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Small Business Owner 101: Top Tips to Attract Ideal Customers

Attracting the target audience of a small business

Attracting your ideal client is an essential part of building your small business or contract list, no matter what line of work you’re in. Expanding your reach starts with honing in on your particular niche and your target audience — and using those as launch points.

In this article, we first define the terms “niche market” and “target audience,” to help you apply these key concepts to your business. We then offer some expert advice on which steps to take to attract your ideal clients.

What's Your Niche? How to Identify the Market You Fit Best

A niche market “is a segment of a larger market that can be defined by its own unique needs, preferences, and identity that makes it different from the market at large,” explains Alexandra Sheehan on Shopify. Focusing on a niche helps you define a smaller, more unique target audience who are more likely to buy your product or service. So whether you’re basing your niche market on who your current customers are or on who you want them to be, here are some important things to consider in finding your niche.

1. Identify Your Values and Strengths

"It seems elementary, but you need to self-evaluate before deciding on a niche," advises Jared Weitz of United Capital Source Inc. Basing your niche on what you have passion for and knowledge about is key to creating a business that reflects that. Just setting aside some time to spend with a pad of paper and some self - reflection can go a long way. List your business’s strengths and core values. How do you best serve your current customers? What theme can you identify for why they buy from or hire you? How does your business excel when working with clients? What do you care most about in your business?

Familiarity with your passions and strengths can also help with another critical component of finding your niche: identifying a gap in the market.

2. Find a Gap in the Market

Samuel Thimothy of OneIMS warns "don't get tempted to play the same game the bigger market shareholders are playing." The bigger market shareholders generally are trying to be everything to everyone — and gaps get created when bigger companies try to do too much. "Dig deep" to find the hidden story of what they’re missing and be the best possible provider of that absent market need. By matching the weaknesses of other companies with your passion and knowledge, you’ll be able to discover your niche.

And keep in mind that this doesn’t mean you will forever focus on the same niche. In the same article, Bryce Welker, CEO of Crush Empire agrees with Thimothy on finding underserved areas of the market. He states that launching within a niche market "also allows you to build incrementally and start focusing on other niches in the future, which will slowly expand your reach."

3. Let Customers Guide You

If you already have an established business but haven't yet established your niche, it's a great time to listen to what your customers are telling you (for example, through online reviews, customer surveys, and social media comments). Salvador Ordorica of The Spanish Group says that by engaging with your customers, and adjusting your business based on what they are asking for, “you will begin to slowly carve out a niche of your own."

How to Determine Your Target Audience

After you identify your niche market, the next step is to seek your target audience. A target audience is the demographic of people who are most likely to be interested in what you are selling. It includes and extends past your customer base. You might create a list of character traits and needs about your target audience, including that they “liked” particular brands on social media or they “follow” a store that offers related products.

The best way to determine your target audience is by building an ideal client description example. Rebecca Patterson, a lead builder and business coach, uses a six-step process to help identify this ideal client description example.

1. Start with Current Customers

Even though your target audience isn’t the same as your customer base, focusing on who is already buying from you can help you to find out who that target audience is. This isn’t the time to focus on anecdotal information or your general impressions. Instead, drill into the data of who your customers are. You are building a demographic, not an individual. Think of age brackets, occupations, genders, and locations.

2. Focus on Habits

Develop an understanding of your ideal client’s everyday habits and routines. Where online does your ideal client spend their time? Which social media sites do they frequent? Where do they get their news? What types of information are they searching for? These are all questions you’ll want to answer.

3. Determine Goals

What are your ideal client’s goals? This information can be critical in putting together marketing campaigns, but it also serves to show how your company can provide for their more specific needs.

4. Find Fears

While dreams and goals motivate many purchases, so do fears. In this context, client fears are likely to present as problems that need solving. Understanding the challenges of your ideal client can help you find the gaps between their problem and its solution. By filling in these marketplace gaps, you help solve your ideal client’s problem. And, as a result, you build trust, position your company for future sales, and strengthen your business.

5. Think of Buying Decisions

It’s important that your company provide your ideal client with what they need to make a final purchase. Some clients read many reviews, others require extensive background information, and still others buy more impulsively without comparison shopping. By providing what your ideal client needs to finalize a purchase, you eliminate unnecessary hurdles to future sales.

6. Fulfill Needs

At the end of the day, it’s all about fulfilling needs. What your ideal client needs (and wants) is the key question you need to ask yourself.

3 Prospecting Strategies to Reach Your Dream Clients

OK, so now you've done the work of discovering your niche, and along with that you’ve identified who precisely your target audience is. But how do you go about attracting your ideal clients? One of the best strategies is prospecting.

What exactly is prospecting? Well, the good news is you've already done half of the job. Prospecting is simply identifying potential customers and then reaching out to them. It’s worth noting that prospecting isn’t the same thing as marketing. With prospecting, you’re reaching out directly to potential clients, whether it is by phone, email, over social media, or even in person. With marketing, you’re undertaking a campaign that will be seen by a targeted audience. When it comes to direct outreach, people can get hung up, but here is some advice from experts for finding success in prospecting.

1. Find Future Friends

Sales expert Jill Rowley explains that she doesn't think of those she reaches out to as prospects but prefers instead to think of them as future friends. To do this well means offering prospects something that is "valuable, relevant and differentiating," comments Tamara Schenk, who explains this is key to successful prospecting. This means doing a bit of research first to find out what your prospect might directly need and going in to meet those needs from the outset. For instance, this can take the form of looking up a person’s job title, finding what their role ensues, and understanding what their main challenges are.

For those still struggling to get over that initial outreach, Morgan Ingram, who has been named a Top Sales Voice by Linkedin offers his "3-Second Rule." He advises prospectors to take 3 seconds to comprehend what their prospect is saying and craft follow - up questions. He says “you will see the impact [of this strategy] in no time because people really want to be listened to."

2. Do It Daily

Don't underestimate the work that you did in designing your specific niche and building your ideal client description example. Knowing these two things about your business is worth its weight in gold. But knowledge is power only so far as you implement your ideas. This means prospecting daily. Matt Heinz of Heinz Marketing explains that "the most successful prospecting efforts involve a daily discipline of engagement, follow - up and value - added outreach.” Investing in management software can help you keep track of leads while setting goals and notes for future outreach. If you’re not ready for that investment, productivity and calendar apps can be a huge help in setting timeline tasks to keep you accountable.

See the best (free) To Do List apps on the market

It is important to keep track of your success rate with prospecting. This is what can guide you in knowing whether your ideal client description example needs restructuring and can help you gather data, so a system to track your outreach is important not just for follow - through.

3. Use Your Ideal Client Description Example

Don't get bogged down in wasting time on someone who expresses vague interest but is never going to buy. You crafted your ideal client description for a reason, so now use it. Mark Hunter cautions that if the prospect doesn't meet your ideal customer criteria by at least 70 - 80%, then you can safely move on — quickly.

3 Marketing Ideas for Attracting Your Ideal Client

While outreach is important, so is marketing. This is what allows your ideal client to come directly to you, without you having to do the individualized outreach. While marketing can be targeted toward your ideal client, it is not the same as direct outreach. An example of marketing would be running a Facebook ad campaign. This can be specifically targeted to your ideal client. For instance, social media can be utilized to direct an ad solely at males between the ages of 24 and 32 who shop at BestBuy online, if that fits in with a business’s ideal client description example. But this isn’t direct outreach to individuals, it’s marketing, designed to make consumers come to you. Here are some tips from experts to make your marketing most effective

1. Use Storytelling, but Keep It Relevant

At the heart of good marketing is good storytelling because it builds a connection with potential customers. But Joel Schwartzberg, author of The Language of Leadership, describes how important it is to keep it concise and relevant. Rather than getting off-track in the intricacies of the story, it’s important to know what your overall point is and to use your story to drive home that point. A story can introduce a point, it can illustrate one, or it can make the point overall, but you want to keep your content concise.

2. Know Your Own Goals

Now is the time for some soul - searching. You've already plumbed the depths of getting to know your customer, but what do you want? Setting specific marketing goals can help you reach them. Ask yourself where you need the most improvement and then set out to tackle that area. Important target areas include:

  1. Generating Leads
  2. Adding Customer Value
  3. Increasing Conversion Rates
  4. Raising Brand Awareness
  5. Strengthening Social Media Presence
  6. Using SEO to Full Advantage

3. Hit Social Media Hard

Now that you've put in the hard work in identifying your perfect target audience, you can use your ideal client description example to perfectly mold your social media ads. Use social media to your best advantage. Not only are consumers increasingly using it to find new brands, social media also can help you create deeper customer (and potential customer) interactions and brand loyalty. Social media advertising allows you to create a marketing campaign that is quite sophisticated in its specificity at an affordable price. Here are some key tips to success with social media marketing:

  • Use your ideal client description example to help target the social channel your target audience is most likely to use. That’s where you should be advertising and promoting.
  • Knowing the different platforms is important. Facebook has the most users, with YouTube and WhatsApp following. However, younger users favor Snapchat, TikTok, and Instagram. And LinkedIn is ideal for business-related services and products.
  • A big part of social media is raising brand awareness. There are design sites like Canva that can help you create great graphics, or photo apps that can help you use your pictures to tell stories. If you have a blog, you’ll want to make sure you’re posting it to get ample distribution.
  • Remember social media marketing isn’t just about winning new customers immediately. You’re also increasing the ever - important brand awareness and building relationships. Have your social media campaigns reflect this, with campaigns to get new followers. Consider collaborating with other brands and businesses to offer exciting contests.

Final Thoughts

While prospecting and marketing are challenging, they are much easier and much more effective once you have established your niche and identified your ideal target audience. Building a strong business means creating a strong foundation, and that is best accomplished by discovering where you fit in and concretely determining who you should be targeting. Fortunately, the best way to carve your niche is by drawing on your strengths and passions. Building these foundational elements will guide both your prospecting and marketing efforts and make connecting to ideal customers so much easier.


Image courtesy of istock.com/Alfieri


Last updated on Jul 21, 2022.

Originally published on Jul 21, 2022.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Berxi™ or Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance Company. This article (subject to change without notice) is for informational purposes only, and does not constitute professional advice.

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