“If you build it, they will come” is only true in sales if you know exactly who you want to come your way. If you assume that creating a great product or service model and “getting it out there” is enough, you may find yourself struggling to create reliable growth.
By narrowing in on who you can best serve, your sales organization can avoid wasting resources on poor product-market fit. And by clearly defining your target, your team can readily align on messaging, sales tactics, and goals. Here’s how to define your ideal client.
Revisit your value proposition.
When you’re looking for a romantic partner, you focus just as much, if not more, on what you have to offer as what a potential date might bring to the table. The same is true of identifying your ideal client.
To thrive, your understanding of who you’re selling to needs to be rooted in what you’re selling. And what you’re selling is not your product, not your services, but the value you provide. When considering your ideal client, your value proposition must align with their needs.
For example, take a look at the following value proposition: “We help companies create corporate event experiences that expand team knowledge, boost sales, and increase revenue.”
If you were the leader of this organization, your ideal client would be companies whose events are dedicated not just to increasing sales but also to learning. Companies needing an event planner for their corporate gala wouldn’t be an ideal fit. But companies looking to establish an annual sales conference would be right up your alley.
Study your current clients.
If you’re stumped as to how to articulate your ideal client, take a look at the customers you’ve already built strong relationships with. Explore both who they are and what works about your partnership:
- What problems are you solving for them?
- What’s their company size?
- What industry are they in?
- How did they find you?
- What challenges were they facing when they inquired about your services?
- How do they rate their experience with you?
- What do you like about your working relationship?
- What could be improved?
- What does your product or services do for them?
- What reality (or outcome) do you create for them or make happen?
Answering these questions about your current client base and searching for patterns will help you create a clear picture of your ideal client.
Identify your top industry sectors.
It’s tempting to cast a broad net, especially when you’re looking to get your business off the ground. After all, the more customers the better, right?
Not really. Your ideal client is one that your organization has a good grasp of. And no matter how skilled your team is, their capacity to really understand the inner workings of other industries is limited. Partnering with customers from any industry that comes your way will likely lead to a shallow picture of client need, scattered team energy, and stagnant sales.
To create repeatable, sustained growth, you want to narrow in on and study your best-fit industries.
There’s a big difference between your ideal client and your idealized client. Just as it’s hard to give up on romantic pipe dreams, it can be difficult to adjust your expectations about who your best client is. You may think that your services are tailor-made for Fortune 500 apparel companies and discover, with time, research, and trial and error, that your golden ticket is really mid-sized food manufacturing businesses.
You want to make sure you are pursuing the audience that is the best fit for what you offer, not who you think should be the best fit.
When defining your ideal customer, take a good look at what partnerships have been fruitful for you and what pursuits have cost a lot of time and effort — without solid results.
Do market research.
While looking at your internal data and past experiences is an excellent way to understand what’s working and what’s not, market research can help you uncover paths you might not have thought to explore. What’s more, market research can be especially effective in telling the difference between a pipe dream and a dream client.
Focus groups and external surveys can help you determine if your hypotheses about your target market bear out. You can also do research to understand how big a specific market is to better understand your ideal fit. Do this for each target audience you want to pursue to help validate or reassure a target audience strategy.
Create a persona.
Now that you have a strong idea of the value you create, who you’ve sold successfully to in the past, and what industries you’re targeting, you’re ready to delve into the process of creating a persona.
A persona is a semi-fictionalized representation of your ideal customer. It’s grounded in market research, current customer information, and industry knowledge. You want to include detailed information in this representation, including:
- Job title of the decision-maker
- Goals and desired outcomes
- Challenges and problems they typically face
- Sources for industry information
- Demographics, such as gender, age, education, and location
- Psychographics, such as tendencies, values, and habits
Here’s an example of a persona of an ideal client for a B2B communication SaaS company who sells to the staffing and recruiting industry:
Persona: Steve the Staffing Executive
Job title: CEO or President of a staffing and recruiting company
Goals: Gain more new clients, go deeper with current clients, increase recruiter productivity, and improve candidate response rates, be seen more and more as a resource to current and new clients
Challenges: Standing out from competition in a highly competitive industry. Getting candidates to respond, retaining core staff, and attracting top talent
- Gender: Male
- Age: 38-55 years old
- Income: $200K- $400K
- Location: Nationwide, largely urban
- Dominant personalities
- Bottom-line thinkers convinced by revenue results
- Attracted to productivity hacks
- Tends to favor quick solutions that can be easily explained to his team and integrated within existing recruiting workflows
Sources of Industry information: Staffing Industry Analysts, StaffingHub, Inc, Forbes
Story: Steve has been in staffing and recruiting for 10+ years. He manages a large team of recruiters and works hard to adapt in a constantly changing and increasingly competitive industry. He has a core fan base of loyal candidates, and while the reputation of his company gets him far, the market for talented candidates is tight. He needs to break through the noise, as a talented candidate will receive 10+ email and voicemail messages each day. He wants a reliable, unique solution for getting candidate attention that will please his recruiters and speed sales.
Once you have this level of understanding of your ideal client, you can hone your marketing efforts, refine your value messaging, and ensure your sales team is aligned on who you’re selling to.
Defining your ideal customer may seem like a daunting task but it’s well worth the effort. By aligning your team on who you want to provide solutions for, all of your sales team’s activity — from generating leads to closing deals — will be more targeted, efficient, and fruitful.