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User profiles suck. There, I said it.

But why do they suck? Because in most cases they represent a fictitious person with fictitious attributes and, at best, are representative of customers that happen to be buying from us.

So, how do we fix this?

Instead, we need to design who we want to buy from us and we need to do so with intention, instead of simply observing and reporting on who already is. In turn, this fundamental difference will help you attract more clients you actually want to work with and reduce exposure to those you don’t.

Other benefits coincide, too! Messaging will resonate better – we’ll have a better understanding of our ideal client’s needs and how to speak to them. And marketing gets bolstered, too, as we’ll know where to market them.

Here’s how we get there…

Start with industry

design clients by industry

To start, break up your clients by industry (or category). Some will need your services more than others – this is rather basic. If you serve large retailers and small packaging companies, perhaps one is more in-need of your services than the other.

Let’s say it’s the large retailers that are more in need of your services. From there, you’re going to need to have some conversations – whether that’s directly with your large retailer clients, with retail industry experts, or connections that also have large retailers as clients. These insights will give you a much broader picture of whether or not this type of client is one to pursue…

Perhaps that industry is failing, shrinking, or especially vulnerable to world events?

Perhaps you happen to snag a few of these customers by chance, and most in that space don’t have a large need for you?

Looking at industry (or category) rules out the outlier clients and can save you YEARS of pursuing customers that don’t want or value what you have to offer.

Pain-points, pain-points, pain-points

have conversations with your customers to learn their pain points

Most brands that have already created their own user profiles typically jotted down some demographic traits, assigned a name, and slapped on some photoshopped stock images to each.

This is not good enough.

Because “Jim A.” who is 59, has an income of $100k, and likes fishing will likely have different needs and pain points than “Jim B.” who is also 59, has an income of $100k, and likes fishing. The point being, these demographic traits don’t speak to the needs or personalities of the individuals you are likely seeking.

Instead, it’s better to have conversations with your customers to learn their pain-points, see how they found you, and why they chose you. THEN create experiences, messaging, and marketing centered around that.

You’ll likely find that when they have similar pain-points – they are likely searching for solutions in similar ways and making decisions in similar ways, too.

Profitability is key

A lot of times when we help brands distill their ideal clients we see that there is a clear winner from a profitability standpoint. Some customers have pain-points or problems you can solve with relatively little expenditure – others may require lots of additional hours, approvals, etc. that can wear your profit margins thin.

You’ve probably already started breaking down customers in your mind by industry – great! Now it’s time to get out a calculator and do some maths. This will vary from business to business but generally you’ll want to calculate the overall revenue generated from each industry as well as the cost associated with producing your offerings (for that industry). From there, you’ll need to determine the average profitability for each.

Sometimes the results are obvious and sometimes they are subtle. Remember, this is just one (arguably very important) piece of the ideal client puzzle.

Retention plays a role

retention plays a role in ideal client design

Profitability is great, but retention is great too! Some customers are easy to retain while others churn. Look at your industries and see if there’s a trend with how long certain types of customers continue doing business with your organization.

If we take our ‘large retailer / small packaging’ example from earlier and say the small packaging customers are more loyal – this plays a role into who we want to work with more. Then the question becomes, “does the great retention offset our great profitability with retail?” – and that is entirely subjective. And who knows, maybe you just like doing business with the smaller packaging companies…

Personalities and roles matter

We’ve all worked with companies we thoroughly do not enjoy working with. Perhaps there is a trend in how certain types of clients act? Some may take a lot of your time, others may be a breeze to work with.

“So how do we apply this to the design of our ideal client”, you ask?

A lot of it will have to do with the role! Maybe the retail store managers are a pain in the ass but the owners speak the same language. That’s a huge discrepancy in who you should be trying to build more relationships with and that distinction can be a part of your ideal client design. Beyond that, it’s likely certain roles or personalities will be more well-connected – referrals and partnerships are always a welcomed benefit.

Design your ideal client – a quick recap…

In summary, the steps taken to produce an interpretation of a user profile is far more important than the actual presentation of it. With many brands simply observing and reporting on who is buying from them, this is a chance to get out in front and design who you want to buy from you.

Between industry, pain-points, profitability, retention, and personalities – there are likely to be trends and insights to help guide you on your journey to drive the bottom line.

So, how will you make your user profiles not suck?

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