Who is Your Ideal Customer? Create a Profile with 10 Essential Questions

Peter Sharkey on 27th of May 2015

Knowing who your ideal customer is changes everything - your product and service offering, marketing strategy, value proposition, pricing, tone of voice, potential partnerships, and more.

While it’s true that defining your ideal customer can feel like you are excluding other audiences who might buy from you, focusing on the right people brings clarity to your marketing efforts which ultimately leads to a more profitable business.

New York Times best-selling author Ramit Sethi said it best: “Algorithms change. Tactics change. But the fundamentals of learning what people want, seeing exactly where you can help them, and then telling the right people about it (emphasis mine) are classic strategies that worked 1,000 years ago and will work 1,000 years from now.”

This post is about getting to know the right people who will benefit from and pay for your products and services. What follows is 10 essential questions to ask in the process of defining your ideal customer. Let’s get started.

10 Questions to Define Your Ideal Customer

1. Where do your ideal customers hang out?

Name the digital and physical spaces where your ideal customer hangs out. The more specific, the better.

“Hangs out on Facebook” is too general.

“Hangs out in the Wine Lovers of Atlanta Facebook group” is more precise and actionable.

“Likes the outdoors” is too general to mean anything insightful.

“Likes going to the park every Saturday morning with their kids” shows habits and values.

“Reads blogs” isn’t targeted enough.

“Obsessively reads Lifehacker, Techcrunch, and Reddit” is revealing. Knowing where your ideal customers hang out influences:

  • Where you advertise (certain Facebook groups, niche forums, physical locations)
  • Places to listen and learn about customers
  • The best blogs for writing guest posts

2. Where do your customers get their information?

In an ideal world with unlimited resources, your company would have helpful and relevant content on every single channel. But since you’re not Coca-Cola, you have to be strategic about targeting where your ideal customers go to get information.

When your customer is in research mode, where do they go? Google? Certain blogs? Books? Magazines? Twitter?

Write your findings as a simple sentence: “When Maggie is curious about a topic, the first place she goes is Google search on her iPhone.”

3. What are your customers challenges and frustrations?

Empathy is the biggest benefit to defining your ideal customer’s challenges and frustrations. By knowing what it’s like walking in your customer’s shoes, you’ll be able to create great products and services that address their specific pain points and problems.

Here are a few examples to jog your creativity:

  • “I wish someone would just edit this video for me.”

  • “I need to lose ten pounds before spring break.”

  • “Ugh. I wish I could schedule my tweets.”

Your ideal customer’s challenges and frustrations impact a number of things:

  • Services you offer: The service you are offering has to cure a large enough pain point that your ideal customer will pay you to do it for them instead of doing it themselves.
  • Products you make: Similar to the service you offer, the products you make must solve your ideal customer’s challenges or frustrations to be worth buying.
  • Emotions you speak to: There are a number of emotions behind the challenges and frustrations your ideal customer is experiencing - sadness, anger, fear, hope, a desire for something better. By speaking to what your customer is feeling, you’ll be able to connect with them emotionally on more than just a rational level.
  • Customer stories you tell: The logic here is simple. When your ideal customers see an existing customer who solved their challenges and frustrations with your product/service, then they are more likely to buy your product/service.

4. What are your customers goals and priorities right now?

Knowing your ideal customer’s goals and priorities help you paint a picture of what life could be like after using your products and services. Think of it as selling the dream.

When your products or services help your ideal customer reach their goals, also known as product/market fit, it becomes much easier to write copy for your blog, website, and other touchpoints in the customer journey.

Here are a few examples of copy written to speak to customer goals:

Customer Goals Copy

5. What brands do your customers like?̋

Make a list of the brands your ideal customer likes, both in general and within your space. At a higher level, it’s like the Mac versus PC commercials. Both brands have their own look and feel and draw different types of people. Is your ideal customer more Nordstrom or Ross? Target or Walmart?

For brands within your space, knowing what companies your ideal customer likes could spark ideas for future partnerships to pursue. Or give you inspiration on how to better connect with your audience.

6. What is your customers preferred form of communication?

Do they tweet? Text? Chat? Email? Or prefer physical mail? This is a matter of where your audience wants you to communicate with them. For example, a number of brands use Snapchat to communicate with teenagers. Why? Because teenagers aren’t spending their screen time checking Facebook. The core principle is to communicate with your customers where they already are.

7. What phrases and exact language do your customers use?

Robert Collier has this genius quote: “Always enter the conversation already taking place in the customer’s mind.”

There is already language in your customer’s mind for their problems, needs, and desires. Your job is to listen and write it down.

When you are researching the places where your ideal customer hangs out, document the exact phrases they say and store them in a spreadsheet to spark ideas for website copy, blog posts, and landing pages. Or send a survey using SurveyMonkey to ask open ended-questions and document your audience’s word-for-word responses.

People are naturally attracted to other people who speak their language, get their sense of humor or have the same point of view. It provides a feeling of belonging and connection that can create loyalty towards your brand. Your goal is for customers to say to themselves “Whoa it’s like they’re talking to me” every time they read your writing.

8. What is your preferred customer’s budget?

Pricing is tricky. Price too low and people will undervalue you, but price too high and no one will buy. For example, if a house in San Francisco cost $100, everyone would know it’s a scam. Whereas if a cup of tea cost $100, it’d be ludicrous.

The sweet spot is to charge the maximum amount your ideal customer is ready, willing and able to pay.

9. What does a day in your ideal customer’s life look like?

7:55am - George wakes up to the sound of smooooth jazz

8:15am - Brews the new Costa Rican roast using his shiny new Keurig

8:43am - Stuck in traffic on the 101 listening to smooooooth jazz again

9:15am - Gets into the office

9:18am - Checks email, like everyone else

10:01am - Starts prepping his company email newsletter

12:05pm - Eats the Italian combo at Subway

1:08pm - Afternoon lull, wishing his office had a nap pod

2:35pm - Sends newsletter

2:38pm - Brainstorms how to generate more leads to meet quarterly growth goals

4:00pm - Interviews a customer for market research

6:15pm - Drives home ready for a Breaking Bad marathon on Netflix

Imagining what your ideal customer’s daily life looks like adds a personal, human element to your marketing. It also gets practical - when is the best time to email them? When are they most likely to respond to your communications? When are they most attentive?

10. What makes your perfect customers happy?

The customer journey is more than robotic transactions and the exchange of money for goods and services. As emotional beings, people want to interact with brands that makes them feel good about themselves.

Where are the places in your ideal customer’s journey you can insert surprises, do the unexpected, and bring a smile to their face? Maybe it’s a handwritten thank you note after signing up for your service, a personalized email sent on their birthday, or free shipping for all deliveries (who doesn’t love free shipping?).

Inserting happiness into specific customer touchpoints can create a deeper level of emotional connection that grows loyal and raving fans for the long-term. Or as Marty Neumeier would say, improves that “gut feeling” people get when they hear about your product, service, or company.

The end result

After answering all of these questions, write a paragraph summarizing your findings. It could look like this summary of Maggie, the ideal customer for a web design blog focused on female designers:

“Maggie loves spending time learning about wine in her Pinot Noir Lovers Facebook group. It’s a passion of hers. Her biggest frustration in her role as a designer is figuring out how to use Photoshop. When she’s in research mode, the first place she goes to is Google search on her iMac at work. Her long-term dream is to start her own design practice so she can make her own schedule and work with clients she wants to work with, especially non-profits. Last week when she was shopping at Anthropologie browsing her favorite blog on her iPhone, SF Girl By The Bay, an ad popped up with an invitation to check out a course for web design.”

The end result is a better understanding of where and how to reach ideal customers who will gain massive value from what you’re offering and pay for your products and services, happily.

So you’ve defined your ideal customer? Here’s how to personalize their experience with data.

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