Have you ever been to a networking group? I love networking groups. Mostly because they’re always at breakfast time and I love breakfast. In particular, I love Smitty’s breakfasts because Smitty’s has a skillet made almost entirely of meat and THEN you can get a side of sausage. I am part time vegan but when I’m not vegan, I’m REALLY not vegan. There are lots of other things I love about networking groups. It’s very interesting to meet people from a variety of fields and to hear about their wins and losses, pleasures and pains. It is a great lesson in human behavior and if you listen carefully, you’ll learn a LOT. But there is one question that is asked at networking group after networking group that drives me bonkers.

“Who Is Your Ideal Client?”

Don’t get me wrong. Knowing who your client is should be the focus of your entire marketing campaign. If you don’t know who you’re selling to…well…it makes it tough. My issue is with the word “ideal”. Why would that be a problem? Isn’t it important for you to know who you are trying to sell to? Actually, no. Who you ARE selling to is a very different question than who you WANT to sell to. When you’re setting up your business, certainly you’ll have a target market of people that you think will be an ideal fit for your business. But as time goes on, you need to shift that thinking from what you want to what the client wants.

Some people might suggest that this takes the power away from you as the seller. There’s a movement in business for companies to say no to customers they don’t want. I support that. 100%. There are people and companies that I will not work for. BUT I still acknowledge that they may be attracted to my services. If they’re willing to meet my terms, in full, then great. My terms are pretty specific and if clients can’t hold up their end of the bargain, it’s ok (and actually pretty awesome) to fire them. What I’m suggesting in this is that you cannot, I repeat CANNOT, make people like you. So when you are talking about your ideal client, just understand that THAT person DOESN’T exist.

My ideal client is a human, aged 18-99, with an income over $250k, a great idea and no business or technological acumen. It’s true. That’s my ideal client. They’re a person, who has a lot of money, who needs my help. They’re my ideal client. But you can’t market to that demographic. I mean you can, but you might as well shout your demands underwater because no one is going to hear you. So how do you figure out who your actual clients are? Well, you start by asking them.

If you have clients, offer them a freebie, a discount, a gift, whatever, if they’re willing to answer some questions for you. Craft those questions carefully. There are a ton of resources on personas (which is what your clients are called in this situation) and if you really need help, there are a lot of companies that can help out. COUGH. COUGH. Have your clients tell you about themselves. This isn’t stuff you can get from their buying habits. I’m not talking about how often they come in for a haircut. I’m talking about their level of education, how many kids they have, where they like to shop for groceries. If you ask enough of the right people enough of the right questions, you’ll start to notice some patterns. You’ll find out that you’ve got a lot of 43 year old clients that are educated, have two kids and like to golf. They don’t like wasting their time and they’ll pay more for a service if it saves them time. They’re afraid of long-term commitments. They hate mail. THAT is ONE of your clients. Even if there are 63 of them, they are ONE of your clients. And you need to target THAT person.

Your content, your packaging, your product, your marketing, your brand needs to be focused on meeting those people where they are. THOSE people want to buy your stuff. They want to love you. They want to build a relationship with you. They want to tell everyone about you. THOSE people will come back, spend more per transaction and gift your stuff. They might not be your ideal client. But they’re your ACTUAL client.

So the next time someone asks you who your ideal client is, educate yourself. Find out who loves you.