Who is Your Ideal Customer? A Guide to Identifying and Targeting Your Perfect Audience

Discovering Your Business Match: Techniques for Uncovering and Engaging Your Prime Prospects

November 11, 2023
Who is Your Ideal Customer? A Guide to Identifying and Targeting Your Perfect Audience

As small business owners, entrepreneurs, nonprofit leaders or coaches, your success depends on understanding your audience, what they need, and how to reach them. Before you start any marketing strategy, it's essential to identify your ideal customer. 

Who are they? 

What do they want? 

Where do they hang out?

By answering these questions, you can create an ideal client avatar, a detailed description of your perfect customer. Identifying your ideal customer can help you create effective marketing strategies, increase customer loyalty, and boost your business's profitability. 

Unfortunately, many entrepreneurs fail to identify their ideal customer, resulting in a lack of direction, wasted money, and reduced sales. In this post, we'll guide you through the process of identifying and targeting your ideal audience.

Download the SMB Marketing Checklist and go through it with your team to see if you have what you need.

Whose problem are you solving?

Many posts will say to start with marketing research or define your offerings. And while both of these activities are important and can bear fruit, it’s crucial to begin with the problem you or your business solves.

Who is it you’re trying to help, and what is the problem they are trying to solve?

If you can’t answer this confidently and immediately, you’re not ready to do the work of creating a product offering, conducting research or developing a marketing strategy.

At Better Story Marketing, we help impact-mindful entrepreneurs who want to make a difference but need help telling their story effectively and efficiently. This level of clarity drives what kind of clients we pursue, what products we offer and how we market them.

Once you can clearly articulate who you’re serving and what problem you solve, then you’re ready for the next step.

What’s the desired outcome?

This may feel like the same question as, “What problem do you solve?” But it’s a bit more nuanced. 

People hire products and services to get a job done. If I want a nicely cut yard, I hire my 14-year-old. Notice I didn’t say “mow the grass.” Because there is a likely scenario where he could say the grass was mowed, but upon inspection, nobody would describe it as a nicely cut yard. 

Let’s say a business coach needs to land more clients each month, and they hire Better Story Marketing. We’ll start by creating a customer journey map that might result in designing key content and maybe even a website redesign. But at the end of the day, what they are paying us for is more business owners becoming coaching clients. If the work we did doesn’t deliver that outcome, then we missed the mark. 

We’ve identified the desired outcome for our ideal customers as “a personalized marketing strategy that delivers consistent long-term returns without too much cost or upkeep.” 

Your job now is to identify the desired outcome of your ideal customer. Then, you’re ready for the next step.

What’s your superpower?

Alright, you know who you’re serving, the critical problem they’re facing and their desired outcome. So now you just need to make their dreams come true. 

But what exactly do you sell?

A common mistake entrepreneurs make is a broad, I can do everything approach. Sometimes, this is necessary to get started landing clients and even discovering what you are good at and enjoy doing.

When identifying your superpower, try answering two questions

  1. What are you really good at?
  2. What could you do for days and still enjoy?
Your superpower should be something you don't get tired of.

When I started offering marketing services as a solopreneur, I took the I can do whatever you need approach. I was a fraction CMO, developed strategy, built websites, wrote content, did graphic design, ran ads…

And I learned there are some things I’m really good at and love doing. And some things just aren’t my jam. After a year, it became clear that focusing would benefit both me and any client I served. This level of focus meant offering less. 

Having the collective of Better Story Marketing broadens what can be offered a little, but it’s still pretty focused. Our team all love designing and building brands. I love working with people to pull out the story of their business or nonprofit and then collaboratively designing and implementing a customer journey to tell that story well.

We don’t run people’s marketing, but we design a marketing strategy that mostly runs itself. Partly because creating that is our superpower and partly because we think it’s the best option for most entrepreneurs and nonprofits out there. 

Now it’s your turn. 

Take a piece of paper, and at the top, describe your ideal customer, the problem they’re facing and their desired outcome. Now, set a five-minute timer and write as many products and services that could be offered to them. Don’t filter when an idea comes to you. Write down as many as you can.

Now, look at the list and circle the ones you’re really good at. Then draw a star next to the ones that are life-giving, and you feel like you could do over and over again. 

Look at the sheet and focus on the products or services that are both circles and have stars. Your ideal customer is someone looking for these services.

Whether you're new to marketing automation or already have a solution but aren't sure if it will scale well, we're here to help.

During the Q&A session, you can ask questions about how to best leverage marketing automation in your business or about our Better Story Marketing OS Software.

You get to decide the questions and we want to help you automate telling your brand story so your business or nonprofit can move ahead.

Bring it all together.

We’ve fleshed out who you’re helping, the problem they’re facing, the outcome they want and the services you could provide them. Now it’s time to combine them madlib style.

I’m looking for [who you’re trying to help] who is facing [problem they need solved] but would be able to [outcome they desire] if they could get [service you provide].

You now have a one-sentence description of your ideal customer. This is the customer you want to design your marketing, products and systems for. You’ll find more satisfaction and success by focusing on your ideal customer, even if it means saying no to other customers.

Validate assumptions

Now that you have your ideal customer clearly identified, you will want to validate by connecting with some actual customers.

A common strategy for testing is to create a landing page to present your targeted product or service to your newly identified ideal customer.

It’s ok if you don’t yet offer the product or service. This is a promotion page to test if your superpower matches their problem and desired outcome. 

Once you find an ideal customer, show them the page and ask them to process it out loud as they review it. You can learn a lot by user-testing a simple landing page with some customers.

Refine the persona

Now that you’ve validated some of your assumptions, it’s time to refine your ideal customer persona. Consider the following questions: 

  • What are their demographics, such as age, gender, income, and location? 
  • What are their psychographics, such as interests, personalities, and values? 

You can also include testing out social media ads, email marketing campaigns, or even direct mail. Analyze your results and refine your targeting until you find what works best.

Find out who else offers what you provide, how they target their audience, and what sets you apart. Look for gaps in the market and opportunities that you can capitalize on. Consider the following questions: 

  • How are your competitors targeting their customers? 
  • What marketing channels are they using? 
  • How are they positioning their brand? 
  • What is their unique selling proposition?

You can conduct additional market research by reviewing industry reports, reading online reviews, and speaking with your customers.

Tell the story well.

When you know who your ideal customer is, the problem they’re facing and a solution to provide the outcome they desire, then you have most of the pieces you need to tell your brand story effectively.

When the story isn’t clear, customers don't pay attention. 

Having a compelling and clear brand story helps you stand out from the competition and invites your potential customers to engage. Clarifying your brand story is critical if you want to expand your reach. 

Once you have your story clearly told, you’ll want to integrate it across all your marketing collateral. This can feel like a lot of work, but it’s foundational to marketing your small business or nonprofit. Writing your story and integrating it into a targeting marketing strategy is the key outcome of our Better Story Brand Intensives.

Identifying your ideal customer is essential to creating effective marketing strategies and growing your business. Remember to track your marketing campaign's performance, analyze the results, and adjust your strategy accordingly. With the right approach, you can build customer loyalty, increase sales, and achieve business success.

Action Plan

Identifying your ideal customer is the first step to building an effective marketing strategy. 

It’s also a key element to writing your brand story. Or if you get overwhelmed and just want help from someone who does this every day, reach out and schedule a story session. We’d love to hear about your business and explore how we can help you tell your story in a way that directly impacts the bottom line and enables you to make a more significant impact.

Frequently Asked Questions

Ideal Customer Personas

What is a Customer Persona?

A customer persona, also known as a buyer persona or marketing persona, is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer. It's based on market research and real data about your existing customers.

A well-crafted customer persona will include details such as:

  1. Demographics: Age, gender, location, income level, education level, and occupation.
  2. Psychographics: Interests, hobbies, values, attitudes, and lifestyle.
  3. Behavioral Traits: Shopping habits, brand preferences, product usage, and online behavior.
  4. Needs and Challenges: The problems or issues the persona is facing that your product or service can solve.
  5. Goals and Motivations: What they hope to achieve, both professionally and personally.

Creating customer personas can help businesses better understand and reach their target audiences. They are used in marketing to determine where to focus efforts and guide product development by aligning with the needs of the ideal customer. They can also help in tailoring content, messaging, and offers to specific audience segments.

Remember, most businesses have more than one type of customer, so they create multiple personas to represent different segments of their audience.

Lean more about how to identify your ideal customer persona.

How Do I Use Customer Personas?

Customer personas are a powerful tool that can guide many aspects of your business, from marketing and sales to product development and customer service. Here's how you can use them:

  1. Marketing and Advertising: Use personas to tailor your messaging and content to resonate with each segment of your audience. They can also guide your decisions about where to advertise based on where your personas spend their time online.
  2. Product Development: Understanding the needs, challenges, and goals of your personas can help you identify new features or products that could meet these needs.
  3. Sales Strategy: Your sales team can use personas to understand the motivations of potential customers and tailor their sales pitches accordingly.
  4. Customer Service: Personas can help your customer service team anticipate the needs and questions of different types of customers, leading to more effective support.
  5. Content Creation: When creating blogs, social media posts, or other content, consider the interests and challenges of your personas. This can help you create content that is relevant and engaging for your audience.
  6. User Experience (UX) Design: If you're designing a website or app, personas can inform the design process to ensure it aligns with the needs and preferences of your users.
  7. Email Marketing: You can segment your email list based on your personas and send tailored emails to each segment.

The key to using personas effectively is to keep them in mind in all areas of your business. They should be a guiding force behind your decision-making, helping you stay customer-focused.

Lean more about how to identify your ideal customer persona.

Why are Customer Personas Important for my Business or Nonprofit?

Customer personas are important for businesses and nonprofits alike for several reasons:

  1. Better Understanding of the Audience: Personas help you understand your audience's needs, behaviors, challenges, and motivations on a deeper level. This understanding can guide your product development, marketing strategies, and customer service initiatives.
  2. More Effective and Targeted Marketing: Knowing your personas can help you create content and messages that resonate with your target audience. It also allows for more efficient use of marketing resources as you're able to target those who are most likely to be interested in your product or service.
  3. Improved Product Development: By understanding the needs and challenges of your personas, you can align your product development to provide solutions to these issues. This increases the likelihood of product success and customer satisfaction.
  4. Personalized Customer Experience: Personas can guide the personalization of the customer journey, leading to increased engagement, loyalty, and conversion rates.
  5. Informed Decision-Making: They provide a clear direction for decision-making in various areas such as sales strategies, marketing tactics, and customer service approaches.

For nonprofits specifically, personas can help in:

  1. Fundraising Efforts: Understanding who your donors are can help you create effective fundraising campaigns that resonate with them and encourage more giving.
  2. Volunteer Recruitment: Knowing the motivations and characteristics of your ideal volunteers can guide recruitment efforts and help you attract dedicated volunteers.
  3. Advocacy Campaigns: Personas can inform advocacy campaigns, helping you to craft messages that mobilize supporters and drive action.

By creating and using customer personas, businesses and nonprofits can ensure they are truly meeting the needs of their audience, leading to better results in all areas of their work.

Lean more about how to identify your ideal customer persona.

What Information Should be Included in a Customer Persona?

Creating a comprehensive customer persona requires a mix of demographic, psychographic, and behavioral information. Here are the key elements you should include:

  1. Persona Name: Giving your persona a name makes it easier to refer to and helps to humanize the data you've collected.
  2. Demographics: Include basic demographic information such as age, gender, location, income level, education, and occupation.
  3. Psychographics: This includes interests, hobbies, values, attitudes, and lifestyle. It helps to understand what motivates your persona and how they spend their time.
  4. Behavioral Traits: Detail your persona's shopping habits, brand preferences, product usage, and online behavior. This can help you understand where to reach them and what messages might resonate.
  5. Goals and Motivations: What are they trying to achieve? What drives them? These could be personal or professional goals.
  6. Challenges and Pain Points: What problems or issues is your persona facing that your product or service can solve? Understanding these can help you position your offering effectively.
  7. Preferred Communication Channels: How does your persona prefer to interact with brands? Are they active on social media? Do they prefer email communication?
  8. Brand Interactions: How do they currently interact with your brand? Are they a loyal customer or a potential target?
  9. Quotes: Including a few direct quotes from your interviews or surveys can bring the persona to life and make their needs and wants more relatable.
  10. Image: Some businesses choose to include a stock photo in their persona profile to give it a face. This isn't necessary but can make the persona feel more real.

Remember, the aim of a persona is to represent a significant portion of people in the real world and should therefore be as realistic as possible. Also, personas are fluid and may change over time as you get more information about your customers.

Lean more about how to identify your ideal customer persona.

How Many Personas Should I Create?

The number of personas you should create depends on the diversity of your customer base and the complexity of your product or service offerings.

Three to five personas are often enough to cover your main customer segments. These should represent the majority of your customers or the customers you are specifically targeting.

Less is better.

Remember, the goal is not to create a persona for every individual customer, but rather to capture the key types of customers that represent your larger audience. Each persona should be distinct enough to guide different marketing strategies or product developments.

It's also important to review and update your personas regularly to ensure they continue to accurately reflect your customer base.

Lean more about how to identify your ideal customer persona.

Brand Story

What elements should be included in a brand story?

Your brand story should consist of:

  • The problem the organization exists to solve.
  • Why that problem matters to the organization.
  • What makes them qualified to solve the problem.
  • The steps the organization takes to help the customer overcome the problem.

Learn how to write the brand story for your small business or non-profit.

Why is it important to have a compelling brand story?

A compelling brand story helps small businesses differentiate themselves from competitors, connect with their target audience on an emotional level, and establish a unique identity in the market.

Learn how to write the brand story for your small business or non-profit.

How can I make my brand story authentic?

To make your brand story authentic, focus on sharing your genuine motivations behind starting your business, highlight real customer experiences and testimonials, and ensure consistency between your brand values and actions.

Learn how to write the brand story for your small business or non-profit.

How often should I update my brand story?

It's a good practice to review and update your brand story periodically to ensure it accurately reflects your current business values and goals. Certainly, any time there is a change to the products or strategy of the business, the brand story should be updated. 

At Better Story Marketing, we review our story twice a year as a team to ensure it represents us well and connects with our ideal customer.

Learn how to write the brand story for your small business or non-profit.

Should I include personal anecdotes in my brand story?

These anecdotes allow customers to connect with you on a deeper level. This isn’t the time to tell your company history, it’s telling the parts of your back story that overlap with the customers’ stories. 

They can allow the customer to see both why their problem matters to you and how you’re qualified to help them. However, it's important to strike a balance and ensure that the anecdotes align with your brand identity and resonate with your target audience.

Learn how to write the brand story for your small business or non-profit.

Customer Journey Maps

What is a customer journey?

A customer journey refers to the complete sequence of experiences that customers go through when interacting with a company or brand. This journey captures all stages, starting from the initial awareness or discovery phase, moving through engagement and consideration, leading to purchasing, and finally towards post-purchase interactions which may include support or advocacy.

The aim of mapping the customer journey is to get a comprehensive insight into different customer interactions across various touchpoints. It helps businesses understand how customers are experiencing their brand, where there might be pain points or areas for improvement, and how they can streamline the process to enhance customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Understanding the customer journey is vital for delivering exceptional customer experiences, improving customer retention, and driving business growth.

Learn more about creating a customer journey map for your small business or non-profit.

What are the stages in the customer journey?

The customer journey map should include the following stages.

  • Awareness. How does the customer become aware of your activities? What questions are they asking as they become aware of or try to understand the problem they’re facing? What channels do they use, and are they physical or digital?
  • Consideration. What triggers the customer to consider your product or service, are they comparing it with other alternatives in the market? What questions do they now have? What understanding will they need to be comfortable making a decision?
  • Decision. What concrete choices does the customer make at this point? How are they comparing the options? What factors are most important in their decision? How do they buy the product or service?
  • Delivery + Use. How does the customer finally receive the product or service?
  • Loyalty + Referral. Does the customer engage with your service again and become a repeat customer? How will an ongoing connection be cultivated? Do they introduce others? What channels do referrals typically come through?

Learn more about creating a customer journey map for your small business or non-profit.

Why is mapping the customer journey important?

Mapping the customer journey allows you to understand your customers' experiences, needs, and pain points at each stage of their interaction with your business. This understanding can help you improve your products, services, and marketing strategies to better meet your customers' needs.

Learn more about creating a customer journey map for your small business or non-profit.

How do I start creating a customer journey map?

Creating a customer journey map involves several key steps. Let's walk through them:

  1. Define Objectives: Understand why you're creating the map. Are you trying to improve the overall customer experience, solve a particular problem, or identify gaps in your service?
  2. Create Buyer Personas: These are fictional characters that represent your ideal customers. They should include demographic information, interests, behaviors, goals, and pain points.
  3. Identify Touchpoints: These are the points of interaction between your customers and your business. They could be anything from visiting your website, speaking to a salesperson, or using your product/service.
  4. Map the Customer Journey: Outline the steps your customers take from their initial interaction with your business to the final purchase or end goal. This could include stages like awareness, consideration, decision, and retention.
  5. Identify Opportunities and Pain Points: Look for areas where the customer experience can be improved. These could be places where customers are getting frustrated, or where there's an opportunity to exceed their expectations.
  6. Implement Changes: Use your findings to make improvements to your customer journey. This could involve changing your website layout, improving your customer service, or altering your product offering.
  7. Review and Update Regularly: Customer needs and behaviors change over time, so it's important to regularly review and update your customer journey map to ensure it's still accurate and useful.

Remember, a customer journey map is a tool to help you better understand and serve your customers. It should be used as a guide to improve your customer experience, not as a strict rulebook.

Learn more about creating a customer journey map for your small business or non-profit.

How often should I update my customer journey map?

It's a good practice to review and update your customer journey map periodically to ensure it remains accurate and relevant. Changes in your business, market trends, or customer behavior may require adjustments to your map.

The frequency at which you should update your customer journey map largely depends on various factors such as changes in your business model, introduction of new products or services, shifts in customer behavior, or significant changes in market conditions.

However, a good rule of thumb is to review your customer journey map at least once every six months to a year. This helps ensure that it continues to accurately reflect your customers' experiences and expectations.

If there are major changes happening more frequently in your industry, you might want to review and update your map quarterly.

Remember, the customer journey map is a dynamic tool that should evolve with your business and your understanding of your customers. Regular reviews and updates will help you keep it relevant and effective.

At Better Story Marketing, we review our map quarterly as a team to ensure it is effectively engaging our ideal customers and helping them reach their goals.

Learn more about creating a customer journey map for your small business or non-profit.

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