Guest Post

Who is your Ideal Customer?

March 2, 2021

10 minutes

Sean Copley

By Sean Copley | Plumb and Pixel

I know you’ve heard the phrase “be customer focused.” It’s a term that’s used a lot in organizations- and yes, it’s definitely something we should focus on, but we need to answer a crucial question first…

Who is your ideal customer?

In order to build a strong and healthy brand you need to know who you’re trying to reach. It only makes sense, right? We’re going to dive into this topic of the ideal customer so that you can make better and more defined decisions for your brand, and ultimately connect with “your” customer. There are some other terms you may have heard, like target audience and perfect customer, but we like to call them the ideal customer.

Let’s define what an ideal customer is.

An ideal customer is a person who values what you do, who adds value to your business and brings in new customers.

The good news is you probably already know who your ideal customer is, you just need to define them very specifically. Every decision on marketing, messaging, and customer experience is based on who your ideal customer is. They want to know that you “get them” and you prove that in what you say to them and do for them. So, do not make the same mistake most business owners make by not taking the time and reflection to define this customer.

The cornerstone of your marketing is defining specifically who your ideal customer is.

A funny thing happens when you take the time to do this. As a bonus it can improve your company culture. Something happens when you have a clear picture of who you’re working hard to serve.

You may be thinking, “Can I have more than one ideal customer?” The short answer is yes, but I highly suggest you start with one. It’s more effective to know and market to one ideal customer, then to have several that aren’t fleshed out properly. But later on, as you get the hang of marketing to an ideal customer, you can add ideal customers for different messaging for services and products you offer.

Getting inside the head of your ideal customer is key to knowing them. It’s critical to really understand them so that you can serve them better and solve real problems versus just selling to them. When a customer feels known, they feel valued, and when they feel valued – they return for more. You can only do this if you know them.

So, knowing what your ideal customer thinks about, appreciates, and values will help you communicate your story in a relevant and compelling way that engages with them- in social media, in person, on the phone, wherever you interact.

It also gives you a focus on who you’re sending that tweet out to, that postcard to, that Facebook post to, etc.. You’re not just arbitrarily sending out messages to the world – you have a distinct person in mind now.

Think of it like a relationship. Imagine if on your first date with someone all you did was talk about yourself and didn’t stop to ask questions or listen to your date. I’m pretty sure there wouldn’t be a second date.

Unfortunately, that’s what we do sometimes. We hit people with our cards, brochures, radio ads and our sales pitches…me, me, me. We’re only talking about ourselves. And we’re surprised when they don’t give us the time of day.

When you’re dating, you’re trying to learn more about the person, look for connections and similar likes and values…stuff you have in common. In this day and age people are constantly on guard from advertising. So, we need to approach things differently. Which leads me to my next point, which you may not want to hear. But you need to hear it…

You can’t serve everyone.

Trying to be everything to everyone is expensive and exhausting. You’re wasting time, money and energy and it’s getting you nowhere fast. It’s time to get realistic about your product and the customer you need to reach. It’s not being exclusive; it’s being strategic.

When the marines send in the Special Ops to an area, they don’t spread out and do a bunch of different missions. No, they go in as one group with one very distinct mission. Each soldier knows their role, all with the same goal. When you define and connect to your ideal customer, your brand is like special ops- going in with one mission – to deliver your story to that one person.  It’s focused; it’s been thought through; it’s deliberate.

Your brand is your story, and not everyone is going to connect to your story.

What would happen if you led a book club for historical fiction and you chose a horror story to read? They would leave. Why? It’s the wrong story for that audience. The work in developing your brand and your ideal customer is to find that pool of people that want to hear your story, and that need to hear your story. Then they go and tell others like them to choose you. As we begin the process of defining your ideal customer, sometimes it’s easier to start with the flip side of the question…

Who is NOT my ideal customer?

Whether you’re just starting your business, or you’ve been in business for 20+ years, it’s good to define who you don’t want to do business with.

The customer you don’t want to spend time, energy, and resources trying to attract and connect with are those who:

  1. Don’t need your services or product.
  2. Don’t want your services.
  3. Don’t value your services.

Not to muddy the waters but as a side note: It may be a good exercise to ask yourself “why” for each of these. Why don’t they need, want or value your services? Just in case you need to consider adding to or changing services or marketing your services differently.

But for our purposes here defining who doesn’t need, want or value your services is a great way to weed out people who just aren’t your ideal customer.

Don’t spend valuable marketing dollars trying to reach people who don’t want your services.

Think about people who constantly complain, make demands or have issues with pricing. These are not ideal customers, obviously. They’re not a good fit for whatever reason.

What about coupon clippers, the BOGO people? I’m not talking about people trying to be wise with their money. I’m talking about people who just don’t value what you do enough to pay a fair price. The ones that no matter what you charge they aren’t happy; they aren’t going to be loyal customers. Why be in a race to the bottom in price?

Do you really want to spend time and money on mailings and calls to bring in coupon clippers who aren’t regularly doing business with you? They’ve shown they aren’t loyal anyway- why waste your resources? Fire them as customers and focus on the fans. Yes, you can fire customers.

Spend time, money and energy into wooing and wowing your fans! They love you already, they’re your biggest asset to getting new customers. So why wouldn’t you go the extra mile serving them? It’s cheaper to keep a customer than get new ones, and word of mouth is one of the highest valued leads.

If it helps you, make a list of people who were not ideal customers in the past and why. I’m sure there were several who immediately came to mind. Write down some short thoughts or bullet points on why they aren’t people you want to keep doing business with. By thinking through who your ideal customer is not you’ll quickly narrow down who is.

You’re looking for people who are profitable, who point others towards your business, who praise you to others and who you’re passionate about working for.

I call them P4 customers…

  • They’re profitable because they’re repeat customers, and they trust you.
  • They point others to you when friends and family are looking for what you offer.
  • They praise you by sharing about their experiences with your services.
  • And you’re passionate about serving them because they motivate your team to wow them.

It’s time to play detective and gather data and clues so you can make an educated decision to define your ideal customer. It’s important you take your time and be intentional. It can be a daunting task for some. I mean, you’re basing your marketing strategy on this decision – so feeling some pressure is a good thing.

I’m going to give you seven really good ways to jumpstart the process. By taking a look at the customers you have now, and who you want more of – the better decision you can make.


First,look at your database for characteristics you want more of. For example – profitability, word of mouth referrals, and repeat customers. You’ll need to first define the terms- what is profitable, how many referrals, how many visits in what time period, etc. That way you know what to look for.


Second, do a point-of-sale survey. There are plenty of sample questions online. You get immediate feedback, and the customer feels they have a voice.


Third, send out an online survey. What are they saying? Can you get an idea of what kind of customer they are by reading their answers? This will help in determining who’s loyal, what they think of you, and their experience.


Fourth, read your online reviews on sites like Yelp, Google and Facebook. Then focus on the reviews that are descriptive and positive about your services. That shows they really noticed what you do. That could be an ideal customer. Also periodically categorize the comments and make a note of highlights or places you can improve. This helps with key messages in your marketing.


Fifth, look at people in your social networks online. Are there any influencers? The ones who are always sharing about the great experiences somewhere or highlighting a great product they use. Consider them potential ideal customers, do some research on who they are.


Sixth, and this is such an easy one and most companies don’t do it, take some loyal customers to lunch. Ask them questions about why they chose you over others. Get to know more about their personality. What keeps them up at night? What gets them up in the morning?


Seventh, be listening to how your company is talked about online. Setup alerts for keywords like the name of your business or your name. Be on the lookout for potential ideal customers raving about your business.

All this information will greatly help you define the ideal customer.

Here’s an example of the first step, using your database to find clues. Let’s say your business is automotive repair and maintenance. Take a look for repeat customers over a certain period of time mixed with the total amount spent. Don’t just look at the total spent because some services are very expensive. That doesn’t indicate loyalty necessarily, although it is a good sign of trust. You can build on that too. Also look for those who come in 3-4 times a year over several years. They obviously trust your work because they keep coming back.

Those people are fans!

Now research those loyal fans – the neighborhoods they live in, the number and type of cars they own, and any other info that gives you a “big picture” of those particular groups of people. What kind of jobs do they have? How big is their family? What’s their average yearly income? The more details you discover the better you’ll be able to market directly to them. Use these seven simple suggestions to uncover who your fans are and find out all you can about them. Knowing who you’re trying to reach is a big part of building a strong and healthy brand. You will make better marketing decisions and connect in meaningful ways to your customers as you define and detail your ideal customer.

To your success!

Sean Copley

About Sean Copley

Sean has helped organizations build strong and healthy brands for over 20 years. He does this by helping them communicate who they are verbally and visually and do it consistently with every experience. His latest tool, brandratchet+, is a combination of diagnostics, coaching and course work all fine-tuned to help you build a brand that customers and employees will love. Look for it to launch Spring 2021.

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