Identifying Your Ideal Customer

Who do you think your products or services appeal to?


If your answer is “everyone” keep reading. Businesses with too large a target market (i.e. every household in America) struggle to get any customers at all, and here’s why: not understanding who your customer really is keeps you from being able to better serve that customer.

Paint a Picture

If you’ve never completed an exercise on identifying your ideal customer, I encourage you to do one now. Grab a notebook or start typing. Answer the questions fully, and get creative if you’re not sure of the answers. The goal is to paint a picture of who your ideal customer is. You’ll likely have other types of customers, but focus on the ones that you enjoy serving, and who you want more of:

  • Who is my ideal customer in terms of age, gender, education, location?
  • What other sorts of products do they buy that relate to mine?
  • If you’re B2B, what role does your customer have in their company?
  • Where do they get their information about brands? Online? Print? Television? Friends?
  • How did they find your company?
  • What’s important to them?
  • What do they think of the value of your product?

Next, take a tip from Ivana Taylor of DIY Marketers, who suggests modeling your ideal client profile on an actual client. Consider what makes this customer perfect in your mind. You can physically draw a person or cut images and words from a magazine to visually define this person. When you’re done, your profile may be similar to this example:

“My ideal client is a male small business owner. His budget is small, but not tiny, and he understands the value of marketing, though he may not have the skills or time to work on it himself. He also invests in an accountant, as well as web-based sales software. He reads small business blogs (which is how he found my company). He values customer relationships and trust over just getting more web traffic. He finds my prices a little high, but knows that the investment is worthwhile.”

Shedding the Rest

The purpose of this exercise is to ensure that all your marketing, web copy and messaging targets this specific type of customer. Again, if your branding is too generic, and you’re trying to be all things to all people, you’ll fail. Zero in on writing your messaging directly to this ideal customer, and you’ll find that you instantly attract more of them.

The secondary purpose of the exercise is to get rid of the client types you don’t want. You know the ones – you lose money working with them simply because they take up a lot of your time. Or they try to nickel and dime you on projects. These customers aren’t worth your time, and by better targeting your messaging, you’ll send subtle signals that send them the other way.

By properly identifying who your ideal customer is, you set your company on the right track to getting more (and better) business.

Identification Photo via Shutterstock


Susan Payton Susan Payton is the Communications Manager for the Small Business Trends Awards programs. She is the President of Egg Marketing & Communications, an Internet marketing firm specializing in content marketing, social media management and press releases. She is also the Founder of How to Create a Press Release, a free resource for business owners who want to generate their own PR.

18 Reactions
  1. Martin Lindeskog

    Susan: Great tips! Money quote:

    “The secondary purpose of the exercise is to get rid of the client types you don’t want. You know the ones – you lose money working with them simply because they take up a lot of your time. Or they try to nickel and dime you on projects.”

    Have you read, Adrienne Graham’s book, “No, You Can’t Pick My Brain. It Costs Too Much.?

    • I haven’t but maybe I should! Thanks for giving my quote value (“money quote)! I’ve had to fire clients!

      • Martin Lindeskog

        Susan: You are welcome! I have ordered book and I look forward to read it. I need fuel for my soul and intellectual ammo for my business! 🙂

  2. I was just re-explaining this concept to one of my business coaching clients a few days ago! Great tips, I will definitely share. Thanks!

  3. Hi Susan,
    I totally agree with your concept of the ideal customer. It makes the work of forming a client-centric site more doable.

  4. Hey Susan, I feel you wrote this article especially for me! However, my company and customers defy almost everything you wrote here. There is no common theme in my customers, other than they have fewer than 50 employees, and most have fewer than 10. They’re all over the USA, all ages, and all industries. And, there’s no common way that they’re finding us. Just like Amazon offers all things to all people, we’re offering 9 software products for American small business owners. BUT, as you clearly asked,… What do they think of the value of your product?… Well, there is a common theme there, and we’re capitalizing on it by getting great testimonials from our customers, and using those testimonials in our Internet Marketing. Anyway, great article, and some good stuff to contemplate here.

    • Mike–
      Even if they don’t have many characteristics in common from your perspective, they have common business needs. They need payroll software. Or have small budgets. Or need an easy way to keep track of time. You can segment them based on what they’re looking for.

      Thanks for commenting and connecting.


      • Susan, you are correct, my customers do have common business needs, which is why we give them access to our software a la carte (meaning that although there are 9 products, they can select just the 1 or 2 they need the most.) So, we have segmented them based on their common business needs as you suggest.

        But, your statement of “Businesses with too large a target market (i.e. every household in America) struggle to get any customers at all,”… is normally very true, but what about Amazon and other online companies? They use the power of the Internet to sell to the masses. So, I’m in that group that offers a lot of power software tools to all types of small business owners nationwide. Anyway, I enjoyed your article.

  5. know your customer, I innovate, is important. Convincing the client, this is done knowing him.

  6. I’d also call out that it’s important to take a look at who your ideal customer actually is and not who you want them to be. As an out there example, I’ve known people who opened restaurants and found themselves with a very different clientele than they expected. Remember that you need to cater to the people who are looking for you, and not the other way around.

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