Would you know your ideal customer if they visited your website, downloaded an app, or walked into a physical location right now?
Learning the type of person who will turn into your perfect customer requires a little research and market savvy, but it is something that can prove valuable for any business from those that sell consumer goods to services to online products.
Most of the elements that make up the ideal customer or target market are the same regardless of business type or size. It’s all about doing the right homework so that you can connect with the right people at the time when they are ready for the product or service you offer.
This guide will help you learn to pinpoint your ideal customer, create a customer profile that you can use to generate more similar customers and questions you can ask to help find everything you need to know about these highly valuable clients or shoppers.
What is an ideal customer?
Forbes might have described it best: “The more you come to know your ideal client, the easier it will be for you to create content that speaks directly to them. You become magnetic. When a potential client feels like you ‘get them,’ your offer becomes so much more appealing.”
And that, in a nutshell, is at the essence of an ideal customer: Someone who sees your brand or product and thinks that “you get them.” They are drawn to what you are doing and enjoy the experience of connecting with your business.
The shopping experience might even feel less transactional to them and is something they actually enjoy doing. From a user standpoint, it’s that feeling you get when you go to your favorite store (in-person or online) and it feels like every item is exactly what you need. It’s the magic of a great shopping trip that leaves you happy and satisfied with your purchase.
An ideal customer leaves each experience with your company feeling this way more often than not. Ideal customers also have a few qualities in common:
- They feel that the price you ask is worth the value of the product or service they receive.
- They appreciate your brand and what you do for them.
- They are repeat customers and refer friends and family to your business.
- They are easy to communicate with and respond to your requests for feedback.
How do you determine your ideal customer?
It’s a loaded question: How do you figure out what an ideal customer looks like?
Forbes broke it down into seven key characteristics. But you can take it a step further and turn those characteristics into questions that you can ask to help create an ideal customer profile (in the next section).
Here’s where you start:
- Look at your client base and make a point to gather some demographic information.
- Pay attention to known habits – how often they shop, what they buy, on-site search queries.
- Know the goals and aspirational values of your client base.
- Understand their fears and pain points.
- Get a handle on what makes a shopper make a final buying decision.
- Profile the kind of client you want to work with. (It’s OK to “interview” them, too.)
- Understand the wants, and needs, of people who buy from you.
How to identify an ideal customer
Once you figure out who an ideal customer is, your goal will be to get more of them. These are the people who will be most loyal to your brand, products, or services. They will refer friends and be your biggest ambassadors.
But do you know how to identify an ideal customer? (Chances are your audience already contains a few of them.)
There are often a few key giveaways that can help you figure out how to separate these customers from the rest so that you can start to create an audience persona that helps generate more interest from similar people.
Identifying your ideal customer is a two-part process. First is an internal analysis of your product, service, or offering. Audit yourself by answering the following questions:
- What is special about the product or service we offer? Create a unique selling proposition.
- What are your sales goals? Does your current customer base help you meet those goals or do you need to reach more or different people?
- What do past customer interactions look like? Are they positive or negative? What can you do to improve them, if necessary? Customer service is an integral part of customer interaction, experience, and brand loyalty.
The second part of identifying your ideal customer is taking a look at your audience. Use these questions to guide your thought process about how your best current customers can help you create an “ideal customer persona.”
- Who is in your current customer base? Think about demographics, spending habits and frequency, and income levels. Does this base align with the type of customer you identified in your internal analysis? There should be a logical connection here.
- What are the habits of your current customers? If you are collecting data from online shopping, email and website analytics, you probably have an idea of what habits your current customers have. Everything from the type of device they use — Apple or Andriod — to referral visits (did they get to your website from Facebook), can shape how you capture more people like these customers. The more you know, the more you can work to do similar things to reach more people who fit this ideal profile.
- What are the goals of your best current customers? This can be a little more difficult to figure out, but if you can get into the mindset of an ideal customer, it is easier to figure out how to attract more of them. Customer goals often start with their habits. What pages and content on your website are people viewing most frequently? That can provide valuable insight into those goals.
- What are customers worried about? Do you have high abandon rates from the cart when a shipping charge populates? That can be an indicator of a customer worry. Use this information to shape your visitor experience to alleviate as many worries as possible for this key group. (In this example, free shipping might help push more sales.)
- What do customers need? Again, this is a deep dive into analytics from your website and direct feedback. If you can provide the thing that customers ask for most, you will turn those people into more idea customers because you are meeting their needs.
- Who do you like working with? There are certain customers and customer profiles that you probably enjoy working with more than others. Those enjoyable interactions are the ones you want more of and are an identifier of an ideal customer. Think about what those customers have in common.
Once you’ve conducted an internal analysis and customer analysis, it’s time to turn that information into an ideal customer persona that can help shape marketing and sales decisions.
This persona is a profile that you use that outlines what an ideal buyer looks like. It may include information such as a demographic profile, ways to identify this customer, background information, customer goals, customer needs, customer fears and challenges, and overall traits of these customers.
It is a compilation of all the data you gathered in your analyses. What you might find is that you have a couple of “ideal customers.” That’s ok. Create a buyer persona for each to help shape your sales and marketing decision-making process. Once you’ve got a persona or two started, you can dive even deeper into creating even more targeted ideal customer profiles.
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What makes up an ideal customer profile? (Questions to ask)
Creating an ideal customer profile is a game of 20 questions. You want to gather information and data about good clients, their habits, and goals, and needs so that you can market and sell to more people just like them
Note that some questions you will have to ask directly through surveys or polls, while some others you can find answers to by looking at existing data.
Gather answers to these questions:
1. What’s their gender and age?
2. What’s their education and income level? (Ranges are OK.)
3. Where do they live?
4. What devices are they using?
5. Who is referring these clients to you? (Ads, social media sites, email, etc.)
6. What does a good shopper aspire to be? Who do they look up to?
7. What scares or intimidates you? (Look at abandon rates, exit pages, or customer support issues.)
8. What can our product or service do to make your life easier?
9. Did you buy this product on impulse? If so, what make you want it?
10. How long did you shop before making a decision?
11. What kind of client or purchase gets you excited about the work your company is doing?
12. What drew them to this product or service?
13. What problem does it solve?
14. How soon do you plan to use it?
15.Did the client buy any other related items? (Or do they plan to?)
16. Did they refer anyone else to your business?
17. Have you seen them before now (time of purchase) with an interaction on your website, on social media, or in a physical location?
18. Did they use a promo code or coupon?
19. Did they sign up for communication from your company?
20. Have they interacted with support or customer service after the sale?
Ideal customer characteristics
Once you start looking, your ideal customer is probably pretty easy to identify.
- They make regular purchases.
- They are often ambassadors online and in person, promoting your brand or product.
- They refer others to your business.
- They offer feedback but aren’t a drain on your support resources.
- They are the exact persona you are marketing to.
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For most companies, there isn’t just one type of ideal customer. There may be two or three different types of great customer personas to create based on whether the customer is new or returning and what type of product or service they are buying.
Here’s why it is so important: By marketing to and selling to an ideal customer base, you can increase sales and revenue while potentially spending less on acquiring each customer. That’s the value of targeting.
It’s also OK to change how you feel about the makeup of an ideal customer over time. As your business matures, the definition of who you want to do business with may shift as well. It’s a good practice to move through some of these ideal customer exercises every few years to ensure that you and the appropriate target audience are making the right connections.
Carrie Cousins has more than 15 years of experience in media, design, and content marketing. She works in digital marketing and is also a freelance writer and designer, specializing in creating amazing experiences online for small businesses. Her work has been featured in publications such as Design Shack, Webdesigner Depot, The Next Web, and Fast Company. She’s an avid runner, which comes in handy with Australian shepherds at home.