Post updated by Lexi Rodrigo
How would you like to know EXACTLY what to say in your marketing messaging? To know EXACTLY what sort of blog post to write to generate lots of comments? To know EXACTLY what brand identity you need to have in order to inspire a large group of people and turn them into raving fans?
These are exactly the kinds of things you’ll know when you clearly understand your ideal customer.
It’s a critical piece of foundational marketing that you absolutely NEED to have. How do you get it? Good news: you can have it one hour from now just by following the steps in this post.
The Problem with Speaking to a Target Market
Most of the time people go about identifying their niche the wrong way. Their first mistake? Defining their audience or target market.
Here are examples of target markets I pulled out of real business plans I received to review (some changes have been made to protect the innocent):
“Women, 27-39, single, educated, income of over $40,000 and who like eating chocolate.”
Now, if you are a chocolatier or an SEO specialist, you might be pretty proud of yourself, thinking you narrowed your focus from “everybody” to a subset of the market.
But have you, really?
I don’t know about you, but I don’t know any woman who doesn’t like chocolate!
And the second statement pretty much includes all young men with any sort of online business!
These descriptions of target markets are not specific enough. They describe a ton of people—too many people, in fact.
And the more people you try to speak to, the more diluted your message becomes, because you’re trying to appeal to pretty much everyone. And the more diluted your message, the more ineffective it becomes.
The problem? We tend to think “target market,” which implies a group of people.
Who You Should Be Addressing Instead
Instead, I’d like you to start thinking “customer profile,” which implies ONE person—the ONE person for whom you exist to serve with your product or service.
You don’t want to be lots of things to lots of people. You want to be inspirational to the RIGHT person—the ONE person. And if you inspire that ONE person and enough numbers of that ONE person, then you will dominate your niche.
Speaking to the ONE person means you never describe your audience as being: “women, 27-39, single, educated, income of over $40,000 and who like eating chocolate” ever again.
No ONE person is 27-38, anyway (except for my friend, Bess, whose age has been known to fluctuate in relation to the number of eligible bachelors in the room).
No, from now on, you’ll describe your audience like this:
“Jane. 30 years old. Bachelor’s degree in the Arts. Works in an account management job she doesn’t like and is currently scoping out a new career. Thinking about getting a Master’s degree. Single, having recently dumped a loser boyfriend. Has lots of friends she hangs with watching ‘Sex in the City’ and eating expensive ice cream. She drives a Honda, works out three times a week and goes to the spa about once a month.”
Now Jane is a real, living, breathing person, isn’t she? And isn’t it a lot easier to speak to her?
Only Talk to the ONE
I can hear you protesting: “But if I talk to Jane, won’t I be leaving out other people?”
Yes, and no. You won’t be speaking directly to people who aren’t Jane. And that’s a good thing.
The idea of talking to only one person scares entrepreneurs because they think that’s the only person who will ever buy from them again. Good grief—not true at ALL!
Let me ask you something. Who buys Apple products? Who is Apple’s ONE person. Can you imagine him or her?
I bet you conjured up this image: Young, urbanite, hip, tech-savvy, trendy, on-the-go, about-the-town, forward-looking, and always pushing boundaries. Apple speaks to this persona, just watch one of their ads:
So if this is Apple’s ONE person, how do you explain the fact that I saw a charming grandmother enjoying her iPad at a local coffee shop?Clearly, even though Apple talks to ONE person, other people buy Apple products, too. And I’m sure we all know someone who is a rabid Apple fan but doesn’t fit the mold of Apple’s ONE person.
So what gives? Well, here’s the crux of the whole deal. The ONE person is never going to be the only one buying from you. It’s simply the only ONE you should be speaking to at all times.
And not just because it makes marketing a ton simpler.
When you direct your messaging to your ONE person, your message and consistency will inspire a whole bunch of others who either: (a) feel affinity with that ONE person, (b) aspire to be that ONE person, or (c) admire that ONE person—and then all these people will ALSO become your clients. Grandma wants to feel connected and modern. Let her!
So quit worrying about shutting everyone else out if you talk to the ONE person. You won’t. If anything, you will attract loads more people with your precise and clear brand.
Ready for an example?
Heather is a 26-year old single, female, solo entrepreneur with a graphic design business. She completed a graphic design degree at the local college. She is an expert designer, quite tech-savvy, but still learning the ropes when it comes to being an entrepreneur.
She’s energetic and spunky, and her energy and charisma usually land her the gigs. She makes $37,000 a year, but wants that to go over $45,000 next year. She dreams of eventually being able to charge top dollar for her work, but for now she knows she needs to develop her portfolio and to systemize her business a bit better.
She’s very worried that she’ll always be fighting to fill the pipeline with new clients. She works from her home office, the second bedroom of a condo she bought a couple of years ago. She works out at the gym three times a week to stay in shape, she used to be an athlete in high school. When she is not working, she enjoys go out to clubs with her friends and travelling.
Now that you’ve described Heather, everything you do, every blog post, every piece of marketing, every product, every branding decision should be examined through Heather’s eyes.
Will Heather like this? If the answer is yes, then you’re successfully sticking to your brand identity and talking to the right person. And she will recognize that and reward you with her business.
Ideal Customer Profile Template: Now it’s time to define YOUR one person!
Think about your ONE person. The one who you were thinking of when you started your business. The one for whom you developed your product or service.
We’ve got a customer profile template that you can use to get crystal clear on every detail about your one person.
Please leave a comment! Have you defined your ONE person? If not, will you right now? What did you learn from your ONE person exercise?