Who’s Your Ideal Client?

At two different coffee meetings, I ask two designers to tell me who their ideal client is. Both answer confidently.

Andy tells me this: “I can do it all – logos, print, graphic design, web – and in all kinds of industries.”

Beth tells me this: “I excel at serving clients who either need to build a visual identity from the ground up or completely overhaul an existing one, and then apply it across multiple media. My expertise is particularly deep in B2B. And my minimum for an integrated project is $20,000.”

Assume that Andy and Beth have similar backgrounds and skill sets. Which of the two would occupy a more precise place in your mind? Which of the two would be easier to refer colleagues to, even given Beth’s price point? Which do you think will have a more successful business?

Andy and Beth don’t actually exist, though their words are verbatim samples of actual chats I’ve had with designers.  (And are reflective of answers I’ve heard from entrepreneurs, consultants and brand managers.)  Our Beth has done something that our Andy hasn’t: She’s made a choice.

Your Ideal Client or Customer: Any Choice Is Better Than No Choice

Andy’s approach is rooted, on a certain level, in fear.  “I don’t want to miss out on any business,” the thinking goes, “so I’ll say that I can satisfy everyone.”

The trouble with his approach is that it ignores how people think.  The human mind requires context in which to place new information.

You and I don’t know what Andy is expert at, or even what to compare him to. His prospects will have the same problem. Since he’s not made clear how he’s different from the dozens of designers we may know, we have nowhere to mentally file him.  And he’ll rapidly fall out of our consideration sets.

Beth, on the other hand, takes a more narrow approach. The paradox is that it’s also more effective.

Based on just three sentences, I know not to refer prospects that can’t afford her – so she wastes less time on futile pitch meetings and proposals.  And I know her sweet spot: Should a colleague in B2B be seeking a new visual identity, I can say, “I know the person for the job.”  If Beth maintains her focus, she will, over time, become known as an expert.

Clarity Is the Key

In short, Beth has defined who her ideal client is, and Andy has not.  If she’s chosen wisely, this decision alone will make Beth significantly more successful than Andy.

Beth and Andy are designers, but the lesson applies to services, brands and businesses of all stripes. So how do you build an ideal client or target profile?  I’ll address that in my next post.

Need help defining exactly who you serve (and how)?  Three Deuce Branding can help.

About Matthew Fenton: Matthew helps challenger brands to focus, grow and win.  Since founding his consultancy, Three Deuce Branding, in 1997, he’s helped hundreds of brands to achieve “brand clarity.”  His consulting services and speaking engagements help brands to focus on what matters through positioning, strategy and ideation.  Contact Matthew here.  He calls Chicago home.

Copyright 2013 – Matthew Fenton.  All Rights Reserved.  You may reprint this article with the original, unedited text intact, including the About Matthew Fenton section.