Vicky Shilling talking with clients about ideal customers

October 18, 2022

What do to if you’re struggling to get clear on your ideal customer

I'm Vicky Shilling

A wellness business mentor, podcast host, author and I help you start and grow a successful wellness business.

My magic is in being able to break down the practical and strategic parts of business building, coupled with helping you cultivate a mindset that supports those actions to get the outcomes you desire.

Strategy + Beliefs =
Business Prosperity

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One of the central pillars to my work with wellness business owners is helping them get clarity on the person they want to help.

For me, this must come first, straight after identifying your own goals and ambitions and dreams. Because to have a successful business, you have to help people.

A great business solves problems and offers solutions to its customers. And you can only create amazing products and offers and message successfully if you know who that person is.

Through the Core Content of my Just Start Now course and community and in the tailored sessions I deliver when I start working with any wellness business owner 1:1 we go through the same process to help determine an ideal customer.

In brief the method involves:

  • Getting clear on what the dream customer struggles with and identifies as their pain-points and problems, the things that bother them most, that they late night Google search to find the answers to and what they are thinking and believing about themselves, their problem and the world  
  • Getting clear on what the dream customer wants life to look like on the other side. What their aspirations are, what they want their body and mind to feel like, what they wish they could do, have, be or achieve, no matter how big or small, in a dream world where their problems were all answered

At the end we have two clear lists – a ‘before’ and an ‘after’ description of the ideal customer.

These two lists then form the basis from which all products, marketing, sales material, and promotion is done. Because when we can speak to and make the ideal customer feel seen and understood (by talking to the ‘before’ situation in our marketing), and paint a picture of life on the other side of resolving their issues (by describing the ‘after’ dream life), they will identify that our offer is for them.

I think the method is pretty robust. I have used it with hundreds of wellness business owners now and I have various questions to help tease these lists out.

I also provide training and surveys inside my Just Start Now resources to do further market research and get the words from the ideal clients themselves, which are even more valuable when trying to speak their language and help them see what we offer is a good fit. I think it’s a really strong toolkit.

And yet….

Sometimes this can still feel… sticky.

Even for wellness pros who have worked with many of their own clients over years and have living and breathing examples of the people they love to help and can benefit from their work, they still don’t feel clear on this.

Even if you’re not inside my Just Start Now community or a 1:1 client of mine it might be that you’re reading this because you’ve tried over and over again with other people’s methods to ‘nail your niche’ but you too are still struggling to really feel that full clarity of ‘knowing’ your ideal client.

And because I (and no doubt countless others) have told you it’s important, you’ve been left totally paralysed and unable to move forward.

Gulp.

I don’t want to leave you in that place. This is important to feel good about. If you know who you’re speaking to everything else really can flow.
That’s where I want you. In full flow.

So here are my tips if you’re still struggling, even after all the methods and niching advice you can stomach, to truly know your ideal customer:

1. Start somewhere

This is frustrating advice but staring at a blank sheet of paper, or even loads of lists and descriptions of who you think is your ideal client and yet doesn’t feel quite ‘it’, won’t change that feeling.

The only way to start feeling clear and knowing that you’re connecting with a particular ideal customer is to start somewhere and create something, anything, whether that’s a piece of content or a product or offer.

Imagine one person you’d love to help and create something for them. It really is as simple and small a step as that to break through the paralysis.

You see one person struggling with one issue. Make them something they need that will help.

You might be lucky: maybe you don’t have to make someone up like an imaginary character – maybe you’ve worked with a real-life human in the last few months that was a dream customer who really benefitted from what you offered.

It’s important to remember that if there’s one of them saying and thinking and struggling like that, there’s tens of thousands of them. So create with them in mind.

Think about that one person and what they say their biggest issues and concerns are and then consistently create content and offers that will resonate, speak to and help that one person. From there your clarity will grow.

(Side note: in a weird ‘meta’ kind of way this entire blog post is me demonstrating exactly this model. I have a client who currently is struggling with knowing her ideal client.

I’ve listened to her struggle and I am here creating a piece of content, which I am writing with her in mind. Whilst also fully trusting that there are thousands of you out there reading this who will also benefit and think “wow, Vicky totally gets me and what I struggle with.”

Yes, I do. Because I took one person and talked to her and helped her in order to make this content).

2. Stop worrying you’ve got it ‘wrong’

I bore my clients and Just Start Now community probably senseless with one of my favourite phrases:

“There’s no right or wrong. There’s just a choice and a series of outcomes.” (the latter bit I’m fairly sure I’ve borrowed from Brooke Castillo at the Life Coach School Podcast).

I genuinely believe there are no right or wrong decisions, particularly in the world of online marketing and business.

There are a million and one methods to grow a business and it really is about finding what works for you. There isn’t a ‘perfect’ way to do it, there isn’t a guaranteed way to do it. There are just ways that you’ll try and learn from, and ways that you won’t because they don’t feel a good fit. 

The same goes for ideal clients.

You can’t pick the ‘wrong’ ideal client. You can pick an ideal client who right now excites you and you want to serve and then follow through by creating content and offers for them.

Sure, you might find down the line you don’t actually want to help this sort of person, or that your message and ideal client shift and adjust as you work with more real humans and you follow what they say and need from you.

But you can’t get to that stage without first making a decision and giving it a go. And giving it a go for a good amount of time: my usual recommendation is at least 90 days of consistent content for this one ideal client to see how it feels and how it lands.

I suppose this point is just a variation on point 1 to ‘start somewhere.’ Just with a bigger permission slip to stop worrying that you’ll get it ‘wrong.’

You won’t get it ‘wrong.’ You can’t. I promise.

What might be at play here is that you feel frustrated and like you are working to some sort of timeline to make things happen and nail your messaging faster than it’s coming right now. So you’re worried that getting it ‘wrong’ will ‘set you back’ in some way. I hear that.

But this stuff is only going to reach flow when you let go of the need to get it perfect and right in a particular time frame i.e. now, straight away. And step into it being messy but out there and a work in progress.

And do you want to know a secret?

What resonates more with people than every single one of your pieces of communication being bang on the money because you know your ideal client?

Consistency and dedication to your message and your work.

Your audience can figure out for themselves if your work is for them if you show up every week, sharing what you think they need, with passion and commitment.

They’ll get a feel for what you do and how you work and they’ll start to decipher if you’re going to help them. But only if you just keep creating what you think will help, one piece of content and one person at a time.

Stop worrying about alienating people or focusing in on the ‘wrong’ ideal customer. Because what happens when you stay in this place is you end up producing nothing which means no-one benefits. And that’s not good for anyone.

Let go of your ideal client needing to be a fixed demographic

One of the worst hang-ups you can have about feeling like you don’t ‘know’ your ideal clients is getting too caught up in the demographics, instead of focusing on the thoughts and feelings that people have.

News flash: your ideal client doesn’t have to be stay-at-home mums, runners, IBS sufferers, desk-bound corporate workers or men with heart health issues.

Of course it can be, if you really want it to be and that drives you. If you want to give your life to only helping couples aged 40+ get pregnant, you go for it. That clarity will help, for you. 

But when it comes to creating messaging and offers that really jump out at people (which is the point of ideal client clarity), we want to go waaaaaay deeper than “are you a sedentary office worker aged 30-50?”

Yes, that sort of demographic stuff is handy. Yes at a superficial level people can spot that on a website and know your offer is for them more immediately.

However what is way more powerful is if your sales page and your content speak to what’s going on in their heads, what they never say out loud but are thinking privately and can’t quite believe you hit on the head when you shared it. As if you read their minds. Regardless of their age, sex, marital status and symptom list even (and this is what I love to teach when I show people what to write on their websites and in their marketing material that really hits the mark in my Just Start Now course).

Most of the time I’m actually quick to dismiss the demographics of an ideal client when I’m doing this work with people. I’m far more interested in the psychographics.

If you let go of the need for your ideal clients to all have the exact same lived experience and focus more on what they think and believe as the common traits to speak to, then you’ll unshackle yourself from a whole part of the ‘ideal client clarity’ equation that just doesn’t need to be there for it to work.

Look instead at the type of person you want to help, their similar thought patterns and what they believe about themselves and the world and speak to that. Trusting that regardless of whether they’re a 20 something single mum or a 60+ retiree, if your message is meant for them, it will land.

For example (just to get meta again), I’m writing this blog speaking to thoughts and beliefs you have around getting clear on your ideal client. I know that regardless of whether 21-year-old recent nutrition graduate Abbey or 55 year old Pilates instructor turned Health Coach Angela read this, this is something you’ll all potentially encounter.

Screw the demographics. I wrote this with your thoughts and beliefs in mind.

Trust yourself more

I think ultimately, if you’ve come this far and still none of these tips or pieces of advice are landing, we have a bigger problem here than clarity in your ideal client.

Your level of trust in yourself to me sounds off.

In order to move past this stuckness of believing you don’t know who your ideal customer is or should be, what would it be like instead to trust that whatever you put out there it’s what’s needed and someone will love hearing it?

Sometimes, with some people, I want to throw the whole ideal client stuff out of the window. Particularly when it’s become a shackle or a perceived insurmountable barrier to taking action and showing up visibly and courageously and just putting something out into the world.

How about, instead of worrying about whether you know your ideal client enough, you totally stepped into your individual style, your way of showing up, being yourself and conveying a message that you’re excited about and feel needs to be heard. Regardless of being able to clearly imagine who it’s for.

Because ultimately the energy you bring, is more important than the perfect avatar. That excitement, that passion to help, to say something you feel strongly about, to know yourself and what your values are and what you believe will help the world, to share and come from the heart when you want to convey and teach, that’s what people will buy into.

What if you totally threw the whole ‘ideal client’ stuff out and just started showing up as you, saying what you thought and what was on your mind and what came up in each client session, and trusting fully that whoever needed to hear it would receive it and pick up the phone and say “this spoke to me, I’ve got to work with you.”  

That stuff. That energy. That buzz. That’s what connects. That sells.

If this is the point you’ve got to, I’d love you to try journaling on these questions:

  • What are you making it mean that you don’t have the perfect client avatar (and are any of these meanings facts, or just stories)?
  • What do you believe will happen when you get the ideal client ‘right’?
  • What if I tell you it’s not possible to get the ideal client ‘right’ and speak to them perfectly and that the best way to connect with your people is to just show up as yourself?

And the big one for me:

What if you do know who the ideal client is, you’re just afraid to commit to the process and start creating content for them?

Let me know if this helps.

Mindset blocks like this are exactly what I cover in my book Just Start Now. Grab your copy now.

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