More, more, more.
That’s what we’re used to thinking about with business: more followers, more subscribers, more sales, more revenue.
But it’s quality, not quantity, that will actually help your business grow.
You’ve probably heard of the concept of “niching down”—specializing in a product or service rather than trying to do all the things—and that concept also extends to your customers.
Instead of being everything for everyone, focus on your ideal customer. The person who cares so deeply about what you’re creating that they’re going to DM you with how excited they are for it to arrive. The person who eagerly tells their friends about their new favorite shop. The person who reshares your social post or forwards your emails.
That’s who is going to grow your business.
How to identify them? We talked with two creators to find out.
Why you need to define your ideal customer
For Boston-based fitness creative Maddie Biron and her sister-slash-business partner Carly Biron, launching a virtual personal training offering and opening a physical gym during a pandemic took clarity—and that meant knowing exactly who they planned to serve.
“People aren’t going to work with you if they don’t click with you,” says Maddie Biron. “We have over 100 pre-recorded virtual classes, do virtual personal training, and offer in-person services at a gym we own in Framingham, Massachusetts. For someone to sign up with us, our clients have to understand who we are as people.”
Their business model is built on repeat customers—after all, one training session isn’t going to create any measurable change in your physical fitness. Even with multiple formats, they’re still focused on niching down to a subset of clients that like to work out regularly and want to be held accountable by a coach.
With any kind of creative business, you need to think of your customers as people, not numbers in a spreadsheet. That’s obvious for a fitness business, where the Birons see a hundred different clients over the course of a week. But even if your business looks different, you still have a responsibility to your audience and community to serve them wherever you can.
The only way to do that is to know who they are in the first place.
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How to define your ideal customer
Whether you have thousands of customers or are just starting out, the first place to look for your ideal customers is within yourself. Lead with your values and who you want to be—in business, but also as a creative person. There are no “right” answers here. It’s about who you are and what you’re creating.
“You want to take your values into account,” says Biron. “Not just your business values, but also who you are, and hold strong to those. It sounds so corny, but staying true to yourself is really the most important thing.”
Food entrepreneur Hannah McKitrick focuses on what motivates her customers to sign up with her in the first place. “My brand is playful,” she says. “I teach virtual cooking classes to help alleviate the stress of what’s for dinner. I want to work with people who feel overwhelmed or hate cooking, so I can show them how to cook meals loaded with nutrients that also taste like it came from a restaurant.”
It may seem counterintuitive in a business setting, but what really defines your ideal client is how they’re feeling. What is their emotional or mental state when they come to you? Are you solving a problem, fulfilling a need, or making their day brighter?
“Openness is a big one for me,” says McKitrick. “My goal is to add a little more joy and lightness into people’s lives through food. I’m looking for a desire to connect with my ideal client. Half the magic of my program is getting to know one another virtually, and watching people support one another as they learn.”
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Not everyone is your ideal client, and that’s ok
If it’s easier, start with who your ideal client isn’t. Check for alignment:
- How they engage with you. Have they been following you on social media, or a member of your email list, for some time?
- How it makes you feel when you work with them. Do they drain you or excite you?
- How they speak with you. If you’re working 1:1 with someone or in a small group setting, are they resonating with your message or challenging you? It’s fine if they want to hear more about prices or logistics, but if it feels like they don’t “get” what you’re offering, it may not be a fit.
If it’s not your ideal client, have the courage to let them go. “I had a conversation last week, and I’m not going to follow up,” says McKitrick. “This person really wanted to know how to lose weight, and that’s not my ideal client. When I start to hear questions like that, I know they’re not going to be happy with what I’m offering. I don’t do strict meal plans or macros. I’m not going to try and convince someone into my point of view.”
Biron agrees. “You can really sense when people are 100% ready to commit to you and when they’re motivated,” she says. “There’s only so much you can do to get them there. You can’t provide that inner motivation. You can only reach out so many times before it’s just not going to work out, and that’s ok.”
How to find your ideal clients
Your ideal clients are out there. You just have to find them.
Once you’ve defined your ideal customer, think about their day-to-day life. What spaces do they occupy, either virtually or in person? It may be in a place you own, like your email list, but it can also be within the broader community. For example, Biron runs ads on various local news websites in addition to social media ads, because that’s where her ideal customers are.
The point is, get creative with it, and lead with where your customer is. “I’ve done a lot of collaborations, surrounding myself with like-minded people,” says McKitrick. “I’ll do cooking classes for other programs, for fitness instructors, or for nutritionists. It’s a way to dive deeper into my story in front of people who might be my ideal customer.”
Don’t be afraid to try marketing tactics that don’t scale. Your ideal clients are the ones that are going to want to go deep with you, and so they’re worth that red-carpet effort.
“We’ve found success in Instagram, not in posting all the time but in being ourselves,” says Biron. “We’ll often do one-off reach-outs through DMs to people that interact with our stories or posts a lot when we’re running a discount program or free trial. It works so much better because then they know we’re real people behind our Instagram handle.”
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Of course, if you do something like this, you don’t have to make 100% of the process so manual. Instead, set up behind-the-scenes mechanics using link pages and customized landing pages specific to those offers through ConvertKit so once those reach-outs do commit, you can easily drop them into your customer onboarding.
What this looks like for your marketing strategy
Every single customer won’t be your ideal customer. Or you may have one or two types of ideal customers. That’s ok.
The secret to making this work for your marketing strategy is segmentation.
The 80/20 rule applies with ideal clients. The more of a fit they are with what you do or sell, the more likely they’ll return again and agai —making them much more valuable to your business than someone just passing through.
When it comes to email marketing, taking the extra time to craft a message specifically for your ideal customers matters in the long run. For example, McKitrick plans to launch two different newsletters, one for prospects and one for clients. The more information she knows about them, the more tailored she can make the recipes, techniques, and news she sends.
For Biron, it’s about offering multiple ways to engage to try and deepen the relationship. “We’ll post a note on our social media page encouraging followers to drop their email, and we send them tailored news and updates about what we’re doing. That’s one way we funnel them into our subscription service.”
Biron keeps their email communication super relevant, especially for one-off campaigns promoting special events or new offers. “We plan our campaigns around what we’re offering and if there are any changes, but we try to keep it to what our customers want to see, like sending out a gift guide in December,” says Biron. “We have about 300 people on our email list, and our open rate is around 80%.”
It’s easy to get caught up in big numbers. 300 isn’t a huge email list size, but with an 80% open rate and such high-quality engagement, they’re getting more out of that list than they ever would with a 1500-person list where there’s only a 2% open rate (the average for most brands.)
Beyond one-off campaigns and newsletters, think about the entire customer experience and send your customers what they care about the most. That’s what determines your email flows. Take a welcome email, for example. For any new clients, you want to validate their choice in investing with you, especially if you have a subscription or coaching model.
Says McKitrick, “I want them to get all set up in the online portal, make sure they know what time classes take place, and what we’re going to be cooking. Then, 24 hours before, I send out a reminder to set up the kitchen and make sure you have certain ingredients prepped before class starts. But really, I want to reinforce that they’re doing the right thing and to get them excited and committed before it begins.”
She also sends weekly cooking lists and reminders based on the course curriculum. “My clients told me a shopping list is the most helpful, so I send that along with the recipes ahead of time since I like to do touchpoints throughout the week,” she says.
The better you can make that customer experience, the more validated your clients will feel—and the more likely they’ll shout about how great you are to their networks, which ultimately grows your business.
The best part? All of this can be automated easily with tools like ConvertKit, so once you plan out your email strategy for new clients, you can rest easy knowing they’re getting the information they need, when they need it.
The key to sustainable business growth is knowing (and serving) your ideal clients
The better you can serve your ideal clients, the more your business will grow. You don’t need to go through a frantic cycle of more, more, more to be able to see your business take off.
“I poured my heart and soul into the experience of this program,” says McKitrick. “I know I just have to trust that the right people will find me who need to find me. Once they join the program, often, they post all about their food and new friends they make, and that gets other people excited. I’ve done the work to make my program as amazing as it can be, but it’s my ideal clients that really help me grow.”
As scary as it can be to take a step back from the cycle of more, experiment with what it looks like to niche down into your ideal clients—who they are, and how you serve them—and you’ll be surprised at what that can do for your business.
ConvertKit makes it easy to find and cultivate those relationships. Share what you love to connect with your followers and grow your business with a free ConvertKit account. Learn more.