The next step is to know who your ideal clients are.
Why is this important?
Finding clients is key to growing your business and it usually involves some kind of marketing.
Now if you find the word “marketing” makes you feel uncomfortable, stop and breathe. You must always remember, that even if you’d prefer to just release your work into the world and just let it “find” the people who want or need it, you still need to help that journey.
As I mentioned in a previous post, it’s not about selling, it’s about INFORMING people.
Part of that is being CLEAR about what you are and WHO YOU ARE FOR.
If you know exactly the kind of clients you want to be working with, it is easier to find them and more importantly, for them to find you.
Unfortunately ideal clients don’t just fall from the heavens into your lap (ok, they do occasionally fall from the heavens but don’t count on it always happening). It is totally up to you to steer your business in the right direction.
When people start their own small businesses, it can be so easy to waste time, money and resources because everyone will offer you advertising or marketing opportunities. If you are not targeting the right clients you not only waste your money, you are also at risk of confusing people. I’m sure you’ve sometimes seen promoted posts on your Facebook feed and wondered “why on earth am I being shown this?”. That’s an example of someone not targeting their advertising well because they don’t know who their ideal clients are. Advertising or marketing that is targeted well would make you say “hey, that’s cool, I’ve been looking for something like this”.
Your business carries a personality (what some people call a brand), whether it’s your own personality or something bigger, but you don’t want that personality to be schizophrenic. You want it to be sure and clear of itself, because this is what gives people confidence in you.
Who is your product or service for?
And before you say: “anyone can buy my product/service, I want to share it with the whole world” – let me stop you right there. Because this approach is too fluffy and won’t get you anywhere.
Even if it is vaguely true, that is not going to be helpful for you when it comes to sales and marketing. Unless you have the marketing budget of Coca Cola and can afford to splash out on a huge marketing team and commission billboards and facebook ads everywhere around the world, then you don’t have the energy or resources to be so vague.
You need to focus on what they call your “ideal clients” or “key customers”.
Let me make it easy for you:
If you can’t think of anything else, then think about who you are.
Because it is quite possible, or even likely, that your audience is people who are likeminded with you.
People who start their own soulful small businesses often do so because they are addressing a need they once had and now want to share with others.
Some real examples include Ibby, who is an experienced fashion print designer and launched Pea & Me when pregnant with her daughter. She was excited to prepare the nursery for her baby but realised she didn’t like any of the designs or prints already out there in the baby shops. So she started creating her own. Her target audience is mothers or parents who are in the same position and who like her style. It so happens that other people have seen and love her work, even though they don’t have kids, which is great, but she can really just focus her efforts on her core values.
When I was an active wedding photographer, my ideal clients turned out to be my friends, which extended to their friends & peers. Because they shared the same values as me and were at that time in their lives of getting married. The clients who booked me, wanted someone who felt like a friend and would be really calm and easy going on the day. I wanted the same. I wanted to feel like I was shooting at a friend’s wedding (even when I wasn’t) because I enjoy it when it has that vibe and because it makes people relaxed around me and I see that reflected in the images I take.
The Lesson I Learnt
Until I understood how to be more effective with marketing, I was wasting a lot of money (and I mean thousands of pounds) by throwing it everywhere, at everyone and everything – just because I felt I had to, to be noticed. None of it was targeted well and so it went mostly all unnoticed. Sometimes you do need to try new things out, but it still needs to be targeted in some way.
When I finally learnt to trust the process of identifying my ideal client profile and targeting my efforts, I got much better results and was able to spend a whole lot less on it.
I set only a very small budget aside for some specific marketing on a wedding blog that matched my ideal client profile, and it was very effective. I also blogged a lot – which is free (I will go into more detail about the importance of blogging in a future post) – and this helped me immensely too.
In the end, most of my business was word of mouth/recommendations or repeat business (after they married, they would often ask me for baby portraits or corporate photography). So my marketing spend actually dropped each year as my reputation grew.
So to summarise what we’ve been talking about so far:
The power of knowing your ideal client profile is being able to use this information whenever you are making plans or decisions around your business and ensuring that you are focussing your resources where it matters most.
Many people advise businesses to create whole identities around your ideal clients, so that they even have a name, age, list of hobbies, jobs etc. You are welcome to do that too if you like. It can help to see it written down. I personally don’t feel the need to identify the brands of clothes my clients wear, but I definitely have my ideal client profile.
This profile can also help you in making a conscious effort to steer your ideal client profile in a particular direction, which is useful to help you find clients you want to work with, as much as avoiding those you don’t want to work with.
Some people might feel it’s wrong to say you want to avoid certain clients, perhaps it sounds judgemental – which it really is not intended to be, but I think it’s so important to recognise that you are not always the right fit for certain clients and vice versa.
If you find that you occasionally have difficult client experiences and you can identify what it is that makes them stand out from your other clients experiences, you can reflect this in your ideal client profile.
So for me, I had several experiences of working with couples who had a wedding planner or third party to book the photography. But I found those weddings much more difficult to shoot and I didn’t enjoy them as much as a result. I observed that there is an increased risk of miscommunication and chaos when there is a wedding planner telling me one thing and the couple/wedding party or family telling me another. These weddings were often also very big and therefore less personal. Most importantly, I didn’t have the opportunity to build a rapport directly with the couple so I felt the photography was lacking the authenticity and relaxed vibe that I’m all about.
So I made a conscious choice not to work with third party bookings anymore. I amended my client profile so it said: “my couples make their own decisions and want to have their wedding their way. “ If people enquired on behalf of someone else, I would thank them and explain that I only take bookings directly from couples as it is an important part of their client experience with me. I would ask that they pass my details onto the couple so they could get in touch directly. They usually never got in touch, but that’s ok, they were not my ideal clients to begin with.
Review your ideal client profile on a regular basis and tweak if necessary.
Eventually I modified my client profile further, to say that “my clients want to elope and do not have church services.” There is nothing wrong with people having church services, but I didn’t want to be photographing those kind of weddings anymore, I just wanted to focus on elopements and intimate weddings.
I did in fact continue to shoot the occasional church wedding, but because my targeting was specific, I wasn’t getting many enquiries for them. My enquiries became specifically for intimate London weddings/elopements, which is exactly what I wanted.
Now it’s your turn…
So grab your laptop or a pen & paper and write down the details your ideal client.
Some things you can pick and choose to include:
- How do they like to spend their free time
- Where do they live? What kind of home do they have? Rented/Owned? How would it be decorated?
- Attitudes towards xxx?
- Where are they likely to get information about you or your product? Would they read about it somewhere? If so, where exactly?
- What social media do they use (if any)? Are they the instagram generation or perhaps they are more old school and prefer asking friends for recommendations.
Here was my ideal client profile for when I was shooting weddings in London. I didn’t have names for them but I was quite specific in different ways. I could have gone on longer but this gives you the jist. Although I didn’t write it with myself in mind, it does describe me and my friends quite well. So it was pretty spot on given that I was trying to target people who were like my friends.
- Couples 30-50 years old
- They are an independent, non-traditional couple.
- Live & work in London but are either from abroad or have spent some time living abroad.
- Work in professional jobs, are likely to be university educated but not necessarily, but they are interested in the world and read up on the news.
- Love travel & the outdoors, they’ve camped or scuba dived at least once.
- Own an Apple iPhone/Macbook.
- Appreciate creativity and beauty even if not working in a creative job themselves. They are likely to visit the Tate Museum on a day out and have tried lots of great cool new cafes or restaurants in East or North London.
- They love going out to see friends at the pub, but also love spending time at home. They have decorated their place since moving together and take pride and enjoyment in it. They might grow their own vegetables or make artisan beer/kimchee etc at home or have some other kind of home project going on.
- They want to experience their wedding, their way and to organise and make decisions themselves. They want their wedding to reflect their personalities and shared experiences together. They care more for having a great day with their loved ones than all the fuss, formalities and traditions. They want to get married in London because this is where they live and love being. Having a London wedding is also less stressful because they just want it to be fun and relaxed. They will choose a town hall ceremony followed by reception at a cool restaurant or venue in East or North London or something else completely non-traditional. They will decorate the venue themselves using plants, props and DIY decoration ideas they’ve found. The bride follows the Rock My Wedding blog, possible also Rock N Roll Bride which is also where she is likely to start her research for suppliers. My couples value experiences over things. The bride is more excited about the honeymoon than the ring.
You can catch up with the last post in this series here: WHAT IS YOUR PRODUCT OR SERVICE?