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For one-person enterprises, the ideal customer is the people that will benefit most from doing business with you.
When we first set out to define our ideal audience there is a tendency to want to make the audience as big as possible.
The belief is that a bigger audience means more revenue. So following that belief we define our ideal customer broadly.
At the opposite extreme is the common advice that you need to be very specific about who you define as ideal.
As with most things the truth lies in the middle.
How you define your ideal customer should take into consideration the stage your business is at. In the beginning, that means your ideal customer definition will be a little broader. As your business matures and you gather feedback your definition will narrow.
In the beginning, you may not know who your ideal customer is. You’ll have a rough idea of who they are, but you won’t know specifics yet.
You can guess at specifics but in doing so you run this risk of missing the mark and sending your venture off in the wrong direction.
That can be an expensive mistake, in terms of time and money.
Instead, start with a broader definition. As you refine your business and start gathering feedback it will become more clear who your ideal customer is.
At each stage you can get more specific about that customer.
I do believe it’s good to be as detailed as possible about your ideal customer once you have the feedback to tell you who that is.
When Brian Clark started his newsletter Further, he did so to focus on topics he has a personal interest in.
In the beginning his audience was anyone with an interest in health, wealth, and personal growth.
As Further continued publishing more people signed up, shared the newsletter, and engaged with the content. In time, it became clear to Brian that those who were most engaged fit a more specific profile.
They are members of Gen X.
In the beginning, it wasn’t obvious that Further would attract people in their 40’s and 50’s. But that is exactly what the data showed. Since then the messaging has evolved to match that more specific audience.
To see how Brian now positions Further I would encourage you to visit Further.net.
The athleisure brand Lululemon targets a very specific customer profile. According to Business Insider, Lululemon created a “muse” to inspire their merchandise. In doing so, they created a specific persona.
The ideal customer at Lululemon is “a 32-year-old professional single woman named Ocean who makes $100,000 a year,” Ocean is also “engaged, has her own condo, is traveling, fashionable, has an hour and a half to work out a day.”
The Lululemon persona is a good example of a specific profile that is also aspirational.
The importance of the aspirational aspect is that while they are aiming for a specific customer they also attract customers who don’t fit that profile but aspire to it.
To begin, start with a broad definition. It helps to have some idea of who you are targeting. But until you start collecting data you won’t know with as much precision who that is.
For example, with Rogue Mogul I’m focused on those who want to start a one-person business that grows to $1M or more in annual revenue. That’s pretty broad.
I’m already starting to see some specifics traits in my subscribers but that was my starting point. I’ll keep it there for a while until I have more data.
I can tell you that I’m also thinking about those avatars as characters in my business backstory. That backstory helps create a context for the “characters” I believe will be interested in Rogue Mogul.
If you look back to our discussion on How To Know If You Have A $1M Business Idea, we determined that a business for art projects for adults has potential.
The audience definition is pretty broad: Adults with an interest in DIY art projects.
As we dig into that idea, there were trends that supported the business idea as well as a more specific ideal customer. Some of the things we found are:
As that business evolves I would expect to find more specifics on who those customers are that are most engaged with our brand.
The age range will likely narrow, we may find it skews toward women or men, they have a strong interest in art appreciation, etc…
Demographics are quantitative data points on an individual. Things like age, sex, location, education level, etc…
A lot of persona building focuses on demographics. And while demographics are useful, they only paint a piece of the picture.
While our ideal customer definition is broad in the beginning, it’s fine for that definition to consist of demographics.
But as we get to know our customers better, we should narrow the demographic focus and include psychographics.
Psychographics are qualitative in nature and tell us more about the individual. They address things like:
As our business evolves and we have more data on our audience, certain psychographics will emerge.
Back to our art example, an interest in art appreciation would be a psychographic trait.
It’s the psychographics that help to bring the ideal customer to life so that you get to a persona that is as specific as the Lululemon example above.
For fun, let’s break the Lululemon persona one down:
You’ll notice a few of those traits are crossovers. My interpretation may not be the same ass yours but I noted them as demographic/psychographic for a reason.
They are quantitative in nature, but also imply something about the avatars psychology.
Professional implies that Ocean is also college educated and places a certain personal importance on her career. Like many, her choice of work is a part of her identity.
Engaged implies that Ocean puts importance on her love life, desire to have a family, and the social status some circles assign to relationships
Those are my interpretations but the point is that some traits can crossover depending on what they mean to you. This will be your audience after all!
In short, start with a broad definition of your ideal customer, then get more specific as you iterate in your business.
I usually start with “why” when addressing a topic like this but in this case I felt it was important to set up the context first.
The reason we build a profile of our ideal audience is that it will shape how we talk to, target, and sell to that audience.
If you look again at the Further.net homepage, you’ll see that Brian is getting more specific about who he is engaging.
That makes writing copy, choosing images, and creating products for that audience much easier.
It also makes it more profitable.
If we start with too targeted a profile, we risk missing the mark completely.
But as you get to know your audience better, you can continue narrowing that avatar to the point where each person will feel like you are speaking to them.
In many respects it’s like playing darts. If you’re just learning to play, focus on trying to hit the board. As you get better, you can start to aim for the bullseye. You won’t always hit the bullseye but even when you miss you’ll still be on the board.
Our aspirational customers are the ones outside the bullseye but on the board.
We’ll get into how to find your ideal audience next week.
Before I wrap up I’d like to go back to the beginning about audience size. It’s true that a larger audience can bring in more revenue, but only if it is the right audience. And the right audience is what we are trying to get to here.
One you figure out who that is you can start to grow that audience with confidence knowing it’s the right one.
Harry Ein is doing 7 figures ($4M+/yr as of the most recent info I could find for 2018) selling promotional items. You know.. swag.
He started off running Perfection Promo out of his garage (and may still be).
Harry has also been smart about how he runs his business. He outsources tasks like invoices and other paperwork so he can focus on what he does best, selling and building relationships.
In an interview with goprintandpromo.com, when asked what makes him different Harry had this to say:
I hustle and build relationships with my customers. We may not always be the cheapest for a pen or basic item, but our pricing is super aggressive, and we offer the best possible service. My clients know I will answer a call on weekends, or 5 a.m. or 7 p.m. They don’t mind hearing my son in the background, and know I will do everything I can to make my customers shine at their jobs. We also show creative products and partner with the best suppliers in the business.
I love this example because it’s not tech or any of the usual plays we hear about when looking at 1-person $1M businesses. It’s old school promotional products.
No matter what you’re interested in doing, there is a way to get to the $1M mark.
Newsletter Growth: 73 – 86
It’s still simple organic growth for now while I work on the site redesign.
I did get a nice 1-day bump in signups this week though I can’t tell why. Site traffic is up about 28% from organic search thanks to SEO efforts but I can’t attribute the signups to that.
I’ll keep looking and let you know if I figure it out.
I’ve decided based on feedback to drop this section from the newsletter but you can find an updated list of my favorite tools and resources on the site.