5 Ways to
Your Ideal Client
Knowing your ideal client inside and out is the most efficient way to grow your coaching or consulting business. Not knowing your ideal client is the most efficient way to confusion, overwhelm, and a headache.
In addition to getting to know your clients by serving them, you also want to do focus, intentional research. I know, “research”... yawn! But I assure you this isn’t that grueling research you remember from college. As much as you love your ideal clients, you’re going to love getting to know them better.
Today we’re breaking down what you need to know to get the most out of the process:
If you missed it, you'll also want to check out the 5 things you must know about your Ideal Client. That blog is the Sunny to this Cher. Read both, and you'll have a great understanding of why this is important to growing your business and how to get it done.
The Best Time To Do Ideal Client Research
Get Clear and Get Moving
with this list of the first 10 steps to building your coaching or consulting business!
No really, you want to do your research as soon as possible. Much of what you create in your business- your message, offerings, content, brand, marketing strategy, etc.- is built on this foundation.
Entrepreneurs who skip this step often find that they’ve created a business that doesn’t garner the attention of their ideal client nor resolve their need. In an effort to charge ahead, they're often stuck circling back.
While this can take a bit of time, it is worth pausing wherever you are to make sure you have an adequate understanding of your ideal client.
This should be done as one of the earliest steps in building your business, but it isn’t the only time that it’s important. You, your business, and your clients are constantly evolving. Even with an established, growing business, you periodically want to circle back to revisit this exercise. That way you always have your finger on the pulse of your client's needs.
Making The Most of This Opportunity
People are going to offer all kinds of insight and perspectives. Some may even feel contrary to the initial vision you have for your business. For someone who is deeply committed to their business vision, it can be tempting to disregard conflicting input. I encourage you to be aware of that potential instinct and stay open-minded throughout the process.
This is your chance to play detective. This is a space for you to ask questions versus offering insight. Focus on digging deeper and crafting open-ended follow-up questions.
Take both a macro and micro approach.
This is an entrepreneurial superpower in so many aspects of building a business. You want to know your ideal clients from 3,000 feet up and just 3 inches away. Invite both a big picture perspective and narrower, more specific understanding.
When you're gathering ideal client information, do not get overwhelmed by the amount of data. From a macro perspective, look for trends, recurring themes, and the big overarching themes.
From a micro perspective, listen for anecdotal stories that demonstrate how these things show up in people's lives. Also, clue into specific language your ideal client uses to discuss the problem at hand and the solution that they seek.
Before Your Begin Your Research
STEP 1: Before you dig into any research, you first have to identify your ideal client clearly. You want to define their demographics (gender, age, geography, etc.) and their psychographics (interested, beliefs, etc.)
This is an important first step so you can get the most relevant information. If your ideal clients are women between 35 to 55, the insights of 60 years old men and 18-year-old women will only serve to distract you.
STEP 2: Now that you’ve clearly identified your ideal client, you want to set goals for your research. Determine the information you need to gather that will move you and your business forward.
Check out these 5 things you must know about your ideal client to give you some insight.
STEP 3: The info you gather is only as good as the questions you ask. Before you start your research and with your goals in mind, craft clear, concise, open-ended questions.
STEP 4: The next step is to reach out to your ideal clients. Below I outline 4 ways you can connect with your ideal client.
5 Ways to Gather Information About Your Ideal Client
People often feel confused about how to gather information on their ideal client. It can feel especially daunting if you're at the entrepreneurial starting line with few (or no) clients to reflect on. Below I'm outlining 4 ways to do your research, but once you start looking around, you’ll find lots of great options.
IDEAL CLIENT INTERVIEWS
One-on-one ideal client interviews are a must for your initial research. The other methods listed are great compliments to this; but, nothing is a substitute for the value of a one to one conversation.
This is the most time-consuming method. Additionally, for some entrepreneurs, it feels very vulnerable because they’re often speaking about their business for the first time outside of close family and friends. For these reasons, a lot of people try to skip this method. While it can be time-consuming and intimidating, not surprisingly, it’s also the most effective way to understand your ideal client truly.
Feel free to gather casual intel over the water cooler at work, but these one-on-one interviews are intended to be more focused and intentional. Set aside 20-60 minutes for coffee (virtual or in person).
A great place to find people for one-on-one conversations is through referrals. Reach out to your network explaining your goals and ask if they know anyone who would speak of their experience.
Consider offering some of your time in return. For 30 minutes of their time discussing their weight challenges, you could provide a custom one-week meal plan. If someone helps you with 20 minutes to discuss their small business copywriting needs, you respond with a 20-minute review of a piece they wrote.
If you’re struggling to find someone to sit down with you, don’t give up. That is telling as well. Whatever challenges you discover in getting people to speak with you about their experience and needs (time, vulnerability, confidentiality, etc.) will likely also be the objections you hear when you try to sell your services. It’s worth unpacking and overcoming them now.
NOTE: While it’s not your goal, don’t be surprised if some of these people become clients. Demonstrating yourself as a trusted authority who deeply values their client’s perspective is a dream combination for a lot of potential clients. Be there to learn but be open to more.
INFORMAL FOCUS GROUPS/WORKSHOPS
If you ever wished to be a fly on the wall when your ideal clients were gabbing about the problem you solve, this is an opportunity for just that.
Unlike a more formal focus group which tends to be pretty one-sided (i.e., people giving a lot of great information in return for a free sandwich), I recommend a more informal, collaborative approach.
This is an approach that allows you to present yourself as an expert, practice your craft, be generous with your budding community, and conversationally get great information.
Think about doing an informal focus group in the form of a free workshop. Let people know the workshop is free, and in return, you only ask for the opportunity to learn about them and their experiences.
As an example, as a Health Coach looking to serve moms wanting more energy through nutrition, you could offer a free workshop entitled: “The Busy Mom’s Answer to Kicking Their Sugar Habit and Naturally Energizing The Day.” (OK, OK … long title. It could use a little massaging, but you get my drift.)
Kick off the workshop by letting attendees know that you are excited to talk about the subject at hand and to learn about them. The workshop could start with some icebreaker/conversation starters like:
- Why did you decide to come to this workshop today?
- What are your most significant challenges in regards to ...?
- What have you tried in the past to solve this problem?
- What's worked and what hasn't?
- What would you like to get out of our experience today?
Do you see all the awesome info you just gathered? Jackpot!
These questions could be part of the workshop kick off or a pre-workshop questionnaire.
At the end of your workshop, there are more opportunities to learn about your ideal client. You might ask questions like:
- What was the most important thing you got from this workshop?
- Based on what you learned today, what is one thing that you'll change tomorrow?
- If you were able to implement all of the changes that we discussed in this workshop, what would your life look like?
FACEBOOK GROUPS AND FORUMS
With so many Facebook groups and online forums of like-minded people, you can gather great information if you’re able to observe and curate.
Find online groups where your ideal client is looking to solve the problem you solve. This can feel like drinking from a firehouse but be intentional about the information you’re looking for. Be observant and look for:
- questions that are being repeatedly asked
- the pain points that people are talking about
- feedback they offer on current industry solutions
- which questions and answers get the highest engagement.
As with any space, online or in person, be respectful of it- the admin, the contributors, and the rules.
NOTE: While it’s not your primary goal, if among your research you see the opportunity to offer generous, honest insight, do so. It’s an excellent opportunity to practice your craft, be helpful, and sprinkle your new business in a bit of good karma.
I see a lot of entrepreneurs doing surveys (as I have in my own business). While I love it for collecting a lot of info in a short time, it's a complementary approach to ideal client research. It is not a total solution.
PROS: Lots of info, quick, low cost, can garner feedback from an otherwise private population
You can create free, simple online surveys with tools such as Survey Monkey (https://surveymonkey.com) and Google Forms. Share the survey on social media, in forums and send it out via email. Out of respect for people’s time, surveys should be limited to 10-12 questions when doable.
You may find that your ideal clients don’t readily self-identify nor are they forthcoming with information. This could be due to embarrassment or guilt. A survey presents an initial, ambiguous way for them to offer information. For a nonanonymous study, a follow conversation could be had.
CONS: info overwhelm, “shallow” response
Don’t be overwhelmed by all the information. As with all your efforts, take a macro and micro approach. Zoom out to look for trends and recurring themes. Zoom in to language and anecdotal stories that can paint a picture.
You may find that the responses lack a bit of depth. This can be the result of question structure, lack of opportunity for follow up, or limited respondent buy-in. If the survey isn’t anonymous and some respondents offer insightful feedback, look for opportunities to reach out for more specific input via a one-on-one conversation or joining an informal focus group.
COMPETITORS AND OTHER AUTHORITIES IN YOUR MARKET
The last one I offer with a gentle word of caution. Observing your competitors can be a rabbit hole of “compare and despair.” There is great information to garner, but the key is to limit it and to be intentional. I tell my clients to set a minimum standard for what you’re trying to gain from observing competitors and then get out.
Highly successful people in your market have likely spent years studying, conversing, and serving their clients at a high level. There are great takeaways here.
Consider competitors, authors, speaker, and blogger in your space.
Observe the topics they speak about and what they stand for in the market. Your goal is never to copy someone else’s model. The goal is to spot what’s been successful and find a way to adapt it to your own business authentically. Instead of trying to look and sound like them, you should be looking for ways to position yourself differently and bring an alternative approach to the market.
I want to hear from you.
Which of these methods will you try in your business?
Is there another great way you've used to learn about your ideal client?
What kind of information did you learn from ideal client research that you wouldn’t have known otherwise?