Let’s start with a basic fact: EVERYONE is not your customer. Sure it would be wonderful if every person, everywhere wanted to buy your product, but that isn’t really how it works.  For every product or service, there are individuals or groups which share common traits or needs who are most likely to buy your product or service.

If you want to run a profitable business you need to find those people.  Just to be clear, when you define an ideal customer it won’t prevent you from selling to other people. The definition of an ideal customer simply allows you to make good choices about your product designs and marketing messages so you will be even more appealing to these ideal clients.

If you want to “speak their language” you need to really get to know your ideal customers. Take time to find words and phrases which match up with their most pressing issues and they will be more likely to respond positively to you, your product, and your company.

This idea of directing marketing to an ideal customer is not new.  Advertising agencies have used a version of this technique for generations. What is new, is the idea of building a customer persona which moves beyond just age, income and lifestyle.

What is a Customer Personas?

This is a  general description of your ideal customer. Looking beyond simple observable characteristics, you invent a fictional person with a name and a photo.  You round out their backstory with a description of their interests, concerns and even their hobbies. These additional details transform your ideal customer into a real person.  As your marketing team imagines talking to this one person, it is significantly easier for them to create ads, select social media platforms, and write blog posts and newsletters.  The final result is content which really hit home with your ideal customer.

No, you can’t just guess as you build your personas.  These descriptions of your ideal customer should be built on research and conversations with real customers.

What about people you don’t want to sell to?

For a business owner trying to grow, it seems strange to think about clients you don’t want. But in some industries, there are customers which don’t make sense. In those cases, it may actually make sense to write a negative or “exclusionary” — persona. These personas might include

  • Companies which are too big or too advanced for your product or service.  For example, my firm, Roundpeg, builds WordPress websites.  When large companies with very complex websites reach out to us, we need to turn them down.  It just isn’t in our skill set. Know that on the front end allows us to target our marketing messages to dissuade these companies, and attract more of the mid-size, retail and service companies we serve best.
  • Customers who are too expensive to acquire or service because of their proposal requirements, low average sale price, or payment terms.  One of the best examples is government projects. While they can be very profitable, the sales process and payment schedule can be crippling for many small firms. We avoid that type of project as well.

Defining your non-ideal customer can save you lots of time and effort pursuing the wrong projects.

How Many Customer Personas?

Your business might have more than one persona. Just remember if personas are really different, you will need to create custom messages and marketing directed at each one. This can become very complex and overwhelming for most companies.

Our suggestion, start small, with 2 or 3 relevant personas. If you find yourself frequently trying to blend two messages, split the persona. If you can’t figure out different messages, you may need to combine some of your personas.

What does a Customer Persona Include?

There are four main sections to a Persona: The Who, The What, The Why, and The How. Using data from surveys and your interactions with real customers, divide your market into segments and build a persona for each segment. It may take a while to answer all the questions. Don’t rush the process, it is important to get it right because you will use this profile throughout your marketing.

Who is your ideal customer?

This first section defines the identifiable characteristics. This can include:

  • DEMOGRAPHICS – Gender, Age, Income, Location, Family – These are the typical targeting details.  They are the starting point for your persona but don’t stop here.  Dig Deeper!
  • BACK STORY – Job, Career Path, Education – Everyone has a back story.  Think of your customer persona like a movie. Sure you only see the events that occur in a specific time frame, but what brought the actors to that moment in time.  Knowing a little about that will help you predict the future needs of your ideal customer.
  • IDENTIFIERS – Personality, Communication Preferences

Bring your profile to life by selecting a name and a stock image to help everyone see your persona as a real person.

What is important to your ideal customer?

Now that you have a person in mind it is time to think about what is important to them.

  • GOALS – What are they trying to achieve professionally?
  • CHALLENGES – What are the obstacles standing in their way?
  • WHAT CAN WE DO? – How does your product or service help your person achieve goals and overcome challenges?

Why will your ideal customer buy or not buy your product?

Now it is time to get inside the head of your ideal client.

  • THEIR WORDS – Bring the person to life by including real quotes from surveys and conversations.
  • COMMON OBJECTIONS – Even the best good salesperson faces objections, so you have probably heard lots of reasons why someone won’t buy your product. Collect the most common ones and write responses. Address those concerns head-on and your ideal customer is likely to respond with yes.

How will you tell your story to your ideal customer?

Once you have defined your customer, understand their challenges, likely objections, and how you solve their problem(s), it is time to create unique marketing messages for each persona which speak to their concerns, objectives, and fears.

  • POSITION STATEMENT – This one sentence summarizes who your customer is, what they want and how you help them. This is often just an internal message and not advertising copy.
  • MARKETING MESSAGE – In one sentence, describe your solution. Often this becomes your tagline.
  • ELEVATOR PITCH – This is a more detailed description of your services.

Putting the pieces together

Now that you have your outline, the rest is up to you.  Have some fun.  Be creative and think about your customers as real people. You will be glad you did


Lorraine Ball

Lorraine Ball

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