Build and use your ideal customer profile and personas
by Brandi Johnson
One of the first questions that a marketing or business consultant will ask you is, “What is your target market? Have you developed an ideal customer profile? Who are your personas?”
If you haven’t defined them yet, you’ll probably hop to Google to figure it out. But then “how to create an ideal client profile” comes up with 61,400,000 results, and “create a client persona” has 12,600,000 results. It’s enough to make your head spin. Where do you even start? Start here:
Learn what target markets, ideal customer profiles, and personas are, and why you need them.
Define your ideal client and personas.
Use your ideal client profiles and personas to improve all of your marketing channels.
Let’s get started!
What are target markets, ideal customer profiles and personas? A target market is the broadest definition of who should use your products or services. For example, an online jewelry seller might say that their target market is a professional woman between the ages of 25-40 with an income of $85,000 or more.
Your ideal customer profile goes a bit deeper than the target market, looking more closely at things like demographics, psychographics, mindset and needs. A persona is the most detailed of all. When you create a persona, you create a semi-fictional characterization of your ideal customers. Many experts suggest that you even give your personas names (and faces — from stock photo sites, of course!) to help you really connect with them when you’re creating new products and marketing messages.
Within your target market, you’re likely to have several ideal customer profiles, and each ideal customer profile could have a couple of personas.
So, why is it important to understand all three?
Your target market provides the basics of your total addressable market. You can use tools like the latest census data to figure out how many thousands of customers could exist for your products and services since your target market definition uses broad generalizations.
Your ideal customer profile and personas are where you start getting improved results across your brand. After all, an ideal customer is one who understands your value, is happy to pay your worth, is excited to work with or order from you — and will likely tell their friends about you. With the growth of online businesses and ecommerce, understanding your customer profiles and personas is even more critical. If you sell knitted hats, your customers could be “anyone with a head” — which is pretty broad, especially if you’re planning on running paid ads. It will get expensive quickly.
By narrowing your focus to female outdoor enthusiasts between the ages of 18 and 30 who live in colder climates with a fashion-forward focus, you can start to improve the targeting for your ad spend and get a higher ROI. We could even name her Alyssa, who loves snowshoeing and hiking and lives in the Rocky Mountain region.
Now, let’s dig into how to refine your client from “anyone with a head” to Alyssa. How to define your ideal client and personas
First, we’ll take a look at what goes into defining your ideal client, and then where to find that information instead of making it up out of thin air!
Elements of your ideal client profile There are a few things to focus on when creating your ideal client profile, including:
1. Ideal client demographics. Demographics explain who your ideal client is. They are objective, factual, statistical data about a specific group of people. This data is similar to the information often found in census documents.
The first step in solidifying your ideal client profile is to get clear on exactly who your ideal client is and define their demographic profile, including:
Number of children
2. Ideal client psychographics. Going a step beyond demographics is diving into the psychographics of your ideal client. Psychographics focus on attitudes, aspirations, interests, lifestyle and other psychological criteria.
They explain why clients buy from you and what their motivation is to buy. Unlike the objective facts of demographics, psychographics are more touchy-feely, focusing on soft information.
A psychographic profile provides a more in-depth, subjective understanding of who your ideal client is and how they think.
Psychographics include things like:
Mindset and attitude
Beliefs and opinions
Aspirations, goals, dreams, and wishes
Interests (parenting tips, pet ownership, travel, wealth building, weight loss)
Activities (hobbies, books, stores, restaurants, TV shows, movies, how they spend their free time)
Personality and values
Lifestyle and priorities
How they spend their money
Worries and fears
3. Ideal client behavioral analysis. Behavioral research focuses on the customer’s actions based on what you’re selling. It’s how they decide what to buy when to buy, and how to buy. An analysis can include:
Internal marketing data, such as what types of email they open most, what blog posts they always read, what email subject lines perform the best, what social media posts have the most shares.
Analytics data to identify what action, email, blog post, sales page, ad or other promotional activity triggered a sale.
Review real feedback — good and bad — from clients and customers about their experience with your brand, products, and services, both online and off.
When sales have increased and why — the time of year, holiday, or special promotions.
Find out why repeat customers continue to buy and what motivated new customers.
Who uses your product/service the most, how they use it, and when they use it (time of day, day of the week, frequency).
How potential clients and customers gather information before making a purchase.
How are they affected by price, quality, convenience and prestige?
Other optional components of your ideal customer profile:
Their background story. When you write your persona’s background story, you’re creating the journey of how they got to where they are today. It includes how they began the journey, what challenges they’ve encountered, and where they are right now. The background story is especially relevant when selling information-based products like online courses, ebooks, coaching, and memberships.
Ideal client destinations. Knowing how your client got here is essential; equally important is understanding where they want to go. Understanding the goal helps you go beyond the traditional marketing features and benefits to guide your customer to their ultimate reward and destination.
Ideal client’s future story. How will your customer’s life look after they’ve achieved their objectives? This story, combined with the background story and client destination, gives you the full arc to address through your marketing messages.
Characteristics you don’t want. As a business owner, you can define those you don’t want as a customer. You can define the undesirable characteristics based on their behaviors or their niches. For example, if you’re a health coach that focuses on plant-based meals, then meat-eaters could be on your “no thanks” profile list.
Ideal client day-in-the-life. Another great way to get to know your ideal client is to define an “Ideal Client Day-In-The-Life.” Create a roadmap or schedule of what a typical day looks like for your ideal client. Define things like:
Do they wake up early and have time for coffee and some reading before their workday begins, or are they hitting snooze three times and dragging themselves of bed?
Do they eat a healthy breakfast or rush out of the house and grab something on the way?
Do they take their kids to school? Pick them up? Are they the unpaid driver for all the after school activities?
Do they bring their lunch to work or go out to lunch?
How many meetings do they have? How many phone calls?
Do they have a cubicle, an office, or a shared workspace?
Are they squeezing in personal errands? How long is their commute?
Do they have to dress up? Is their work attire casual? Are they uncomfortable or comfortable? Do their feet hurt?
Do they cook dinner or eat out or order take out? Do they have the meal prepped ahead of time? Are they eating fresh or frozen foods?
How do they relax and unwind at night? Do they watch TV, read, surf social media, play with the kids, go for a walk, play sports, exercise?
What time do they go to bed?
Where is their focus? What are their biggest worries? What causes them stress? What creates frustration?
Knowing what a day in your client persona’s life looks like is extremely valuable when crafting the marketing stories you will tell in blog posts, presentations, sales pages and website pages, and in sales conversations.
Why? Because you’ll be able to connect with your ideal clients on a more personal level with stories that position them as the lead character. Related: How to use intentional listening to benefit your customers and your bottom line How to define your ideal customer profile without guesswork Are you feeling overwhelmed with everything you can and should put into your ideal customer profile?
Don’t worry — if you’ve been in business for a while, you probably have most of this information about your ideal customers at your fingertips.
1. Review your internal data. The best place to start is the information you already have about customers, including Google Analytics, social media analytics and insights, email open rates and email marketing analytics, and CRM data that you have gathered from/about clients.
2. Score your clients. Next, create a scorecard for your clients and give each one an overall score or grade. Evaluate how easy they are to work with, how much you like them, how much profit they generated, how often they buy, if they refer others, how they found you, how quickly they pay, etc.
Then take all of your top-scoring customers and look for similarities between them. What do they have in common, what similarities can you find? Add in the most profitable second-tier customers and add in any additional traits.
3. Send a survey. Surveys are a great way to gather the information you need, and open-ended questions work well for collecting psychographic data. The key to creating a successful survey is to know precisely what type of data you are looking for and what you want to learn from the respondents.
A survey is especially helpful when you want to ask former and current clients about their experience with you and your company, brand, staff and marketing efforts. When they provide feedback through a survey instead of an actual person, the answers will tend to be more honest and accurate.
4. Schedule customer interviews. Use one-on-one calls with your best customers to learn more about them. Leverage this opportunity to let them know how much you love working with them and that you’d like their help to create an updated ideal client persona — all they have to do is answer some questions and talk about themselves. These calls are especially crucial for online businesses and ecommerce providers who may have little interaction with customers when things are going well.
In your interviews, you consider asking more personal questions than you can in a survey, including:
What do you dream of achieving?
How have you have benefitted from our product or service, and how has it changed your life or business?
What would you say to others who aren’t sure if they should buy?
How do you think we’re different from others?
Where are you struggling? What is keeping you up at night?
What interests you the most?
What do you wish we offered, and why?
What do you secretly hope for that no one else knows?
5. Personal research. If you don’t have existing customers to talk to or data to use, you can also do personal research. Attend networking events or join online communities to find out what people are struggling with or seeking. Watch your competitors’ social media profiles and the profiles of complementary businesses to see who is engaged and what they’re commenting on and sharing.
6. Partner up. Another great way to beef up your ideal customer profile is to exchange personas with complementary businesses that target the same types of customers. When you work with the right partners, you may uncover details you hadn’t thought of yet.
Use your ideal customer profile to make marketing easier
Now that you’ve put in the effort to create your ideal customer profile, it’s time to put it to work to make your marketing more manageable and more effective.
When someone feels like you are focused on them — that you get them, you care about them, and you want to help them — the probability of conversion skyrockets.
Improve your writing and content development When writing content for your business, every word can be carefully selected to speak directly to your ideal client profile or personas. This goes for all kinds of content, including blog posts, video scripts, webinars, sales pages, your elevator pitch, social media posts, your email newsletter, and presentations.
Create eye-catching visual design In the same way that your words should speak directly to your personas, all of your design elements and visuals need to appeal to your ideal client profile. Your color choices, photo selection, fonts, and even layouts should appeal to the people you want to attract while supporting your message.
Strong segmentation and targeting As we discussed earlier, you may have more than one persona or ideal customer profile — each with their unique challenges and needs.
When you apply your personas to segmentation in your email marketing, remarketing, and paid ads, you can achieve a higher ROI.
Beyond just segmenting based on personas, you can also segment based on where they are in the customer lifecycle.
Create and release the right products Have you ever released a new product and the response is crickets instead of a mic drop? You’re not alone — those products can join the hallowed halls with New Coke and Cheetos Lip Balm. When you expand your product and service line to address the known needs of your ideal client profiles specifically, you virtually guarantee a higher level of success.
Choose the right marketing channels If your ideal client is a Gen Z guy who is planning a great party to watch the big game, you will probably get farther on Instagram or TikTok than on LinkedIn. When you’re making your marketing plans, go back to the behaviors described in your ideal client profile.
Understanding where they shop, where they go for their news and entertainment, and where they connect with their friends and family will help you decide where to invest your time and your marketing dollars to make the best choices.
Beyond just the right platforms, understanding and trusting your ideal customer profile will also help you identify potential collaborations, find the right influencers, and generate word of mouth that expands your reach.
Conclusion With the ease of reaching thousands, if not millions, of potential customers using online marketing, it’s tempting to take a broad approach to your target market and ideal customers. But to truly drive long-term success, develop deep customer relationships, and increase profitability, spend some time defining your ideal customer profile, and applying it to your marketing decisions.
Brandi Johnson is a marketing consultant and coach with over 15 years of online marketing experience, including content marketing and email marketing. She helps overwhelmed business owners create and implement marketing strategies that support their business goals with less time. You can find her blogging over at heybrandi.com. Her book, Minimum Viable Marketing: Find the Right Pieces to Build Your Marketing Strategy is available now.