It kind of amazes me how many handmade businesses start before they know who they’re starting for. No shame. I didn’t know who my ideal customer was when I started my first handmade business.
However, that was over a decade ago and the Internet is much different today; rich with bloggers sharing free advice. Hi 🙂
I know that defining an ideal customer just isn’t clicking for many businesses. It’s evident by the questions there are surrounding ideal customer profiles (ICP), the number of people complaining that ICP’s are useless and the number of businesses creating products that are for everyone from a soccer mom to video gamer.
I don’t blame you if you’ve had trouble defining your ideal customer thus far. And I really don’t blame you if you’ve defined them but have been lost with how to use the information.
Knowing who my ideal customer is has completely changed my business (for the better). And I continue to learn more about who they are, make adjustments and improve sales based on the information.
You 1000% need to define your ideal customer.
Every business does.
Even the Walmarts of the world, that seem to have every type of person as their customer, have an ideal customer.
If you haven’t defined your ideal customer, you’re preparing a feast before you even know how many people are coming to dinner, what the theme of the party is and what the dietary restrictions of your guest are. (This information also helps you find your SIGNATURE STYLE…check out why you need one and how to find yours here)
If you’ve heard about ideal customer profiles and are mid eye-roll because you really don’t think they’re useful, have a read over this article.
WHY YOU 1000% MUST DEFINE YOUR CUSTOMER
Think of your customers as your friends.
Aren’t you a little selective about who you hang out with?
If you were looking for new friends would you say: I’ll hang out with anyone; doesn’t matter what their age, ambition, interests, values, etc. are.
You are the company you keep and you should surround yourself with people who bring you up, not down.
Your business is the same. It should be made up of and surrounded by people that build it up.
Do you want customers who only buy one or two items…ever, only buy sale items, complain about your prices, say, “I would like this better if…” and will drop you if a better business comes along?
Or do you want customers that build your company up? People who make you feel good about your products and how much you charge and are loyal to your business.
And which type of customer would you want talking about your business?
If someone you have nothing in common with (you don’t share the same sense of style, values, etc.) told you they found the best jewelry at X store, would you bother checking it out?
But if someone you admire mentions a business they love, you’d probably feel compelled to check it out.
You want more people in your tribe who represent your brand. You want your best customers wearing your products, telling their friends to check you out.
Birds of a feather flock together so it’s important to attract quality people who hang out with other quality people, who are also likely to be a fit for your brand. (*quality meaning they are perfect for your products)
So how do you get the quality customer to send more quality customers your way? You define who they are and build your business for them.
COMMON MISTAKES WHEN CREATING AN IDEAL CUSTOMER PROFILE
It’s not enough to define the demographics of a made up person who might buy your products. For an ideal customer profile to be effective and help you make more sales, you must consider characteristics outside of demographics, that real people possess and influence purchasing behaviour.
Here are the common mistakes that are made when a typical ideal customer profile is created and what you should do instead to create a profile that will be beneficial to your business.
MISTAKE #1 – THINKING LOOKS DON’T MATTER
I know it may seem silly to clip a picture of a stranger out of a magazine or find one online to portray your customer, but there is a logical reason for it.
There’s even a logical reason for listing their favorite TV show or ice cream flavor.
Although these aspects may not help you find your customer or sell to them, they do help you paint a detailed picture of your ideal customer and get you thinking about them as a real person.
I want you to pick out the perfect accent piece to go in my living room. What would you present me with?
What? Not enough information?
I told you it’s an accent piece and it’s for my living room.
You really need to know the style of my décor, color scheme of the room, where the piece is going to go, how big or small the piece needs to be, etc.?
Same idea when you describe your ideal customer as “female and in her 30’s” (as an example).
How can you possibly create the perfect: pair of earrings, face cream, piece of art, etc. when the only information you have is that it’s for a female and she’s in her 30’s?
Get detailed with your customer so you can imagine who you’re creating a piece for.
MISTAKE #2 – FORGETTING ABOUT LIFESTYLE
People tend to identify themselves less by their demographics and more by the lifestyle they live.
How would your ideal customer describe their lifestyle?
Or better yet, what type of lifestyle do they hope others think they live?
How do they want to be perceived?
Perhaps they live a:
- Family-focused lifestyle
- Religious lifestyle
- Healthy lifestyle
- Jet setting lifestyle
It makes it a lot easier to fill in the details of your customer when you define their lifestyle.
MISTAKE #3 – NOT MAKING GENERALIZATIONS
In general…it’s not nice to make generalizations about people. But for the sake of you getting a feel for your ideal customer, I say it’s okay.
No one ever needs to see the ideal customer profile you create (unless you’re a part of a bigger company, and then I’d say; keep everything politically correct).
People naturally fall into categories because they share common characteristics.
No one is so unique they have nothing in common with thousands, if not millions, of other people.
If I told you I’m a “crazy cat lady”, how would you start to describe me?
Maybe you’d assume that I’m:
- 30 or older
- No kids
- One or more cats
- A bit of a homebody
- Likes cats/animals more than most humans
- Will spare no expense for my cat
- Living in a small home or apartment
Not all of those characteristics are true of me (I’m not telling which ones;) but enough are that even if one or two are off, you would have a fairly accurate picture of me, based on generalizations about crazy cat ladies.
Now imagine I said I was a soccer mom, or a hipster or a yuppie, etc. You’d have a completely different picture of me and a different list of assumptions.
Once you find that generalization of how society views your ideal customer, you must then think about how they want to be viewed.
Although “crazy cat lady” might accurately describe me and I may refer to myself as one, I don’t really appreciate others calling me one. And I’m definitely not searching “crazy cat lady products” on Google or subscribing to a “crazy cat lady” magazine.
“Cat lover”, “animal lover” or “cat mom” may be more appropriate names for you to call me and thus, make for good keywords to use in product titles, descriptions, social media posts, etc.
MISTAKE #4 – NOT GETTING REAL
We covered the lifestyle your ideal customer lives or wants people to believe they live. But don’t forget to get down to the nitty-gritty details; the parts of their lifestyle they don’t want people to notice.
That’s how you come up with great products that suit them perfectly.
Let’s say we’ve got a “soccer mom” who lives a “family-focused lifestyle”.
The nitty-gritty of that may be:
A “soccer mom” who drives a minivan that’s always full of her kids’ toys and sports equipment. It’s a mess because they’re always running late, which leads to eating meals in the vehicle on the way to and from games and classes. The mom is a stay at home mom who always puts her family first, which means she rarely has time or money in the budget for haircuts and spa days, gym memberships and workouts, or new wardrobes. She feels as though she’s taking care of three children, even though she only has two, and sometimes just wants to scream into a pillow because she’s tripped on her husband’s shoes…again…as she’s walking through the door with her arms full of groceries.
If you were to create a product for her and market it to her, what would you create and what would you say?
- Someone selling art or home décor items may make a product that helps a busy mom, who always puts her family first, create a little retreat in her home. A place she can get away and focus on herself, even if it’s just for five minutes,
- Someone selling bath and body products may create something that allows her to have a spa day at home or feel pampered in her bathroom. Taking five minutes of personal time to take care of herself and feel good.
- Someone selling jewelry might create everyday pieces that can be thrown on with any outfit…even a t-shirt and sweatpants to dress them up and make her feel put together when she doesn’t have the time to think about her outfit. Or, timeless luxury pieces that she doesn’t have to feel guilty about treating herself to.
- Someone selling stationery may create notepads that have spots for family activities, chores, etc. and a special spot to schedule “mom me-time” in each day.
Uncover the little details that take your ideal customer from a picture perfect character to a real person with real problems.
MISTAKE #5 – NOT FACTORING IN YOUR USP
Your USP is your unique selling position and it should relate to who your ideal customer is. Read more on how important a USP is and mistakes to avoid when defining your company’s here.
If your business is unique because every aspect of it is environmentally friendly, then it’s important your ideal customer cares about the environment too.
It’s not effective if you simply slide that factor in there though.
“My ideal customer is a soccer mom with a family-focused lifestyle, she’s really busy, puts the family first…and oh ya, she cares about the environment!”
If the focus of your business is on the environment, then perhaps a soccer mom isn’t the best fit. “Environmentally friendly” and “soccer mom” don’t typically go hand in hand.
It doesn’t mean an environmentally friendly soccer mom doesn’t exist but the soccer mom masses are usually focused on convenience and budget friendly products. So if you’re targeting soccer moms and where they typically hangout online and offline, you won’t hit as many that are environmentally conscious. Perhaps targeting yogis would be a better option.
If you need help defining your USP and learning how to apply it to your business so it boosts sales, join the free 5-day email course: BEAT LAST YEAR’S SALES. Learn more about the free course and join here.
And to dig even deeper into who your customer is and steps you must take to get more people (besides friends and family) flocking to your website or craft show booth to buy, check out HOW TO SELL HANDMADE BEYOND FRIENDS & FAMILY.
How many of you have defined your ideal customer and have even gone so far as creating a profile? Do you find it useful or is the profile collecting dust on a shelf?
Hey, I’m Erin 🙂 I write about small business and craft show techniques I’ve learned from being a small business owner for almost 2 decades, selling at dozens of craft shows, and earning a diploma in Visual Communication Design. I hope you find my advice helpful!