Every service firm leader I’ve engaged with in the last 20 years says, “We know who we serve.” Yet when I request that they describe their ideal client’s top five goals, opportunities and challenges, the room suddenly becomes quiet. They really have to stop and think. The problem isn’t that they can’t answer the question. The problem is that they simply haven’t done it before.
In today’s digital world, it can be crucial to articulate your ideal client profile and share it across your brand’s every point of exposure: your website, LinkedIn company page, LinkedIn personal profiles, Twitter accounts, Google listings and anywhere else your brand appears in the digital ecosystem.
I see seven primary benefits to building and publishing an ideal client profile:
1. It makes it crystal clear who you serve and what you do for them, which allows prospects to say, “Hey, that sounds like us.”
2. It allows your staff to sing from the same songbook, which is often a challenge in service firms.
3. It allows you to evaluate current clients and shed those who don’t fit the profile, which can give you more time and improve profits and career satisfaction.
4. It allows you to attract new staff who want to serve those types of clients.
5. It allows you to develop targeted thought leadership materials that can create distinction for your brand, differentiating you from the competition.
6. It allows you to go much deeper with a specific client type so you can become a true expert in a market niche.
7. It can help you become a go-to firm for that market niche and make you a recognized provider.
What’s In An Ideal Client Profile?
Please bear in mind that you might need to create more than one ideal client profile, depending on the services you offer. For instance, if you offer services to individuals and to businesses, create different ideal client profiles for those two markets.
An ideal client profile typically contains three main pieces:
1. A summary statement that includes who the ideal client is and what they care about
2. Demographic information
3. Psychographic information
Here is an example summary statement from my firm:
“Our ideal client is a successful midsize professional services firm that knows it has not achieved its full potential. As much as they have done well, company leaders are hungry to grow and reach their next level. Specifically, they want to increase market share, acquire new clients, increase revenue and profits, generate leads, build a strong brand, differentiate from competitors and create demand that positions them to pick only the most desirable deals with only preferred clients.”
Notice how specific the language is about what matters to our ideal client. I recommend that you do the same thing because this is what can help create resonance with prospects who might be considering your firm.
The demographic information in an ideal client profile can include:
• Company size and history
• Employee count
• Annual revenue or household income
• Some specifics about the decision makers, including titles, age, race, gender, responsibilities and education
The psychographic information includes your ideal client’s top five goals, opportunities and challenges.
• Goals are what your ideal clients must accomplish. Think of these as their top priorities — things they’ll always fund.
• Opportunities excite the imagination of your ideal client, but they may not have time or money for them.
• Challenges frustrate your ideal client and often block them from achieving goals. These are often on the bottom of the list to be funded.
How To Develop An Ideal Client Profile
First, consider to whom you sell services: individuals or businesses. If you sell services to individuals, create an ideal client profile for each type of buyer, if you have more than one. If you sell services to businesses, include in your ideal client profile the demographic and psychographic information of everyone who sits on a decision making committee, with particular emphasis on the decision maker.
Before you develop an ideal client profile, I recommend taking several steps:
• Choose a service offering that you really want to see grow — one that you’ve already invested in and that your market has shown a willingness to adopt.
• Develop a list of 10 clients you’ve already sold this service to.
• Gather in one room the people on your team who participated in selling and delivering the service to those 10 clients.
• Analyze each client one at a time, and ask the team some questions: Why did the client buy this service? What caused them to reach out to us? How did they describe what they wanted to accomplish from engaging with us? This exercise can allow you to build a master list of the motives of your top 10 buyers. As you analyze this list, you’ll likely begin to see trends in why they engaged you.
• Segment these motives into the three categories: goals, opportunities or challenges.
• Describe the demographics for either the individual buyer or members of the decision making committee for each of the 10 clients. This should also allow you to develop trends.
With this analysis complete, you’ll likely be ready to build an ideal client profile. I recommend that you compile your demographic information first, your psychographic information second and your summary statement last.
Once you’ve developed your profile, I recommend that you show it to the 10 clients you analyzed. Get their feedback, and listen carefully to what they say. Better yet, send them a document with the “track changes” feature turned on, and ask them to edit it. This can allow their “organic” language to shape your profile.
When midsize service firms use an ideal client profile to shape their business development efforts, they can put themselves in a position to break through to their next level.