Every business has an ideal client–a customer that is going to last a long time, be happy with your product or service, be happy to pay full price and on time for your product or service, be a pleasure to serve and be happy to speak well of your business.
These clients are highly profitable.
The best businesses know specifically what this client looks like because they’ve developed an ideal client profile.
The ideal client profile identifies the characteristics and behaviors that occur most frequently in your ideal client.
An ideal client profile gives your business the ability to do a number of things.
It allows your business to identify leads that are promising and separate them from leads that are less than promising–or, just as importantly, leads that might close but would become clients you don’t actually want to serve. It allows the business to market and sell more efficiently. To serve clients better. To land clients that are much more likely to be happy. And to plan strategically.
A good CRM system helps you to collect, organize and analyze your customer information in a meaningful way–the start of any process to define an ideal client profile. This makes sense, of course, as your CRM is, in part, a collection of client profiles.
In other words, the data in your CRM can help you see what your best clients have in common.
1. Demographic Segmentation
Demographics are essentially the statistics of populations.
In marketing, the common practice of demographic segmentation is dividing the entire market into smaller populations according to criteria such as age, race, religion, gender, family size, ethnicity, income, and education. What does the population of your ideal customer look like?
What characteristics do these customers share?
It’s important to define segmented demographics that are focused and specific.
The people who fit into this demographic are your ideal clients. They understand the value you offer, want to pay you what you’re worth, and are happy to work with your business.
The common criteria that define their segment are–critically–identifiable. You can find out who has these characteristics and who doesn’t.
Note that these characteristics may be causative or just correlative. For instance, if you own a Porsche dealership, personal income is going to be a key characteristic of your ideal client. Your best clients need to have the money to buy a sports car. There’s a clear cause and effect relationship–it’s causative.
A merely correlative characteristic might be that your best customers at your Porsche dealership are 80% left-handed. You initially discover this after some anecdotal evidence offered by one of your best salesmen. You start asking about this with customers and recording it in your CRM.
It’s not clear why being left-handed would cause somebody to buy a Porsche, but since there’s such a high correlation of left-handedness and being a good customer, you know that its meaningful and you can make it a characteristic of your ideal client profile.
2. Consider Psychographics
Once you know your traditional demographic criteria, it’s time to develop a psychographic profile of your ideal client.
This information focuses on individual interests, attitudes, and lifestyle choices. It’s a way to explain why your clients choose you over your competitor.
It will also explain their motivations for purchasing in the first place.
This information is often classified as soft information because each ideal client may have varying pain points.
Psychographic criteria may be called soft information sometimes, but it can lead to powerful insights into your ideal client.
3. Analyze Behavior
How do your best customers behave with your products or services? How do they actually use your products or services in the real-world? What is the actual problem you’re solving for them?
Do you know this answer for sure? With data to support it?
Again, this can be powerful information that you can make a part of your CRM data collection process.
One of the best examples of the power of understanding your best customers’ behavior is the study by Harvard Business School professor Clay Christensen into why people actually buy milkshakes:
“In his MBA course, Christensen shares the story of a fast-food restaurant chain that wanted to improve its milkshake sales. The company started by segmenting its market both by product (milkshakes) and by demographics (a marketer’s profile of a typical milkshake drinker).
Next, the marketing department asked people who fit the demographic to list the characteristics of an ideal milkshake (thick, thin, chunky, smooth, fruity, chocolaty, etc.). The would-be customers answered as honestly as they could, and the company responded to the feedback. But alas, milkshake sales did not improve.
The company then enlisted the help of one of Christensen’s fellow researchers, who approached the situation by trying to deduce the “job” that customers were “hiring” a milkshake to do.
First, he spent a full day in one of the chain’s restaurants, carefully documenting who was buying milkshakes, when they bought them, and whether they drank them on the premises. He discovered that 40 percent of the milkshakes were purchased first thing in the morning, by commuters who ordered them to go.
The next morning, he returned to the restaurant and interviewed customers who left with milkshake in hand, asking them what job they had hired the milkshake to do. Christensen details the findings in a recent teaching note, “Integrating Around the Job to be Done.”
‘Most of them, it turned out, bought [the milkshake] to do a similar job,’ he writes. ‘They faced a long, boring commute and needed something to keep that extra hand busy and to make the commute more interesting.
They weren’t yet hungry, but knew that they’d be hungry by 10 a.m.; they wanted to consume something now that would stave off hunger until noon. And they faced constraints: They were in a hurry, they were wearing work clothes, and they had (at most) one free hand.’ ”
4. Know the Background Story
There is a path that people have followed to get to where they are today. Their experiences and perspectives are unique.
To identify your ideal client, you must find the beginning of each story. That will allow you to determine the various challenges they faced. You can see what they were able to achieve, which leads you to an understanding of who they are right now.
William Craig, founder and President of WebFX, describes this process as adding empathy to your demographic data.
“What brought the client to this moment in time?” Craig asks. “What keeps them up? What frustrations and joys do they feel? What’s their story, and why do you care? Know that, and your content will engage on higher levels.”
5. What Are Your Ideal Customer Relationship Stages?
Don’t overlook the common characteristics of the customer journeys traveled by your best clients. Oftentimes, you’ll find that these customers engage with your business in similar ways–from the time they were a lead through years of being a happy customer.
Do your best customers come from a particular source–certain marketing campaigns? Your website? Cold calls? Your CRM data can tell you this.
Do your best customers like to receive informational case studies before buying? Do they prefer a phone call? Do they usually engage with your sales reps for a long time or a short time before buying? Again, your CRM can give you the answers.
Once your ideal customer has bought from you and become a customer, do they prefer engagement via phone call or email? Do they buy twice a year? Once a week? At certain times of the year? Again, your CRM has the information.
Stanley Marcus once described the process like this: “Consumers are statistics. Customers are people.”
Take a look at what the characteristics are of your best relationships. What do your best customer journeys have in common?
6. Do Your Best Customers Have Common Requests or Complaints?
Even your best customers are going to have complaints sometimes. Your CRM will track the interactions surrounding these complaints.
Don’t ignore them! They can provide a lot of insight and value.
Oftentimes, in fact, your best customers care most strongly about your business and will care enough to let you know when you’ve disappointed them.
These instances of feedback are more valuable than complaints from customers who don’t care that much about you or aren’t generally a good fit for your business anyway. Don’t let these ‘best customer complaints’ get lost in the sea of all complaints.
Add them to your ideal customer profile.
Imagine being able to identify a great, valuable customer by virtue of what he or she is complaining about! Now, that’s some powerful insight.
Why Ideal Client Profiles Are Valuable
“Put it in lipstick on your mirror or whatever,” Warren Buffett has said. “Any business with delighted customers has a sales force they won’t have to pay. You don’t see them, but they are talking to people all the time.”
When you understand your ideal clients, then you can sell more. You can sell more to those clients and you can sell more to their friends whom they’ve referred to your business.
If you know more about their needs, it’s easier to find new opportunities to sell your products or services to them.
Your copywriting and marketing are also going to improve. With your ideal profile in place, every type of content can be much more easily focused and tested. Go beyond the blog posts. Your social media, webinars, videos – even your 30-second elevator sales pitch are all improved because of the information your ideal client profile contains.
Ideal client profiles improve the efficiency of your organization. Business, generally speaking, is about resource allocation. Allocating your best efforts on clients that aren’t actually going to be valuable is wasting resources.
At the end of the day, once you’ve identified your best clients, it’s easier to focus on them and find more of them.
Enhancing Your Demographic Segmentation
Once you have your ideal client profile, your segmentation work can continue. When you encounter the people in this demographic, you’ll discover that everyone is at different phases of the customer life cycle or journey.
There will be some people who are new to your business. Then you’ll have some who are in the middle, while others foresee their relationship with you coming to an end.
You’ll want to further segment them according to these stages.
With enhanced segmentation, you can create outreach campaigns which target each specific cycle within your targeted demographic. Opportunities arise to speak to your prospects and customers at the exact point of where they are.
That means you can give them the exact thing they need right now.
“When people are interested in a topic,” writes Shari S.C. Chang, “they are more likely to discuss and share messages, thus creating resonance.”
When your sales and marketing efforts hit a bullseye with your ideal customer through customer resonance, it creates the same effect that a large stone does when thrown into a pond.
Refine Your Message & Repeat
Once you are at this stage, the final advantage involves information presentation.
Do you remember the Get a Mac campaign? It ran between 2006-2009 and featured John Hodgman and Justin Long as a PC and a Mac, respectively.
The catchphrase of the advertisement was, “Hello, I’m a Mac.” Which was then followed by, “And I’m a PC.”
Then the two actors would offer a vignette that spoke about the capabilities of each computer – with the emphasis being that the Mac was better, of course.
The advertising campaign won the Grand Effie Award in 2007.
When you approach customers, you need to know if they’re a Mac or a PC. Each has different, specific needs that they want to have met.
Each group requires different information sets about your business to make an empowered decision. A unique marketing effort must be made to the Macs and the PCs of this world to meet their needs.
At the heart of this advantage is a straightforward question: “Does my ideal client prefer this?”
If the answer is positive, then proceed. If not, then stop.
Ideal Customer Profiles and Your CRM: It’s Iterative.
Your ideal customer profile is only as good as the information it contains. Below are three sections of a customer profile.
Not all of the criteria and questions listed above may be relevant for your ideal customer profile.
But you’re not going to know all of the criteria and questions you should be asking right at the start. You need to start the process by examining your current customers and the data you’ve collected on them.
Your CRM is the first place you should start. As you start to see patterns emerge, you may be surprised by some. Why are most of our best Porsche buyers left-handed? Why do most of our milkshakes get sold in the morning? You’ll want to dig deeper on certain issues.
You may notice trends that suggest you should be collecting certain information in your CRM that you’re not collecting now. As you collect that information and test different marketing, sales and customer service strategies, further data collection and analysis needs will present themselves.
The key thing to remember is that a thorough ideal client profile informed by data is a valuable, valuable asset for your business.