Why Defining Your Ideal Customer Is Holding You Back

Why defining your ideal customer is holding you back and what to do about it. For entrepreneurs and small business owners who struggle with defining their ideal customer avatar - this is for you.

Raise your hand if you've ever been told to create an ideal customer avatar (ICA).

(raises hand)

Raise your hand if you really know what the hell your ICA actually needs and wants?

(eh, not really)

To be honest, I think avatars are kind of dumb.

If making up an imaginary person and creating a profile will help you understand what your ideal clients / customers want – then good for you.

But for most people – this makes no sense.

Why Defining Your Ideal Customer Is Holding You Back

If you want to sell your products and services to real live human beings, how is making up a fake persona really going to help you? I've never really been into make believe (unless you count reality tv, in which case I am really into that), so maybe that's where the disconnect is for me, but I KNOW I'm not the only one who feels this way.

Let me be clear though –

I do think it's important to have a target audience. 

If you are trying to sell to everyone, you are probably selling to no one. And even if you think you are selling to a specific group of people (like “stay at home moms” / “creative entrepreneurs” / “dog owners”) – you should probably get MORE specific. Having a target audience will help you tremendously when it comes to your branding, your marketing strategy, your copy, and the products and services you offer. 

If you're just starting out and you don't REALLY know who your ideal audience is – that's ok. But when you focus on attracting, relating, and selling to a target audience – everything is easier. And more effective.

So how do you figure out who your target audience is if you have no idea who they are?

#Realtalk – I have a hard time believing anyone when they say they have no idea at all. Maybe you're indecisive and don't want to commit to a particular group or maybe your business is so new that you don't want to turn away potential customers by focusing on a target audience – but the more specific your messaging is, the more relatable it is. 

My honest advice?
Just start somewhere.

Pick one. You can always change it later.

That's the beauty of owning your own business. If you decide that you want to focus on creating brand identities for millenial food photographers and in a few months you realize you actually hate food photography because it makes you hungry ALL THE TIME, you can decide to change things up.

If you've been in a business for a while, you can probably identify the types of people you've enjoyed working with. Who are the clients that have turned into friends? Who can you relate to the best?

Not sure where to start? Start with yourself. 

Personally, I want to work with people like myself.

Lipstick wearing entrepreneurs who left corporate life to do something more creative. They care about aesthetics, they value planning / systems, they want to build empires, and they also probably love puppies + Bravo tv. I “get” them – because I'm like them! 

My target audience is similar to me, but not ME – so maybe you're “me” a few years ago – working a corporate job with a side hustle and hoping to turn it into a full time career. Maybe you're “me” several months ago (before I cracked the Instagram code and figured out how to rapidly grow a profitable following), and you want your pet to be insta-famous too. Or maybe you're “me” now, and have the same values / interests / audience, but your strengths are design + development whereas mine are marketing + sales.

Chances are, you probably want to work with people like yourself too. It just makes sense. And it also makes it easier to develop content that's helpful and relatable, because you can put yourself in your “former shoes” to think about the types of things that would have appealed to you before you got to where you are today.

Having a target audience will help you tremendously when it comes to your branding, your marketing strategy, your copy, and the products and services you offer. Click To Tweet

What if you don't want to work with people who are like you?

Well that's weird.

Kidding. It's probably more of an opposites attract type of situation, which makes sense too.

If you don't want to work with people who are like you – who are the types of people you naturally attract? Who are the people you hang out with? Who are the people who could most benefit from your products and services?

Your target audience should be composed of people you actually like that ALSO need your products and services. 

If your target audience is not like you, but is like someone else you know (a friend, parent, sibling, etc.) then instead of creating an avatar to “represent” that person, actually spend time getting to know that person and their peers better so you can really understand what they need.

But what if I REALLY can't pick one person as my target customer?

I never said you should. 

That's another thing that bothers me about the “ideal customer avatar” – most people teach you to create just one. So you make up one fake person with one fake set of needs and that's supposed to help you sell your products and services to a larger group of real life people.

Or not. 

I'm going to mess with your mind and tell you that it's ok to appeal to more than one person. Because the truth is, YOUR BUSINESS HAS TO APPEAL TO MORE THAN ONE PERSON, unless you plan on literally having one customer forever. Not all people are going to buy your products or choose to work with you for the same reason – they don't all have the exact same needs and they don't all want the exact same things. That would be really boring.  

This is NOT an excuse to be all over the place when it comes to your marketing. You shouldn't try to appeal to everyone, and you should still try to get as specific as possible. But if you have a target audience made up of living, breathing people – it's much easier to find where those people hang out, get to know them, and create products and services that help them than to make up one, single avatar and try to find them in Neverland or wherever it is that avatars hang out.

I get it, but I'm still trying to figure things out…

Stop wasting time. Yes, you can figure things out along the way. Maybe you need to work with a few different types of people before you figure out who your target audience is. But don't let defining your target audience stop you from getting started or gaining momentum in your business.


5 Reasons You’re Not Getting More Clients + More Sales

5 reasons you're not getting more clients + more sales. If the idea of being salesy makes you uncomfortable or you feel like you struggling to get noticed online, read this post! Bonus download: 20 ways to stand out + sell more.

Here's a secret for you – I used to be terrified of self-promotion. I even blogged ANONYMOUSLY for years because I was too afraid that people in my real life would not care or be supportive. It's no surprise my first attempt at blogging (almost 7 years ago!) was not so successful because I DIDN'T TELL ANYONE what I was doing. Crazy right?!

I am not the type of person who can put a ton of hours into something “just for fun” so eventually I realized that if I was going to get serious about blogging, I needed to get over my fear of self-promotion. It was hard at first, because at the time I was basically a “lifestyle” blogger and I felt weird being self-promotional about things that were on my shopping wish list or photos from my recent vacation. But once I narrowed my focus to luxury beauty (I used to be a beauty blogger, in case you didn't already know), it was much easier to self-promote because I was reviewing products and actually providing value through my blog posts.

Now that I blog for my business it's actually easy to self-promote because I know that my blog posts are actually helping people AND because more people are finding my blog, I've seen a significant increase in other people promoting my content too!

5 Reasons You're Not Getting More Clients + More Sales

If you're a blogger or online business owner (which I assume most of you are!), and you're still afraid of self-promotion, you NEED to get over it if you want to grow. It's SO MUCH harder to get noticed online if you're not putting yourself out there and selling yourself, your products, and your services.

Yes, I mean SELLING. 

It's a skill – a very useful skill – and one that a lot of people aren't talking about.

I've heard a lot of reasons why people “hate” sales or don't feel like they can be good at it but I'm calling them out because most of these “reasons” are really just excuses. So if you've ever said or thought… 

I need to focus on getting followers / subscribers before I can sell anything

False. Do you interact with humans on a daily basis? Then you're good. The truth is – you don't need a HUGE audience, you need an engaged audience. One of my clients is a photographer who has booked clients through Instagram with less than 100 followers. I had ZERO people on my email list when I booked my first consulting clients. I've also had people with over 1,000 people on their email list hire me to help them find clients. You don't need a large audience to provide value and just because you have a large audience doesn't mean you'll make any money – ok?

I'm not saying numbers don't matter at all (they do). And it WILL probably be easier to get more clients/sell more products if you have more followers/subscribers – but everyone starts somewhere. And you don't have to wait until you have an audience of X number of people before you can start offering your services!

Selling feels sleazy / cheesy / uncomfortable

It doesn't have to. Seriously.

It's sleazy if you're trying to convince someone to buy something they don't need at all. It's cheesy if you sound like a robot or infomercial when you're doing it. It's uncomfortable if you're never done it before or you don't believe in yourself or whatever you are selling.

But you SHOULD believe in whatever you're selling and since that's the case, you can have genuine conversations with prospective clients that lead them to invest in a relationship with you <– that's selling.

I don't want to annoy people

THIS. We all know that person who is ALWAYS trying to get you to like their page / read their blog post / buy their thing – the one who you want to unfollow / unsubscribe / unfriend because OMG SO ANNOYING. The reason this person is so annoying is because they are constantly asking you to do things without providing something in return.

For example, I subscribe to get daily emails from Need 2 Know because I want to know what's going on the world but also just want the important headlines in an easily digestible format. I don't get annoyed when I get their daily emails because they are providing something valuable to me. And when they occasionally include ads or promotions in their emails, I'm not going to unsubscribe because I WANT those daily emails!

If you are providing real value, people won't be annoyed even if you're in their face every day. And to be honest, if you're worried about being annoying – you probably won't be. 

If you are providing real value, people won't be annoyed even if you're in their face every day.Click To Tweet

I hate self-promotion

Been there, done that – it's a waste of time. If you are creating valuable content and offering services that ACTUALLY HELP PEOPLE then why wouldn't you share that? People will not just come to your website because you have one. People will not read your blog posts just because you publish them. People will not hire you for your services just because you have a contact page. You HAVE to put yourself out there. 

This doesn't mean you have to go around telling everyone, “look at me! hire me!” – but it does mean you need to BE VISIBLE. Regularly show up wherever your potential customers are and build relationships. Be helpful. People will notice.

I have a marketing strategy so I don't have to be good at sales

Also not true. Marketing does not equal sales. Marketing is the stuff you do to build awareness for your brand and reach potential clients. Sales is the process of converting those prospects into actual paying clients. So if you feel like you're getting lost in a saturated market and no one is noticing you, you probably need help with your marketing strategy. If you are getting traffic / followers / subscribers but no clients, you probably need help with your sales strategy. They are two completely different skills – and if you want to grow your business, they're BOTH essential. 

The good news is, it doesn't have to be hard. If you're overwhelmed by marketing you probably just need to cut out the noise and focus on the the strategies that work for YOU. And if you're uncomfortable selling, you just need to reframe the process so it feels more like friendly conversation.

The Most Important Sale You Will Ever Make

The most important sale you'll ever make - it's not your products or services. For small business owners who are selling online, this is the key element to consider when it comes to your sales strategy.

I typically tell people I have a decade of sales and marketing experience because that essentially dates back to my first “grown up” job at Merrill Lynch in 2005. But to be honest, I had “sales” jobs even before that. In high school I applied for this program that involved working for Macy's as basically a teen brand ambassador. At the time, I thought I wanted to work in fashion – and Macy's is basically the only department store in Memphis, Tennessee – so it was kind of exciting. Little did I know, some of my “ambassador” duties included being that annoying girl shoving perfume samples in your face and begging you to just tryyyyy it.

It was – in my typical over-dramatic teenager life – the worst.

Trying to sell stuff to people who aren't interested is bad enough, but being an awkward, introverted 16 year old girl trying to sell (overwhelmingly smelly) perfume to people who aren't interested is a special kind of awful.

I am NOT naturally good at sales.

I am naturally good at shopping when things are on sale, but that's an unrelated skill.

If you are a blogger / small business owner the most important sale you'll ever make is yourself. 

Whether you are selling a product or service, you need an audience to sell it to.

That audience is made up of real people, and if people don't know, like, and trust YOU, they won't buy what you're selling. You have to be able to sell YOURSELF before you can sell any of your products or services.

I'd love to tell you that if your product or service is really amazing, people will buy it anyway… but that would be a lie.

I'd also love to tell you that selling yourself is really easy… but for many people, that's not the case.

I mentioned earlier, I'm not naturally good at sales, but I can sell anything I believe in – to pretty much anyone – because I can sell MYSELF and I'm good at figuring out what people want. 

Full disclosure, since my days pushing fragrances at the mall, I've actually had years of formal sales training. And over the past decade, I've sold everything from multi-million dollar investments in long-short hedge funds to $10 costume jewelry. I've sold products, services, and myself more times than I can count, so I promise you, it's not that hard – IF YOU BELIEVE IN YOURSELF AND YOU BELIEVE THAT WHATEVER YOU ARE SELLING CAN HELP PEOPLE.

I tried to re-write that last sentence for maybe 20 minutes because it sounds so touchy feely – and I hate touchy feely – but there's no way to get around it in this case. Believe in yourself. If you are going to let your self-doubt issues prevent you from putting yourself out there, you will absolutely have a hard time selling anything. Get over it. Seriously.

So here's the thing. I know the idea of “sales” makes people feel icky. No one likes telemarketers. No one likes product pushers. No one likes the cheesy car salesman. (I've never even bought a car and I'm not a fan). But if you are reading this blog post, chances are, whatever you're selling isn't lame. Whether you provide a service like coaching / consulting / photography / design or you create digital or physical products, YOU have a serious advantage when it comes to sales:

You are in control of what you are selling and who you are selling it to. 

That's HUGE.

That audience is made up of real people, and if people don't know, like, and trust YOU, they won't buy what you're selling. You have to be able to sell YOURSELF before you can sell any of your products or services.Click To Tweet

Most people who are out there selling stuff are selling someone else's products and services – and they are selling it to whoever their employer tells them to sell it to. That kind of sales is not so fun unless you really like selling.

But if you are creating YOUR OWN products or services to sell – even if you hate the idea of “sales” – YOU GOT THIS.

You're not selling products, you're solving problems.
You're not selling services, you're serving your clients.
You're not selling, you're helping.

Remember that.