It can be challenging to identify your ideal customer.
It takes work, research, and patience. Some business owners are hesitant to even start. Their concern is that it may not be wise to limit their audience: Isn’t it just a “numbers game”, and therefore better to target everybody and see who bites?
Unfortunately, unless you have a massive budget, that shotgun approach is doomed. If you try to reach everybody without targeting your ideal customer, you’ll get nobody, because your message won’t resonate. It will fail to cut through the noise and speak directly to your potential buyer.
Small businesses need to limit their focus, so they can target the right people with the right offer. Establishing an “ideal customer profile” (ICP) allows you to narrow your focus and maximize results.
With a good ICP, your message will reach the people who need to hear it.
In just a few steps, you can create a working profile and then refine it as you learn more. It takes some planning and a little bit of trial-and-error, but once you’ve created a profile, you will start to see your efforts pay off.
What Is an Ideal Customer Profile?
An ideal customer profile describes your target audience as an individual. It defines, in specific terms, their demographics and the psychological factors that influence them. Successful businesses use an ICP to figure out where and how to reach their potential buyers.
Demographic information includes:
- Income Level
- Marital status
Psychological data includes values, attitudes, behaviors (especially those related to the products they buy), and pain points. Understanding your target’s pain points is critical because it identifies the problems they face. Your job is to make sure they know that you provide the solutions.
The Benefits of Identifying Your Ideal Customer
The time spent to research a customer market has been proven worthwhile. Businesses identify their ideal customer in order to:
1-Leverage Their Efforts. No business has the resources to market to everyone. You need to identify the best lead for your business, so you can maximize efficient use of your time and budget. Example: When you’re watching television, notice how smarter companies efficiently tailor their ads, not to everyone, but to those most likely watching a particular show.
2-Nurture Leads Effectively. A key to successful marketing is identifying and nurturing leads with information relevant to them.
3-Craft a Message that Resonates. Marketing relies on effective communication. If you don’t speak the language of your audience, they won’t buy from you. Your ideal customer profile will help you craft a message that resonates with your audience and motivates them to act.
4-Create an Army of Loyal Brand Advocates. By identifying your customers’ attitudes and beliefs, you can show them how these align with your business’s vision and mission. This will increase brand loyalty among your customers, and help to make them brand advocates.
5-Better Personalize the Customer Journey. Knowing your customers helps you to foster a more personal connection with them, because you know what they want and need.
The research generated by creating your ideal customer profile will lay the foundation for all of your future marketing efforts. Without an ICP, you’re shooting in the dark. The internet and online resources make it easier than ever to research your audience and pinpoint exactly who they are.
Here are the steps to creating your ideal customer profile. (Download the companion ICP Worksheet and follow along HERE.)
Step 1 – Know Your Products
Start by getting to know your products front to back. Understand their features and how they’re used. If you haven’t already done so, create a unique value proposition (UVP) for your offering. Your UVP is a statement that explains how the product uniquely solves the customer’s problem.
Focus not only on the features of your product and how it’s used, but the benefits it brings to users. In other words, how does it improve someone’s life? This is important because it’s always the real reason someone uses a product.
For example, if you offer a cloud-based project management tool, it’s not the tool you’re selling. It’s the time you’ve freed up for your users. So, take a look at your products and see if you can reframe their benefits in this way.
Try using this handy fill-in-the-blank sentence: “This product has a [feature] so you can[benefit].”
Step 2 – Create a Broad ICP Description
Once you know your product, consider how it could be used, and who it would help. If you already have customers, think about the type of people who buy from you. Take down some notes, but be ready to scrap everything if this preliminary research is later proven by analysis to be wrong.
Later, when you make sales, you’ll gather objective data to create a more solid ideal customer profile, but for now, this broad description is a good place to start.
Step 3 – Research Customer Base Online
To learn more about them, search online for your target market. If you already have customers, start there. If not, here are some places you can look for potential audience members:
Social Media. Look at your current followers on social media, especially the ones that interact with you the most. Go through their profiles to find basic demographic information, but also check out their content to get a deeper understanding of who they are and what makes them tick.
Other ways to use social media include:
- Searching for hashtags related to your product, your niche, or the broad profile you created in step two.
- Joining groups related to your niche and seeing who is most active there. Listen to conversations (“social listening”).
Your Competitors. Check out your competitors. (They will be in a similar niche to you.) They’ve already done their market research, so see what you can learn from them. Look at not only their followers and customers, but also get a feel for who they’re targeting with their marketing. If they’re more experienced or successful than you, you can learn from them.
Analytics. Look at your website analytics to see who’s visiting your site. You can get demographic information this way, but also see how much time they spend on which pages. This will give you some insights into their interests. For example, you might find that they engage more with video content than text.
Keywords. You can also Google search with keywords to find out where your audience hangs out online so you can learn more about them.
Step 4 – Gather Data
Now you’re ready to start gathering data. There are two ways to gather data – directly and indirectly.
Direct data comes from personal interaction with your target audience. This includes things like surveys, interviews, and focus groups. You reach out to people and connect with them. This can take a great deal of time, but the data you receive will be well worth it. Through direct data gathering, you can find out how they feel, what issues they face, what problems they have, and what products they buy.
Indirect data is the information you get from following people on social media, checking out blog comments, or seeing user-created content. Through indirect means you can get demographic information and also extract valuable psychographic information (behaviors, attitudes, and preferences). Although it’s much easier to gather, the insights from indirect data aren’t usually as deep as from direct data.
Customers. A good place to start gathering data is with current customers and followers. Reach out to them and create an opportunity to receive direct feedback.
Seek demographic and psychographic data, but look especially for pain points, challenges, issues, and questions. Your audience members are motivated to resolve these, and if you can offer some form of relief, it will be easier to engage with them.
Step 5 – Create Your Customer Profile
Create a customer profile that treats your audience as one single individual. Give them a name (make it personal).
You can’t put all the information you found into the profile. Some of this data might contradict each other, but look for patterns. When you see the same thing repeated over and over with members of your target audience, these are the things you should include.
What if you have two sets of unmistakable patterns? For example, you might find that your customers are evenly split between Europe and North America.
If you observe something like this, you might want to segment your target market, creating two different profiles for each. But, keep in mind that this will involve a lot of extra work, so only segment if it’s totally necessary.
You might instead choose to dig deeper – find something these two distinct markets have in common that overrides the demographic information. For example, they live on two different continents, but 80% of both groups come from rural areas.
Step 6 – Use Your Customer Profile
Now, it’s time to put your ideal customer profile to use. Here are some of the things you’ll do with your ICP:
1-Create a Marketing Message and UVP (Unique Value Proposition: a statement that explains how a product uniquely solves the customer’s problem.) Now that you know your audience, you can create marketing materials that speak directly to them. Craft a message that puts forth the unique value that your product offers to your audience. And make sure that it resonates by addressing their pain points.
2-Choose Marketing Channels. If you’ve prepared correctly, your ICP now tells you exactly where and when to connect with your audience. The key is to put your offer in front of them.
3-Create High Quality Content That Will Convert. With a keen understanding of your target market, you can create and share content that best appeals to them.
4-Target Your Advertising to the Right People. You can use demographic information to target the right people with your ad campaigns. Social media ad networks allow you to choose profile features to target.
5-Product Development. Use your understanding of your ideal customer to develop new product lines. You know what problems they face, so create products that offer solutions.
By using your ideal customer profile, you’ll be able to market more efficiently, even with limited resources. You’ll know exactly who to target and how to reach them, putting you on a more equal footing with established companies with larger marketing budgets.
Step 7 – Revise and Refine
But wait! You’re not done yet.
Maintaining an accurate and effective ideal customer profile is an ongoing process. Once you’ve created and implemented, keep gathering feedback and refining. Because the market and your industry are always evolving, it’s crucial that you keep up with these changes. Revise your ICP to reflect these changes and it will provide a powerful boost to your marketing.
Download your free ICP Worksheet that goes with this article HERE.