Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9 pm ET.  This is excerpted from my recent interview with Dequiana Jackson, @InspiredMedia1 As Founder of , Inspired Marketing, Inc., Dequiana is a small business marketing strategist who teaches women entrepreneurs solid marketing strategies to turn their life’s passion into a profitable, service-based business. Dequiana is an author of the ebook Know Your Business: How to Attract Ideal Clients & Sell More For more info log on to her website: www.inspiredmarketinginc.com

SmallBizLady: What is an ideal client?

Dequiana Jackson: Your ideal client is a group of people that is both interested in your product or service AND willing to buy it. Once you target them with your marketing, these are the people who will read materials you’ve crafted and feel like it was written specifically for them. This should also be a group large enough to sustain your business over time.

SmallBizLady: Why does a small business need to have an ideal client?

Dequiana Jackson: Your ideal client will steer the direction of your marketing, your products and services and even your pricing. If you don’t target, you risk losing customers: 34% of 2,000 U.S. adults surveyed by Responsys “broke up with” or left a brand because they were receiving “poor, disruptive or irrelevant marketing messages.”You’ll save money by targeting your marketing efforts to the one or two groups that are most interested in your business.

SmallBizLady: What is one mistake small business owners make around customer targeting?

Dequiana Jackson: They want to target everyone. However, if you attempt to target everyone with your advertising, you end up reaching no one. For example, what compels a college graduate with his first job and disposable income to buy is going to be different than what motivates a new mom of triplets who is trying to stretch her budget. Mixing messages together will only confuse and alienate your true audience. Even companies running billion dollar brands target their product message to a specific set of people. In this age of information overload, you want your message to be so targeted that the minute your ideal client hears it, he goes, “Yes, this was written just for me.” You have to cut through the clutter.

SmallBizLady: How do I select my ideal client?

Dequiana Jackson:  Start by figuring out the core product or service your business provides. You need to be able to articulate that before you can target it to a specific group of people. For example, my first business was in online marketing. I designed websites. You may make candles. You must know what you do. Take a look at your competitors to see who they are targeting. There may be a gap in the market your business can fill. Identify why you are uniquely suited to serve this customer. What advantage does your business have over others in the market? For service-based businesses, like coaches, sometimes you just need to look in the mirror. You may have overcome an obstacle and now want to teach those who were previously in your shoes. Make sure you understand the benefits of your product or service to a client. How are you making their lives easier by buying from you?

SmallBizLady: How do I develop a detailed customer profile?

Dequiana Jackson: Focus on the demographics to understand your target customer. Who they are? What’s the age, sex, race/culture, location, income, marital status, # of children, job they hold? Look at psychographics to understand why they buy: habits, attitudes, values, behavior, when and where they hang out online, What magazines and blogs do they read? When are they most receptive to buying?  What goals do they have and frustrations they are feeling? How does your product or service help them to accomplish their goal, i.e. brighter, long-lasting hair color, a hassle-free family vacation, drive thru pharmacy . Frustrations would include any obstacles that prevent your client from reaching their goal or issues he or she would like to avoid.

SmallBizLady: Where do I gather the data to build my ideal client profile?

Dequiana Jackson: I assume you already have some idea of who you want your business to help. Create a survey with Google Forms or SurveyMonkey and distribute the link to old clients and current clients. You can also place an ad online targeted to who you think your ideal client might be. You can run a Facebook ad with a budget as little as $5. Offer an incentive to those who fill out the survey to increase completion rates. Complete third party research by hanging out in places relevant to your business. If you’ve decided to target moms of children aged 0 to 5, for example, jump on blogs and forums, pick up magazines and perhaps attend local meetings where these moms hang out. Track what you learn, and you’ll start to notice a pattern in what’s being said.

SmallBizLady: What are some sample questions I can ask in the survey?

Dequiana Jackson: Include basic demographic questions, such as, how old are you, how many children do you have, what is your occupation. Include lifestyle questions: How do you spend your free time, what are your favorite hobbies, what kind of music do you listen to. Gather information that could help you decide where to market: what magazines, newsletters and blogs do you read, what television shows do you regularly watch, what’s your favorite topic to read about, who influences your purchases when you’re in the market for (insert your product/service). Think of communication questions to find out when they are most receptive to buying: what’s the most annoying way a company has ever tried to market to you, what’s the best way to tell you about a new product, what gets your attention the most when you’re in the market for (insert your product/service).

SmallBizLady: What are some online tools that could help my client research?

Dequiana Jackson: T here are several online tools to help you research your ideal clients.

  • Consumer Barometer – a market research tool that gives you data on how consumers research online before purchasing.
  • gov – Hundreds of free consumer data sets from the U.S. government
  • Google Trends – Find out what people are searching for related to your products and services.
  • Blog comments – This could be the comments on your blog, one that’s industry-specific or that of a competitor. Look for trends in what people are complaining about or asking for.
  • Facebook groups – Join communities that you suspect your ideal client participates in and follow the conversation. Once you feel comfortable, jump in and share your expertise.

SmallBizLady: How do I test the market with my ideal client?

Dequiana Jackson:  Once you’ve gathered the data,and have enough information to fill out an ideal client profile, ask yourself these questions. If you answer yes to all of them, then you’ve found your ideal client. If not, go back through your research to see where the group needs to be tweaked.

  • Is this market large enough to sustain my business? Sometimes we end up becoming so specific that we don’t include enough people in our target market. Make sure there are enough of your ideal clients out there to keep your business viable for years to come.
  • Can the products and services I currently offer solve a problem for this market? If the answer is no, you’re not selecting the right group.
  • Would working with this group of people make me happy? Yes, a business is about making money, but you should enjoy working with your clients, especially if you’re in a service-based business.

SmallBizLady: How many ideal client profiles should I create?

Dequiana Jackson:  Start by targeting one or two groups. It will be easier to build genuine relationships that way. Most people want to feel valued, even in business.  By partnering with your customers and making products or services that fill their unmet needs, you will create a group of people who identify with your brand.  They will feel like your business really cares about them. When people feel valued, they usually tell someone else.  Getting loyal customers who spread the word about the greatness of your business can be one of the best forms of marketing.
SmallBizLady: How do I develop a budget for my marketing spend?

Dequiana Jackson: Concentrating on a target consumer can save your organization money. Your marketing budget can go further because you will only be in places where your target will be looking rather than anywhere you can find ad space. It is better to reach 500 people when 95% of them are highly likely to buy your product or service than 5000 when only 1% of them are interested in your business. For example, if you sell dog biscuits online, it would make more sense to run an ad on a popular dog-specific blog than to place one on a general pet website.

The more targeted you are, the higher your chances of buyer conversion.

If you found this interview helpful, join us on Wednesdays 8-9 pm ET; follow @SmallBizChat on Twitter.

Here’s how to participate in #SmallBizChat: http://bit.ly/1hZeIlz

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