Being selfish about your ideal customer

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen advice to create an ideal customer profile. It makes perfect sense – after all, if you know who your perfect customer is, it gets much easier to focus on them and communicate with them. Despite the logic to this approach, I’ve personally struggled with creating this mythical ideal customer and seen lots of other business owners do the same.

I didn’t know if my customer was male or female, 23 or 58. It just didn’t feel right to define them this way. I dutifully tried creating a few different profiles but struggled to bring them to life (despite giving them names which I had reliably been informed was an important part of the process!). When I spoke to people about my target customer I faltered, not wanting to rule people out just for the sake of a caricature that I didn’t really buy into anyway.

What unblocked it for me was taking what felt like a selfish approach. I allowed myself a little daydream – if I was so in demand that I could pick and choose the clients I really wanted to work with, who would they be? I realised that trying to think of my ideal customer in isolation was wide of the mark – I needed to think about the working relationship we’d have and who I would naturally be able to create chemistry with.

Suddenly it all made sense. Filling in the blanks I’d had before just became about describing the kind of person who I would be most likely to form a great partnership with. And that had nothing to do with their age or history. It had everything to do with their personal qualities, values and approach to working with me. I work well with people who are ‘always on’ because I create calm and structure to their thinking, which allows them to get to the nub of an issue more quickly than they would on their own. I work well with people who are emotionally led, because I can help them to see a more objective perspective and that lightens the emotional load.

So if you’ve tried and struggled to create a picture of your ideal customer, why not start with a different set of questions and see if being selfish works for you?  

  • What kind of people do you really enjoy working with?
  • What is it about them that makes you want to work with them?
  • How would they describe themselves?
  • What do you have in common with them and how do you differ from them?
  • What is it about the way you operate that draws them to you?
  • What kind of people are definitely not your ideal customer and why?
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