Your Ideal Client: Identify
Before we get started, I would like to welcome each of you who are reading this series. I know that each person will be coming into this with their own perspective and will be at different places in their businesses and their creative journey, and that is just fine!
Wherever you are at in your business, my hope is that you will find some helpful tips and concepts in the series that you can take and apply to your own businesses to ultimately help you to book those ideal clients.
In this series, we will look at the concept of Ideal Clients and will break then down in to these topics:
Who is your ideal client? How to figure that out if you do not know.
Where is your ideal client? How to find your ideal clients so that you know where to put your efforts
Your ideal client has to see you and know that you exist. How do we make that happen?
Finally, how can you be serving your ideal client so that when the time comes that they need your services, you are on the forefront of their minds
A few things to note:
As with many things that I write, this will be written with stationers in mind, however many of the concepts and tips could be applied to other industries as well.
As I often say, there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to navigating this issue. I am only one person and someone else may have a differing opinion or have other, better tips on this subject, and that is alright. I think that it is good and helpful to learn from many people so that you can learn what has worked for others and take away the things that resonate with you.
These are my thoughts and some tips that have helped me in my business and I truly hope that you find something that can be helpful to you as well.
Without further ado, let’s jump in to the first lesson!
Identify: Who is your Ideal Client?
Why is it important to know our ideal client?
Not everyone is going to be the right fit for you; not everyone is going to love your work, but that is alright and in fact, it can be a good thing!
When we try to be all things to all people, we are actually diluting our message instead of focusing on what sets us apart from the crowd. When you can identify your ideal clients, you will better understand how to reach them, speak to them, and ultimately, sell to them. After all, we are running businesses.
When you know who your target market is, you can talk directly to them. Talk to those people who love and resonate with your work or even with you as a person. Those who not only want to hear what you have to say, but will ultimately book you or purchase from you and then hopefully go on to tell others about you.
To go further, the more that you know about your ideal client, the more targeted, intentional, and effective you will be in how you present and communicate your brand and market to those specific clients.
Do you know who your ideal client is?
If you do not know who you are selling to, how can you successfully market to them.
It is vital that you know at least some basic information about the clients that you are trying to reach. Who are they? How old are they? Where do they live? How far along in their careers are they? Of course some of these points will be more important than others depending upon what product/s you are offering. For example, if you are selling a digital product, a client’s geographic location may not matter, but if you provide a service locally or regionally, it will be very important.
If you already know who your ideal client is, that is great. If you are unsure or have not yet figured this out, you must take the time to do so.
There are a few ways that you can go about doing this. The depth to which you decide to go will be up to you, depending on what best suits you and your business.
Answer this question - “If an inquiry came in that perfect, what would that inquiry look like?”
Think about opening your inbox to that dream inquiry. Everything is a perfect match to your style and what you want to be doing; the aesthetic is a perfect match to yours, you love the color scheme, the venue is ideal, the vendor team, and the budget is spot on. This will give you a big clue to who your ideal client is.
Of course you have to be realistic with where you are in your career. If you are only just starting out, you will most likely not be booking clients who have hired Jose Villa as their wedding photographer, but if your ideal client is drawn to that fine art aesthetic, that will inform what type of work you need to set out to create and how you will be reaching that client. But that is getting a bit in to the next lessons.
At this stage, just use that dream inquiry scenario as a starting point to inform you as you figure out and get to know your ideal client.
Create a fictitious client
Another exercise is to fill out a questionnaire all about your ideal client. You can get as specific as you like with this exercise. In an episode of the Mirror, Mirror podcast, Brand Designer and Art Director Lauren Ledbetter talks about LuLu Lemon and how they have created a specific ideal client - down to her name and where she shops. If that sounds a little intimidating, don't worry. You do not necessarily have to go that deep, however it can be a great exercise to work through if you are feeling stuck.
Begin with identifying basics such as gender and age range, and then create and answer more questions such as where they live, in a city, small town, or in the country? Do they live in a house or an apartment? What do they do in their free time? What so they splurge on? This will help you get a very clear picture of that client that will be helpful as you move forward.
Find a muse
Often, especially when creating for a personal project or an editorial, I think of either a friend or someone whom I admire on Instagram to be my muse for a particular project. It will be important for this person to have a clearly defined aesthetic in order to be the most helpful.
By this I do not mean looking to another stationer’s style, I mean thinking of a person with a strongly defined aesthetic - say Gwyneth Paltrow - and creating for her. What fonts would I use, what would the layout look like, what colors would appeal to her? You could also use a brand with a strong, cohesive design such as Glossier. Just by bringing the image of that company to mind, you probably could easily come up with a few ideas of how to design for them.
Is there someone that you can think of that embodies your ideal client? This can also be a good place to start.
Think of your ideal vendors
What vendors would you love to work with, whose style mirrors yours, or whose clients have the aesthetic that you want to attract? Coming up with a list of wedding planners, stylists, florists, or photographers that you think that your ideal client would work with, or at least would want to work with, can be quite helpful. Of course vendors work with a variety of clients, but the really good ones usually have a consistency to their style and their work that you can use in thinking of your ideal client.
Perhaps you love Joy Proctor’s elegant, romantic, feminine luxury; or perhaps you are drawn to Tyler Rye’s epic photography with sweeping views and rugged landscapes. Use these to help you to craft the story for your own ideal client.
How well do you know your ideal client?
Once you have begun to identify your ideal client, you will need to get to know them a little more deeply; to learn what they love, what they are drawn to, how they think, how they purchase, what is important to them, etc.
If someone asked you who is your ideal client, would you have a good answer that you could give without much thought, or would you feel stuck and not really know what to say? If you could not answer this question fairly quickly and easily, the chances are that it may serve you well to revisit that ideal client.
Do you have a general, vague idea of who that ideal client is or do you know very specific details about that individual or couple?
In time, as you identify your ideal client and begin to create for that specific audience, you will continue to gain clarity on exactly who they are. It can be extremely helpful to know every detail about your client, however it can also sometimes be limiting to keep an extremely narrow view of who you want to work with.
Let’s look a little more closely at this idea.
Getting very specific
Personally, I am of two minds when it comes to how specific you should get in regards to the picture of your ideal client.
On one hand, I think that there is tremendous value in creating a very specific ideal client, especially if you are designing for a styled shoot or for a personal project for your portfolio. When we have a clear picture of the person for whom we are creating, it gives that work much more depth than if we simply try to create something pretty. Not that there is anything wrong with pretty, but pretty can be enhanced when there is meaning behind it.
When you know that your ideal client is outdoorsy and loves to be in nature, but also has a very girly side and is always going to be wearing colorful active wear and bright athletic shoes, you will probably not be designing in all neutrals, but will want to incorporate a few more colorful elements that evoke different sides of who she is.
Keeping things a bit more open
On the other hand, I think that people can get caught up in this intense “ideal client questionnaire” and could end up limiting themselves and not considering clients that may actually be a good fit for them. While it is good to have some specifics, I would also encourage you to also have a more general list for your overall ideal client, especially when it comes to deciding upon which real life clients to work with.
For me, while I do have a very clear picture of my ideal client, even down to the type of clothes and interiors that they are drawn to, not every client that I work with may fit that mold - and it does not mean that they are not a good fit for me.
My more general list includes things such as, appreciates stationery and details, values simplicity, has a budget over $X, is working with a planner, trusts my expertise, etc.
Values simplicity could mean spidery calligraphy on warm toned handmade paper, or crisp clean typography with negative space on clean edged stock. So you see just because a client did not fit a super specific “loves warm tones, linen, and organic handmade paper” does not mean that that client may not be a good fit for me.
I have had wonderful clients whose style may not have fit into the specific box that I had created for my ideal client, but they loved my work, trusted me as a designer, were willing to pay what I was asking, and we were able to create something beautiful and meaningful for them.
You must not only know them, but also know what they need
In addition to knowing your ideal client and who they are, you must know what they need so that you can present them with the solution. When you know what they need, then you can begin to work on communicating that you have the ability to fill that need.
The more targeted the need, the more directly you will be able to speak to that exact client. Clients who needs a wedding invitation is a much larger pool than clients who want a romantic heirloom wedding invitation suite with watercolor artwork.
Another example: If your ideal client is a new business owner in the creative field who needs a logo and loves romantic calligraphy, it is easy to see that you need to be targeting newer businesses and demonstrating that you are an expert in logo designs that include your beautiful calligraphy. This may mean that you work on a few personal projects (aka “fake" clients”) to show logo designs in your portfolio because why would someone come to you to design a logo for them if you are not showing that you design logos?
Whatever it is that you have identified as a need for your target audience - you will then begin to create work and showcase projects that offer those solutions.
A few things to keep in mind
Your ideal client may not be you
One thing that you will want to consider is that your ideal client may not be you. It is easy to assume that we are our ideal client, and in terms of aesthetic, we may be, however the work that you create may not necessarily mirror your own personal style.
You may have more than one ideal client
If your business has different branches or you offer different services, then you will probably also have more than one type of target client. If you offer calligraphy services as well as logo design services, you will need to identify your ideal calligraphy client as well as your ideal client for your logo design.
Your ideal client may change
As time passes and you continue to refine and hone your particular style, it is possible that your ideal client may shift. This may be in terms of their budget, their artistic style, or many other ways. This is a natural progression of us as artists that as we evolve, so will our target market. It is good to reevaluate every so often.
To wrap this lesson up, we have learned:
Why it is important to know our ideal client:
To be able to create, communicate, and market to them in a way that will be effective and will attract them and resonate with them.
Figuring out who our ideal client is:
Think of your dream inquiry, create a questionnaire, draw inspiration from a muse, think of another parallel vendor’s clients
Going deeper to get to know our ideal client
Figure out what resonates with them and what they need so that you can speak to that and solve a problem. Also remember not to get too caught up in an extremely specific example but to establish some broad overall values.
Once you have this information, it will make the next steps so much easier, more effective, and hopefully - more profitable in the end!
Have questions? Feel free to reach out!