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Prospecting for clients is often likened to some sort of mystical art. Many businesses approach it pretty randomly, without a clear strategy. But shooting darts in the dark and hoping to draw at least somebody’s attention isn’t exactly the most productive way of finding customers.

Let’s face it, there is no such product or service that could be described as ubiquitous. Good results can be achieved only when you know exactly who to target – when you know who your ideal clients are. Without this understanding, you’ll end up wasting time, money and efforts.

So what should you do? In this article we’re going to explore some practical guidelines that will help you discover customers that are a perfect fit for your business. But first, we need to answer this question:

What does “a perfect fit” actually mean?

handshakeA very common opinion is that an ideal customer is any customer who is capable of affording whatever it is you are selling. At the end of the day all, it all boils down to money, right?

This way of thinking can be very misleading. If you deal with customers who create problems on a regular basis, just because they say they will pay you, that will drain the life out of you and your business in record time.

Those are not ideal customers, those are the worst possible customers any business could have. Even if you do business with them once, you’ll pray they never come back. And in the long run, this way of doing business is not sustainable.

Instead of focusing on customers who can pay you, you should be focusing on customers who need you. The ideal customer is the one who has a need for what your business does best and who values the way your business delivers it.

That’s “a perfect fit.”

So how should you approach defining your ideal customer?

1. Identify your most profitable customers

piggybankEven though many suggest a brainstorming approach, I really like John Jantsch’s idea of doing this the other way around. Rather than trying to brainstorm what makes a customer ideal, if you have any sort of customer database, you can start with that data.

Create a list of all the customers you’ve done work with over the past few years and sort them by the criteria of profitability. If someone repeatedly purchases from you, it means you’re doing something right. It means you’re fulfilling one or more of their needs.

Now that you’ve ranked clients by profitability, you can also consider which ones make the most referrals. The reason referrals are so valuable pertains to the way they work. They represent customers who have not only had their needs met and exceeded, but who also recommend your product or services to others with similar needs.

2. Find their common characteristics

glassesNow that you’ve completed step one, you can start searching for common characteristics that your most profitable clients share. Focus on things like:

  • customer’s age,
  • gender,
  • income,
  • where they live,
  • what their educational background is,
  • what sort of company they work for and
  • what their position in the company is,
  • whether they’re married or single and
  • whether they have children or not.

Now, this might seem like a lot of information, but you will notice it doesn’t really create a human dimension. After all, it’s just demographics. To find out more personal information about your most profitable customers, you will need to do research. And by research I mean interviewing and surveying your customers and analyzing data culled from analytics tools. And in case you don’t have at your disposal all the demographic data I mentioned earlier, you can make that a part of your research, too.

Examples of things you should seek to find out include:

  • what sort of goals and needs these customers have that you’re helping them achieve or satisfy,
  • which values they cherish,
  • what kind of purchase experience they like,
  • which of your products/services they prefer to use and why,
  • which communication channel they prefer to be contacted through, etc.

When you have found these characteristics, you can begin building detailed profiles of your customers in the next step.

3. Create detailed customer personas

id-cardCustomer personas are imaginary customers who represent your ideal clients. They are generalizations that coincide with your clients’ common characteristics that you discovered in the previous step. You may have noticed you have several different groups of clients who share common characteristics. In this case, you will create more than one customer persona.

The most important thing is to make customer personas so tangible that you can almost see them and talk with them. You should be able to ask them any questions and the information you’ve gathered should suffice to give you a solid answer.

On the practical side, this is what customer personas look like:

An example customer persona.
An example customer persona.

As you can see, companies will often choose an avatar for each persona to make it easier for them to visualize the person.

Wrapping it up

So there you go, you’ve discovered your ideal customer! Knowing who your best customers are and what they want will help you improve many important aspects of your business, from defining your products/services better to creating more effective sales and marketing strategies.

From now on, when you set off to make any business or marketing decision, first go back to your customer personas. You should have a pretty good feedback on how the customers who keep your business afloat would react to your decision.

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