Episode 009 – Nailing Down Your Ideal Client

Identifying your ideal client is a foundational step in building your IC business, to ensure you build brand recognition for the types of clients you want to work with (and repel those you don’t). 

You may have slogged your way through at least one of those ideal client avatar exercises before. If you haven’t, no worries, I’ll be providing you with some insights on the process in this episode. 

Nailing down your ideal client is the process of getting crystal clear about who you serve, so they know you’re the go-to person for what they need.

 I share how to get clear on your ideal client persona, so you create a pipeline of ideal consulting clients. This process will help you gain more confidence and clarity in terms of how you should be marketing your business.

Once again I have a little gift for you! There is no need to take notes, I’ve created a free cheat sheet with the exact steps you need to follow so that you can put this work into practice.

In this episode, we discuss… 

[01:58] Why this ideal client concept matters for your IC business

[08:04] Things to think about as you’re building out your client profile

[11:19] The 2 steps to get crystal clear on who your ideal client is

  • [11:25] Step#1
  • [13:56] Step#2

[13:01] Case Study




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**note: This is an automated transcript, so please ignore spelling errors and grammar mistakes*


Welcome to the Grow Your Independent Consulting Business podcast. I’m Melisa Liberman, a fellow IC and business coach. On this podcast, I teach you to become a consistently booked independent consultant without becoming a pushy salesperson or working 24/7. If I can do it, you can too. Listen on to find out how.


Welcome back to episode number nine, today, we’re talking about nailing down who your ideal client is, so that you’re crystal clear on exactly who you’re seeking as you work on business development, and landing new clients. So for today, we’re going to talk about why this ideal client concept matters for your icy business. And then I’m going to walk you through how to get crystal clear on who your ideal client is and isn’t. So you may have done this before, if you’ve done any other kind of marketing exercises, I’m going to suggest that you do it again from the frame of mind that I’ll share with you today. Or it might be new to you. So either way, let’s dig into the process I’m going to share with you and put it into practice. Not only am I going to share this concept with you share with you the steps to make it happen. And then I’ll share with you a case study at the end. So you can see how it all comes together. And no need to furiously take notes here I have a cheat sheet for you to download. And I’ll give you the link in the show notes. So just listen here, and then you can download that cheat sheet so you can put this work into practice. That is my main goal for you in this podcast. And this episode as well is to put all of this work that I give you little bite-sized, bite-sized pieces every week into practice. So let’s start off and ask the question, why does this idea of an ideal client persona matter? Why does that matter to you as an independent consultant, and for your business? And I’ll just say simply put when you’re 100% clear on what type of clients you work with, and how you help them, it’s going to help your potential consulting clients also be clear that you are the go-to expert in whatever it is is that you do. When you’re not clear, they’re not clear. When you’re clear, they’re clear. It’s a very simple equation that way. And so what I want to walk you through today is to really help you to know how to build out this ideal client persona so that you’ll know exactly who you want to reach and talk to and who you don’t. This is so important, your time is so valuable. You’ve got client deliverables, you know, that are creating the revenue, you want to make sure that you’re using this business development time wisely. And talking to a bunch of non-ideal clients is definitely not wise, right. That’s not what you want to be doing. The other thing that this ideal client persona allows you to do is to create a simple go-to-market strategy that is very directed. So when you know exactly who your ideal client is, then you’re able to know what the best way is to reach them. For some of them, it’s talking with them over LinkedIn very simply. For others, it’s getting in front of them through referral partners. For others, it might be attending events or conferences or online of, you know, webinars, whatever it might be, that really gets their attention. And if you know who they are, what is their persona? Who are they? What kind of problems do they have? What is their title? What industry do they work in? What kind of software do they use, what all of those different types of questions, I’ll walk you through some more in a moment. If you know that person, you’ll know how you’re going to reach them much more easily. So you’re not just throwing a bunch of stuff out there and seeing if it sticks. And then finally, getting very clear on your ideal client persona also helps you to create marketing content that speaks to that exact person that you want to engage so that you’re able to attract them to you. And you’re not spending your time going out and trying to find them and convince them to talk to you. They’re coming to you asking for your help. That’s the ultimate goal, right? That takes so much less effort, so much less time when you’re able to bring them into you because you’re seen as the thought leader as a go-to expert for the type of problem that you solve. So that’s why this ideal client persona matters. from a marketing perspective for you to be able to leverage the amount of time that you’ve got to spend on business development, and really pull in those types of clients that you want to be working with, to help them solve the type of problems that you love to solve. That’s as simple as I can put it. And so hopefully, you can see how important this is. Otherwise, you’re just talking to, you know, a lot of people, as they say, in marketing, speaking to everyone is speaking to no one.


And so sometimes a common pushback that I get when I start going down this path is that people say, and I’ve said this, too, I don’t want to rule anyone out of money is coming to me if clients are coming to me consulting clients, and my pipeline feels really small, I don’t want to turn anyone away. I certainly don’t want to repel anyone, I want to attract as many people as possible. And so I just want to share with you that in some ways, it does feel like common sense. While I shouldn’t turn business away, I shouldn’t turn people away, I shouldn’t try to attract this ideal client, I’ll just work with anyone, especially if you’re in the earlier stages of your business, or you don’t have the pipeline that you want. And while that can definitely work in the short term, I’m not telling you that you should just turn all the work away, right. But in the medium and long term, you want to know who your ideal client is, and you want to know what your ideal projects are. And you want to have a pipeline that’s filled with those so that you aren’t having to, you know, really settle, settle for work that you don’t want to do, because you don’t have a pipeline of clients that are you would be excited to work with clients where you would love to work on the type of engagement that they need you to help them with, where you’re paid premium dollars, right. That’s what you ultimately want. And so in the very short term, what I’m offering to you today, in terms of this ideal client perspective isn’t to say to you, Well, don’t just turn these non-ideal clients away. But what I am saying to you is, if you’re doing that should be a really short-term fix, while you’re building out this pipeline of ideal clients. And that’s where we really want to focus on today is understanding who that ideal client is getting really clear on that so that you know how to speak to them, where to speak to them, and that those are the people you’re trying to attract. And quite frankly, what types of people are you trying to repel? So now that we know why we’re building out this ideal client persona, let me just ask you to walk you through a few questions that you might ask yourself, in order to figure out who this dream client is. What is the persona of this ideal client that you’re trying to attract? That you want to fill your pipeline with for new business? So some of the things that you might be thinking about as you’re building out this profile? are what is the function that they perform? Like, for example, do you want to be working with HR? Do you want to be working in finance? Do you want to be working with a technology or customer success team, whatever that is? To really think about what is the function that you want to be working at within an organization? What you might not want to be working with it within an organization and use that as one of the dimensions of this ideal client persona? Another dimension could be what’s the industry that they’re in?


So do you want to be working in technology? Or in consumer packaged goods? Or in retail? Or in some other industry that you know, oil and gas, whatever it is, right? What are those industries that you want to be working in? And what are the industries you don’t want to be working in? What is the size of the company that you want to target? Do you want to work with large companies where perhaps it’s harder to get your foot in the door, but once you’re a preferred vendor, then it becomes easier? Or perhaps you want to work with smaller companies or midsize companies where perhaps they don’t have such a formal process to get your foot in the door. But they might not be as predictable, whatever that looks like. Right? So think about it from that ideal client persona, what kind of industry What size are they? Who would the person be that you wouldn’t normally be hired by? And do you like working with the person in that type of role? What is the type of work and product and service that that company provides? Do they typically experience the problems that you love solving? And are they open to external help? That’s a great question. They would not be ideal clients, right? If they weren’t open to external help some initial Trees are less open to external help than others. So make sure you take all of this into consideration. And so from all of this pulling it together, you’ll have a target, such as I help procurement organizations in Fortune 1000, define their strategy for leveraging external consultants. That would be an example of a target a clear, ideal client persona. Another one would be, that I work with CEOs in mid-sized companies to define their strategy for leveraging external consultants. That’s another example. So again, I’ll give you a download here. So you don’t have to take these notes down, you’ll see the link in the show notes to download the cheat sheet. But hopefully, that gives you a really good idea of some examples to get you clear on what you’re targeting and what you’re not targeting. If you decide I’m working with CEOs and mid-sized companies that need a strategy for leveraging external consultants, then you’re only targeting and talking to midsize companies. You’re not talking to the entire population and hoping that somebody calls you, we’re trying to get really clear with people so they know you’re the go-to person for that specific problem that you solve. So now let’s talk a little bit about how you can implement the concept that I just shared with you. So the first step would just be brainstorming, right? Going through some of those dimensions that I just shared with you, and really getting clear on who you want to work with and who you don’t. And I want to share with you a framework that you can use for this because it’s really important to not only know who you want to work with and who you don’t but why. Why are you targeting that particular population that you’ve been brainstorming? A lot of people go into this decision into this process thinking, well, I should target this particular population, because of some reason, maybe you invested a lot of education there, maybe you invested a lot of your career there. You don’t really want to do the work. But you’re thinking you should. And so you get stuck. Doing this thing that you don’t even want to do, might even be the reason why you left corporate in the first place. But you’re thinking that you should. And so that’s the reason why you put those particular attributes of the ideal client on the paper. I don’t know that that’s necessarily what you want to follow if that’s what you get back when you think about why. Another reason why I hear a lot is I could well, I could do that I’m capable of doing that. Well, again, that doesn’t mean that you want to, that doesn’t mean that you want to build a business around something you should or you could think about this from the perspective of if you’re successful five, when I’m not going to say if when you’re successful, five years from now wildly successful, What business is it that you want to have built, it’s not built off of a bunch of shoulds and Quds, it’s built off of what you want to be doing, who you want to be working with, and how you can create value for those people. So really, look at that, what you’ve defined as your ideal client persona, and ask yourself why. And get very clear on that, and focus on what you want to be doing, you know how to make it successful. If you’re doubting yourself right now, I will tell you, I know you know how to make it successful, it might not happen on day one, but you do know how to make it successful. And don’t go down this other path of the shoulds in the codes because it feels safer because you’re going to end up with a business that you don’t want. And that’s why we’re doing this in the first place. Right? Okay, I’ll get off my soapbox here a little bit. The other thing is, you’ll want to go out and test the market. And you may already have done this in some ways, especially if you’ve been an independent consultant for a while, I would encourage you to revisit this now. Go test the market and interview past colleagues’ past connections, interview people that would be this ideal client persona, and figure out if your hypothesis about what their problems are, and do they have the problems that you want to solve? Are they eager to get someone to help them? Or at least open to it? What would that look like asking them a lot of questions about what it is that you want to pursue here? If it’s a complete pivot from what you’re doing today, this is a great exercise. If it’s a minor pivot then you know, just a slight adjustment. It’s also a great exercise, and then start speaking to them. Once you’ve tested the market and really proven out that this ideal client persona is what you want to pursue, then go all-in on that persona. Go all-in on that ideal client from a business development perspective. Don’t try to talk to everyone, which ends up being talking to no one. Go talk to those specific people that you know how to solve their problems. And you can go back a few episodes. Now I’ve already forgotten which one, but I give you some ideas, I think this might be number seven, I’ve given you some ideas about how to add value, how to add value in these conversations. And now you’ll know with a lot more clarity who that ideal client is. Okay, briefly here, I want to pull all of this together and give you a case study. So you can hear how an example of how this all comes together and be in is put into action. And then at the end, I’ll give you kind of the next steps of how to go do this for yourself. So the case study, I had a client who came to me as we were starting to work on putting her business development process in order, she really didn’t want to focus on this ideal client persona, she felt her business was in a place where she could basically take on anyone and everyone as a client, she needed the revenue. But at the same time, she was frustrated by the clients that she did have and that she had been attracting in the past. And she knew that she was doing work that was less than what her capabilities are, that she didn’t really like to do those people didn’t value as much. And the clients just weren’t as appreciative of her kind of as a result of that


whole dynamic. As a result, she felt trapped. She was getting this consulting work from ideal clients, but it felt risky and kind of scary, to be honest with you to start focusing on another direction, when none of those ideal, you know, the ideal clients weren’t coming to her. And part of that was because she didn’t even really, truly know who they were. But she decided to take the leap and just kind of a little begrudgingly right to do this work that I just outlined at a high level for you. And got into the process of defining her ideal client persona. She got clear on them, she knew exactly where they worked, who they were, what problems they had, why it mattered to them, what the impact would be in five years if they didn’t solve those problems, and what the value of solving those problems was, and got very clear on both that ideal client persona and the work that she would do for them. And that’s when her excitement for her work returned. She started finding ways to fit in by networking and prospecting potential clients every week and building this pipeline of clients that she would be excited about when they said yes, let’s work together. Yes, I’ll sign a statement of work versus what she had been doing before, which was just taking whatever she got at the moment that she needed it because she, you know, she was without a project or she knew she was going to be without a project in a week or a month or two. And so that’s the big difference as she was able to get ahead of this business development for the first time, start building out a pipeline that she was excited about a lot easier to go about those business development activities because it was work that she was excited to do for people she was excited to do it for. And now she’s got that pipeline of ideal clients’ ideal work, more revenue than she had been making before, and confidence that she can turn away non-ideal clients, that it’s not going to be a problem from a revenue perspective. So hopefully a case study gives you a really good idea of how this ideal client persona process can be put into action and the benefits it. So for you, let’s go forward, do you can download the cheat sheet I made you? It’s at Melisaliberman.com/ideal-clients, the link is in the show notes. And what I would encourage you to do this week as a takeaway is really drilling into who is that ideal client persona for you? Who do you want to work with? Why do you want to work with them? Is it a could or should or want. And then you’ll be able to start attracting those people through your marketing messages. You’ll know who to talk to and spend your time with, the time you know the time that that is scarce for you that you want to use most efficient in order to meet those ideal people versus spending all of your business development time talking to people who aren’t the ideal people and ultimately become known as that go-to person for the problem that you solve for the people that you solve it for and build that brand reputation for yourself ultimately. So go do this work to refine, define and refine that ideal client persona. And again, I gave you the cheat sheet at Melisa lieberman.com backslash ideal dash client the link is in the show notes go do this work as you listen to each of these episodes, so that you can continue advancing your independent consulting business into something that you really love and are proud of what you’ve built. So, thanks for listening today go do this ideal client persona work and I will see you again next Thursday for another episode. Thanks for joining me this week on the Grow Your Independent Consulting Business podcast. If you liked today’s episode, I have three quick next steps for you. First, click Subscribe on Apple podcasts or wherever you listen to make sure you don’t miss future episodes. Next, leave me a review in your podcast app so other independent consultants can find it beneficial and finally put the ideas from today’s episode into action. Head over to Melisaliberman.com for the show notes and more resources to help you grow your consulting practice from your first few projects into a full-fledged business. See you next week.

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