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How to Identify Your Ideal Client (Plus Why You Should)

One of the biggest marketing mistakes business owners make is trying to sell to everyone.

The problem with that is you can’t be everything to everyone.

Your challenge is to pinpoint a distinct target audience, learn everything you can about them, and then craft a marketing strategy that attracts (and eventually converts) them. Let’s dig into this.

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What is a target audience?

A target audience is a group of consumers who are most likely to be interested in your product or service. They have certain characteristics in common, such as location, gender, age, interests, or lifestyle. And they all experience a similar problem that your service solves. This is the group of people you want to target.

Why identify a target audience?

A universal marketing approach (i.e. “I want to sell to everyone!”) is too broad. Trying to market to everyone is probably wasting your time and money. If you target 20 people when only 5 of them might actually be interested in what you sell, you’re going to get frustrated and wonder why the others won’t convert.

Narrowing your audience prevents you from wasting your marketing efforts.

A well-defined target audience helps you refine your strategy and marketing message so you’re only speaking and selling to the correct people. A narrow target audience gets you better results.

Target audience vs. target market — what’s the difference?

The terms “target audience” and “target market” are related, but they’re not interchangeable. A target market is the entire group of people you want to sell to. A target audience is a smaller subset of people within a larger target market. A target audience has a much narrower focus and is tied to specific demographics or behaviors. For example, if your target market is “small business owners in North America”, a target audience within that could be “small business owners who are female, between the ages of 35-45, and live in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.”

What about multiple target audiences?

It’s certainly possible for a business to have more than one target audience. If your services cater to different types of people, or if you offer several services that could each be used by different audiences, you may need to divide your target market into multiple audience segments. Airbnb is an example of a business with multiple audience segments. It targets both the guests who travel and the hosts who open up their space for guests to stay in. Even though it has multiple audiences, Airbnb still crafts clear messages that address each individual audience’s wants and needs.

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Identify your target audience

Identifying your target audience will help you define who it is you want to reach, which allows you to clarify your messaging and maximize your results. Here are steps you can take to identify your audience.

Assess needs & problems

Think about the services or products you currently offer (or want to offer). What’s the problem you’re trying to solve with those services? Who is experiencing those problems? Zero in on a specific set of people who need what you’re offering and are most likely to buy it.

Examine your past clients

Look back at clients you’ve previously worked with and figure out what they have in common. Were they all small business owners? Local to your area? Of a certain age range, gender, or other demographic? Pay attention to which clients you’ve had success with recently. Why did they buy from you? Who’s been the most loyal? Who made repeat purchases? Who brought in the most business? Observing the shared characteristics among your past clients can help you uncover an audience that’s a good fit for you.

Use your existing data

Study analytics from your website and social media. Use that data to see what types of people are already engaged with the content you’re producing. Keep in mind each social media platform is different and caters to a distinct audience, so it’s helpful to look across all platforms to get a comprehensive view of your existing following.

Consider your competition

Examine your biggest competitors and observe who’s buying from them. What characteristics do these customers share? This can tell you who’s already using services that are similar to what you’re offering. You may not want to go after the exact same audience, but you could look for a niche opportunity in that area.

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Create an ideal client persona

A highly specific client profile for your ideal buyer helps you better market, sell, and engage them. Here’s how to approach it.

Establish a detailed profile

Create a detailed ideal client persona for each of your target audience segments. Start by giving them a fictional name to humanize them. Maybe even choose a stock headshot photo or illustration to represent them. Then get as detailed as possible with their demographics and behaviors (which represent the demographics and behaviors of that target audience segment). Here’s a list of characteristics to consider including:

  • Age
  • Location
  • Job title
  • Industry
  • Education level
  • Salary
  • Ethnic background
  • Language
  • Interests & hobbies
  • Marital/family status
  • Lifestyle
  • Attitudes & beliefs
  • Challenges faced (problems, pain points)
  • Goals or objectives
  • Technologies used (social media networks, work or personal software tools)
  • Spending patterns

A huge part of successfully marketing to a target audience is making sure you really understand them. Take time to dig in deep here. Get to know who they are and who they aspire to become. Understand what makes them tick and you’ll be much more prepared to craft an attractive message for them.

Double-check your focus

Now that you’ve established your audience segments and client personas, it’s a good time to double-check your focus. Here are a few questions to ask yourself to ensure you’re on a good track:

  • Are there enough people within my target audience for me to sell to?
  • Can my target audience afford what I’m offering?
  • Will my target audience benefit from my service?
  • How easily can I access my target audience and market to them?

If something’s not adding up with your target audience, you might need to adjust. Try adding another segment or niche if your audience has too narrow of a focus. Or if you realize your audience can’t afford your service, you may need to modify your service or your segments.

For businesses that are brand new, you might find it works best to start slightly broader with your focus so you don’t miss out on potential opportunities before you give them a chance. Then as you start to gain traction, see where the growth is coming from and narrow in on it to refine your focus.

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Then what?

You’ve got your target audience defined. Now what do you do with this information? Here are a few things to consider.

Craft your marketing strategy with your audience in mind

Whenever you create any marketing content, keep your target audience in mind. This goes for creating blog articles, social media posts, email campaigns, website copy, surveys, webinars, and any other marketing collateral. Never create content without thinking back to your ideal client persona and remembering who it is you’re writing for. (This is why naming your persona can help a great deal. A fictional name can help you remember details about the segment. “Small Business Owner Sierra” is a lot easier to recall than a nameless/faceless segment.) Imagine you’re writing to this person. Speak their language. Use their vocabulary. Talk about the pain points they experience.

Your content will resonate with them when it’s written directly for them.

Target individual audience segments

If your business has multiple audience segments, make sure you’re taking this into account with your marketing strategy. The way you market to “Small Business Owner Sierra” is likely different than how you market to “Corporate CEO Chris.” Depending on your business, a general strategy trying to reach all segments at once probably isn’t going to be as effective. Adapt your messaging and strategy when needed to better reach each individual segment.

Test and refine

The cornerstone of marketing is testing, testing, testing. Refining your business’s target audience is an ongoing process and one that should be done through plenty of testing. To see what resonates best with your audience, try A/B testing all of your marketing efforts. Based on the results, you can continue refining your target audience and strategy. You might find over time that you’ve been targeting the wrong people or that there’s an entire audience segment you’ve been overlooking. Or you might think of new ways to adapt your messaging for your existing audience so it better addresses their needs.

Ready to get started with identifying your target buyer? Enter your email below and then check your inbox. We’ll send you a downloadable client persona worksheet to help you craft a profile for your ideal audience.

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