Three Ideal Client Profile Dangers
You want to know your ideal clients, to understand them and what they want and need so you can serve them to the best of your ability. Developing this knowledge is the main reason why business owners write ideal client profiles. It is also in the name of developing knowledge that I believe business owners need to be careful when they are assigning traits and motivations to their ideal clients.
First, I want to say that there is a difference between recording the observations we make about actual clients and assigning traits to a hypothetical client based on our own beliefs, opinions or wants. I am definitely in favor of identifying which clients you already have are ideal or near ideal and recording observations about things they have in common. These observations can help you identify ways to connect with and serve your actual ideal clients. This is different from assigning details to your ideal client profiles without supporting information, observations or research.
Unfortunately, sometimes business owners are in the position where they don’t know a lot about their ideal clients. And business owners in these circumstances often really need ideal client profiles. If this is you, write the profiles, but be careful to avoid these dangers:
- Assigning traits at random, because you need to know this information,
- Assigning traits based on stereotypes and generalizations, and
- Wasting time researching traits that aren’t directly relevant to your business.
All three of these can derail your business plans and lead you away from your business’s core purpose. So lets take a look.
Assigning Traits at Random
Once upon a time, there might have been a young business owner who was trying to complete an ideal client profile that wasn’t well suited to her profession. It included prompts that weren’t directly relevant to her profession and she didn’t have any data regarding them. So, she completed these sections by assigning characteristics based on things she liked. The end result was an ideal client profile that always felt awkward, including the parts that were relevant to her profession and based on her own observations. It would have been better to leave those areas blank and complete them when or if I developed knowledge of my ideal client’s preferences regarding them organically.
It is better to focus on relevant traits that have some sort of basis than it is to focus on less relevant traits assigned for the purpose of “knowing” what your ideal client likes. An ideal client persona that feels off makes marketing to that person uncomfortable and leads to second-guessing. It also created a block to learning about how actual clients felt about those things. By focusing on the traits you are sure of, you can have more confidence in your profiles and be open to discovering more about your clients.
Assigning Traits Based on Stereotypes and Generalizations
The short version of this is your personal opinions may not be accurate. So if you let stereotypes and generalizations about groups your ideal client is part of influence your ideal client profile you could be creating a profile based on incorrect or incomplete information. Be especially careful if in areas where you do not fit your ideal client profile.
If you focus on generalizations you run a risk of appearing condescending or out of touch. Think about it this way: can you think of any generally incorrect stereotypes about members of any groups you belong to? Can you think of any partially true stereotypes that are overused in irritating ways? Can you think of any stereotypes based on people ignoring the context behind the stereotyped behavior? Do you want to be the business that is using incorrect stereotypes or that is being inadvertently condescending. Or do you want to be the business that treats its clients with respect and is able to correctly identify what their clients like and want?
I am not going to say that it is easy to identify areas where things we “know” aren’t necessarily accurate. I do recommend asking yourself why you believe things about your ideal client, especially in areas where you don’t understand them, have a negative impression or feel superior to them.
Wasting Time on Unnecessary research.
I like research, it can be interesting and informative. It can also lead you down rabbit holes and turn into a really effective way to avoid other tasks. It’s mostly about balance and planning. If you don’t have a lot of personal experience with your ideal client, doing some research can be very helpful. But, the research needs to be directed. Decide on specific, relevant things that you can discover with the resources you have available and create a research plan. Your research plan should include what you are looking for, how you will find it, and how much time you are budgeting to this research. If you discover additional things to research create new plans for them.
You can avoid these dangers by starting your profiles with information that is directly relevant and accurate and expanding from there. I recommend starting with my simple ideal client profile formula and then identifying additional information you would like to learn about your clients. If something you write in your profile makes you feel uncertain, ask yourself why before you continue. Look at the profile without those traits. Does the profile work without them or are they necessary? If they are necessary, you may need to do some research. If they aren’t necessary, save them with your other ideal client notes. t
Accurate information can help you buid far more accurate ideal client profiles which should result in better business plans overall.