Let's first start with what we mean by an 'ideal client' versus a 'target audience.' An 'ideal client' is the client you most wish to work with to grow your business. It would be best to understand what they want, need, fear, value, and more.
A 'target audience' is the specific group of people or businesses you want to work with to grow your business. This group would be of those who share similar characteristics to your 'ideal client.'
So, if you have been wondering who your 'target audience' is, you must first start with who your 'ideal client' is for your business. And just like an 'ideal client' cannot be everyone, neither can your 'target audience.'
Clarity about whom you aim to serve is one of the most important things you can do for your business. It informs your business, brand, and relevant content marketing strategies.
And being selective about whom you serve does not exclude anyone from hiring you unless you want to be exclusive. Instead, it focuses your business efforts on an audience most likely to need or want your business.
But to understand the characteristics of your 'ideal client' and the audience they belong to, you must conduct market research.
Conducting market research means collecting and analyzing demographic and psychographic information on potential and current clients. The information you collect will help you to communicate relevant messaging effectively.
So, Where Do You Start?
You can start by having an honest discussion with yourself. Who is your 'ideal client'? Whom do you want to serve if you could only help one person for as long as your business is operational?
Again, this assessment of whom you want to serve will give you an idea of your target audience's similar needs or characteristics, like demographics and behaviors. You can use this information to make effective marketing strategies.
With this focus, you will understand your target audience well enough to position yourself in a relatable way to them through messaging and visuals.
Could you have more than one target audience? Yes. But the target audiences you want to serve should match the size of your organization. For example, it might be in your best interest to have one target audience if you are a one-man-band.
Catering to this one particular audience will make it easier for you to establish an internal brand. You will also develop content and messages that speak powerfully to your audience, as a result, form your brand identity, and frame your marketing strategy.
Demographics vs. Psychographics
Now, let's revisit demographics. Standard demographic information you should know about your ideal client would be that person's age, race, sexual orientation, education, employment, marital status, political affiliation, occupation, and income level.
This information can provide critical insight into what matters most to the person you are targeting. It will inform your marketing's creative and content direction, as well.
A key consideration for demographics would be age, as people within the same generation hold common values, beliefs, and attitudes.
While a demographic profile is an excellent foundation for understanding your ideal client, you should not solely rely on it. Instead, expand your research into creating a psychographic profile.
This profile should segment people into what influences or motivates their buying behaviors. You should take beliefs, values, lifestyle, and social status into consideration, too.
This information will allow you to go beneath the surface as to what makes your ideal client tick. What they really want from you on an emotional level and how to market for the most significant marketing return on investment will also become more apparent.
Quantitative vs. Qualitative
You can discover the information above in two ways. You can conduct quantitative research or qualitative research. Quantitative analysis will result in numerical answers to questions. Qualitative research provides you with just content - written, verbal, or non-verbal.
However, qualitative data is best for professional services. Within qualitative information, you will find the critical attitudinal and behavioral insights needed to create a brand strategy.
You can collect qualitative data from primary research or secondary research. Primary market research involves gathering information from focus groups, surveys, questionnaires, and interviews. This method can provide deep insights into who your ideal clients directly from them.
Secondary market research is existing data you can find on your target audience, usually online. Benefits of secondary research include cost-effectiveness, but nothing quite beats primary data.
What to do with this information?
With all the information above, you can understand who your ideal client is and the target audience you are targeting to grow your business.
You can then create a client profile or a semi-fictional character representing your 'ideal client.' This profile should include this client's wants and needs, attitudes, challenges, demographics, and behaviors.
And when you market your service, you should have them in mind. Better yet, create all your marketing as though it is just for this profile. This approach is the best way to give your potential clients the right messaging signals to increase their chances of doing business with you.