your branding might not resonate with certain people. Your story may not touch everyone in the same way.

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 – Demographic

Is your audience male or female? What age group do they fall into? While men and women of all ages 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 have different responses to emotional triggers so they are affected by stories and branding in very different ways. What appeals to a 30 year-old man will not always appeal to a 50 year-old woman.

Think about some of the brand advertising you see around you and you’ll quickly notice how they form their messages to appeal to one or the other, but very rarely both. There are certainly stereotypes in terms of emotional appeal (e.g. hot red sports car appeals to the ego part of us versus a grey safe estate car that appeals to the nurturing side).

#2 – Goals & needs

What does your client hope to achieve, what’s the goal or end result they are interested in? Who have you already successfully helped? Think about how your products and services can help your audience to realise those wants and needs? Whether she’s trying to build a profitable online business so she can stay home with her children, or he’s working to create a membership site for muscle building fans, if you don’t know where they’re trying to get to, you can’t help them get there.

Where on the journey of solving the problem is your ideal client? Is he/she a beginner or well along on the path? Does he/she need knowledge or to develop a specific new skill or is it support and guidance they want?

#3 – Prior knowledge

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 existing knowledge and level of sophistication in understanding their own needs.

Whether you’re teaching people to start a business, or helping consultant to create a new product, their level of commitment (and willingness to spend) is far different from a long-time business owner who is discovering Instagram, or an entrepreneur working up to a big launch. And you will not reach your market effectively if you don’t know exactly where they are and what they need at this point.

#4 – Interest

Of course, if you’re just starting out or shifting your focus, you might not yet know who your ideal client is. So pay attention to what your audience is showing interest in, because they will tell you if they’re an ideal client. They’ll tell you when they opt in, download, open emails and of course buy certain products and services you offer. 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.

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