There is so much chatter on the internet about ideal customers and it can all be very confusing, as well as often feeling irrelevant. Often we are encouraged to create an Ideal Customer Avatar based on our dream client, but to me and a few folx I have spoken to, this feels weird and fake and kinda pointless.

So how do we actually find out what our audience and customers are like, and why is this helpful information?

Let’s start with why.

Knowing what people like

Knowing what our audience likes about our work and why they are drawn to it helps us understand the qualities within our work that make them tick. As creators, it can be difficult to look at what we do objectively and can make many assumptions about why people engage with it. You could be thinking someone is buying your cushions (yes, I have gotten unnecessarily attached to all of my examples being based around a creator of cushions. Idk why!) because of the print design, when they could actually be buying them because of the colour palette, beacause they are handmade, or because the fabric is ethically sourced. If you know why people buy, you can make sure you produce new products with that in mind!

Knowing people’s values and interests

Understanding the values and interests of your people can be game changing. If you know that many of your clients value certain ethics that you align with, or certain hobbies, interests, events or music, then you have a super useful pool of data. You know that sharing about these interests will resonate with your customers, and also give you new jump-off points when developing ideas. You can also change the demographic of your audience by being vocal about your values and interests, thus attracting customers that you want to be creating things for.

Knowing how people speak about their experience

Having a feel for the exact language your customers use to describe their experiences and pain points really helps you to communicate clearly about the benefits of your work. Putting our cushion making pal aside, i’ll use an example from my own business. When I was first developing my coaching business, I knew I wanted to help freelancers get da money (among other things). The working phrase I had when talking about it was “disrupting the gig economy” which the hardcore nerd in me still thinks sounds mega cool. But if I am a freelancer and I want to be generating more money and avoiding the month-to-month lifestyle, would I use those words? Probably not. When I did my customer research, the people I spoke to said things like “I just want to create a more sustainable income.” So I use those words, and the people I want to engage with my work seem to understand what I am chatting about, and subsequently the launch in lockdown has been successful!

So we know why we need to understand our customers, but how do we go about it?

1. Ask questions EVERYWHERE

People love nothing more than being asked what they want help with and then receiving a well thought out solution. If you are doing research for a new product or service, ask people directly. Do an Instagram poll with a question and two options, for example: Which of these is a bigger challenge for you right now: a. Finding affordable ethical homewares or b. finding the colours and patterns that go with your interior. You can then dm the people who answer to get more info on what is a challenge for them. You acn also ask people in your emails, on stories, in captions, in DM’s…

2. Get people on a call

Find a few customers that seem like ideal customers and ask if they are willing to give 20 minutes to answer some questions in return for a free product or service. Create some interview questions that find out what kind of person they are, what they are interested in, what their problems are in respect to your service/product, where they hang out online, how much they spend on the kind of things you offer, what makes them likely to buy, what puts them off etc… Record (with permission) the interview and put it through an auto-transcript software, then you have the info to refer back to and use snippets of their language and phrasing in your marketing.

3. Create a survey

Craete a simple survey using Google Forms and invite your audience to respond. You can incentivise it with a prize draw but make sure the prize is subject relevant otherwise people who aren’t interested in your product/service will respond just to get the free thing.

4. Get super nosey

People share a lot of information on their public socail media profiles and in my opinion, it’s totally cool to go have a look. Whenever yiou gain a new follower, go and check out their Insta profile and see what kind of interests they have. This is also a great opportunity to engage with people and comment on their posts, which can be a really genuine way of sparking a connection.

Then what?

Create a profile of an ideal customer, or a couple of different ones if your products are meant for different types of people. You can keep this person or people in mind when you’re writing content, designing products and creating new things in yor business. I happen to have an ideal customer who is based on two people that I interviewed for research. I sort of combine them mentally into one person when I write so that I know it will appeal to there different perspectives and speak to their business issues.

Let me know how you get on in the comments below!

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