Chances are you put a lot into your business. In addition to actual operation, you market, chase after leads, deal with plumbing issues, and a manage a whole host of other tasks.
If you’re expending all that effort, then, why don’t you feel like you’re making any traction? Perhaps you haven’t found your Dream Customer yet.
“That sounds romantic,” you say. But it’s not. Let me explain.
Your Dream Customer (also known as an client avatar or marketing persona), is a fictional person you create as a sounding board for the customers you want to attract in real life. Unlike an avatar or marketing persona, however, it’s not only about demographics or psychographics - it’s also about what they’re like to work with.
This covers factors like their punctuality, their attentiveness, and the quality of their feedback, of course, but also characteristics like “is a good fit for my services,” or “will be a valued contact moving forward.” They are, in short, the people you make your business worthwhile at the end of the day.
Meeting your Dream Customer, though, requires two things: first, understanding who your Dream Customer is, and second, committing to working with them.
Who are Dream Customers?
The web has lots of resources to help you understand who your Dream Customer is, but you can come up with a profile on your own just sitting down, asking yourself “Who is my ideal customer?” and starting to write.
Don’t leave out something just because it seems insignificant. Dive deep into their character and traits. How old are they? What are their goals? What are their fears? What sort of books do they like to read? And, most importantly, what traits do they have that makes them satisfying to work with?
Armed with this information, you’ll be able to evaluate prospective customers to see how well they match what you want. Of course, no one is going to match perfectly. Maybe your prospective customer is an inattentive 20-year-old male, while your theoretical Dream Customer is 40, female, and on-the-ball. But your intuition will tell you which differences are important, and which aren’t.
As an example, Belt Creative once upon a time tried to exclusively target high-value contracts with large corporations — and we hated it. After some soul searching, we realized that we most enjoy working with go-getting entrepreneurs and small business owners — the sort of people who want to be involved in their digital marketing strategy, but might not know where to begin.
We also like our customers to be timely. But does that mean we’ll turn someone away just because they take a few days to respond to an email? Not at all. To us, the kind of work is more important than the rapidity -- and to you, some things will be more important than others.
It’s an Exclusive Relationship
The challenge is, we all feel obligated to take any business that comes floating our way. That’s the American way, right?
Unfortunately, with that attitude, when your Dream Customer does come along, you’re booked up, or burned out, and can’t make the most out of the relationship. And that’s almost worse than not having a Dream Customer to begin with.
You’ve got to commit, then. You’ve got to commit to minimizing the number of non-Dream Customers you take on, so that when a good one does come along, you have the time and space for them.
Once you know who they are, then you incorporate your Dream Customer into your brand messaging
Building a brand can be tough. Before you can develop a strategy to go after those dream customers, you need to know what your goals are. When it comes to brand development, the key questions to ask yourself are… What strategies are others using? Who is my ideal customer? What makes me unique? How do I want to be seen?
First you need to research, research, and more research.
“What brands or organisations inspire mine?”
It’s helpful to take a look at what experts in your field are doing. How do they present their image to their audience? Do they communicate formally or casually? What sorts of design decisions did they make? How do they personalise their customer service?
Once you find several high-quality examples, compare them to your own brand. What strategies are they using that you would like to imitate, and how would you like to diverge and set yourself apart?
If you are working with a designer, providing examples of brands you like and/or dislike can be very helpful as they work with you to craft your identity.
Then you really need to put yourself in your Dream Customer’s shoes.
“What does my Dream Customer look like?”
In order to visualise your Dream Customer, it’s often helpful to list what an individual customer might be like. Be sure to cover things such as:
- Am I going after a consumer or someone who owns another business?
- What are their hobbies and interests?
- How much disposable income do they have?
- Are they local or visiting from somewhere else?
The next step is to hone your focus. Be the neon-orange pegasus in a sea of horses.
“What is the one thing that makes my business unique?”
This question is critical. For example, there are many photography businesses — but there are fewer photographers that specialise in pet photography. Even fewer yet that know the best places to take pet photos, or have the best dog treats and so on…
Whatever it is that makes your business unlike any other, find it, write it down, and then shout it from the rooftops — or at least from all of your marketing materials. Otherwise, you’ll always be competing with other businesses on price and reputation — which is never an effective long-term strategy.
Once you’ve determined what your brand can offer to your Dream Customer, who you’re offering that to, and what makes your offering unique, you should market yourself to match.
A trap I’ve seen many businesses run into is that they try to be all things to all people. When you are first starting out, your instinct may be to market yourself as the “everything” business (after all, the wider you cast your net, the more likely you are to land a customer, right?). However, if the answer to “what do you do?” in your field is currently “everything,” then it’s time to narrow your focus.
Don’t forget to strut your stuff!
“How do I want to be seen?”
The phrase “perception is everything,” is spot on when it comes to branding yourself to attract your Dream Customer. Presentation matters. Study after study shows that people have a visual bias and that we make evaluative decisions (often more than we’d like to admit) based on first impressions.
Free, cheap, and/or DIY options can be tempting when first starting a business, but they come with their own cost that may not be immediately apparent. Poorly executed design decisions can leave a bad lasting impression that your brand is one that “cuts corners,” which can be hard to shake off as your business grows.
Conversely, investment in quality marketing materials (such as an original logo design, website, strategy, etc.) are an investment in your business long-term. A well-executed marketing and design strategy will provide a value that’s far greater than the upfront cost. Developing a relationship with a professional strategist and having marketing materials with modern, beautiful design will create a favourable and lasting first impression.
After all that, you may be wondering…
“Do I need a website / website redesign?”
This is the question I’m asked most often by businesses just starting out, and with very few exceptions the answer is always yes. Many businesses today feel that a social media presence is enough to get the word out online. While social media is a phenomenal marketing tool, it is not a substitute for a website with a well-implemented conversion strategy.
Having a Facebook page is like having a booth at a farmer’s market, and a website is like having a dedicated storefront. While you’ll get a lot of foot traffic on Facebook, the visitors there are distracted by a million other businesses vying for their attention. Your website is the place where your audience goes to engage with your brand. It is your space to showcase what you have to offer, free of distractions.
It’s worth mentioning that a well designed website has a strategy, and each page has a clear goal. Directing a customer towards a website to generate general “awareness” is a waste of both your own and your customer’s time (AND MONEY!).
Building off the store analogy, if you are bringing in thousands of customers to your store who look at your content and who then leave without doing anything, you’ll go out of business. Similarly, a great website should drive your audience toward an action — that may be purchasing a product, downloading a resume, or getting directions to your location.
A great way to build your brand and attract your Dream Customer is to take a look at other brand strategies, look into your target audience, and decide on how to focus your marketing efforts. Once you’ve done that, work to build quality marketing materials like a great logo and a website with a conversion strategy. From there, you’ll be set up to make a lasting positive impression on your audience.