5 Steps to Identify Your Ideal Customers

Ideal Customer Finding and profiling your ideal customers has always been important, but as online marketing gets more and more complex it becomes essential.

The interesting part is there doesn’t seem to be a lot of agreement as to how to identify your ideal customers.

There is a lot of talk, and writing, about target markets, target audience, buyer persona, ideal clients, etc. Some of it useful and some not so much.

The last thing I want to do is add to the noise on this topic. However, after over 30 years in sales and marketing I’d like to think I’ve learned a bit about the subject. I am also going to draw on the knowledge of John Jantsch, founder of Duct Tape Marketing, for some of this post. The Duct Tape Marketing System [full disclosure: I am part of the Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network] has been proven to be effective in thousands of small businesses over the past 12+ years.

The essence of the “secret sauce” is to identify your ideal client, define a core difference for you company, and then connect the dots.

What is An Ideal Customer?

Part of the problem I mentioned earlier is there doesn’t seem to be clarity in defining and ideal customer. Ideal Customer Matrix

Let’s try and keep it simple and see if we can agree on three elements to this definition:

  • Someone who values your differences in your product or service offering
  • Someone who is profitable (I told you I was going to keep it simple)
  • Someone who refers you to other potential customers

So if you were to map out your current customers it would look like this matrix to the right.

Lower left quadrant = bad, upper right quadrant = good. Simple.

Let’s break it down into five steps to help us learn more about our existing customers in order to find more like them to be new customers.

Define Your Customers

You will want to define them using 4 criteria:

  • Demographics – the usual age, gender, income, etc.
  • Psychographics – personality type, expressed preferences, etc.
  • Geographics – where are they located
  • Behavior – do they share similar likes and dislikes, sports, news, politics, etc.

Locate Them

Not in the same sense as Geographics above, but rather where they “hang out” online and offline?

  • Ask them where they hang out?
  • What do they read? Online? Offline?
  • What do they listen to?
  • What do they search online?

Understand Their Buying Process

  • What are their timing triggers in each step?
  • What do they research first? And where?
  • What is the problem or pain?
  • What are the benefits to finding a solution?

Sketch a Buyer Profile

No you don’t have to be an artist, but you do need to put these down on paper. You want your sketch to be tangible, something your staff can grab hold of and relate to.

  • Create a written profile
  • Assign personas, maybe even give them names
  • Include images of clients, either real or what one might look like

Talk to Existing Customers

But only the ones that are in your upper right quadrant of your matrix. Ask them these questions:

  • Why did you originally buy from us?
  • Why do you continue to buy from us?
  • What do we do that others don’t?
  • What frustrates you?
  • What would you Google for our product/service?
  • Who else do you refer?

When you have completed this you will have a much better picture of the type of potential customers you should be targeting.

What have I left out? Any thoughts or ideas regarding this? Please leave your comments or questions below.




  1. Including input from current ideal clients is essential – great article!

  2. This seems like great advice. I’d not thought about asking my followers where they hang out usually; I had a ‘duh’ moment!

  3. Phil Lauterjung says:

    I love it when I have those ‘duh’ moments :-) Glad I could provide one for you.

  4. Phil Lauterjung says:

    It really is amazing how much help your current customers can be when you simply ask the right questions. Glad you enjoyed the post.

  5. Phil Lauterjung says:

    Very true, those are all great follow-up questions to ask.

  6. Phil Lauterjung says:

    Very true, and thanks for the comment along with the plug. Narrowing your focus always ends up in more business, not less – and it is the right kind of business, profitable.


  1. The cheat sheet to grow business through advertising says:

    [...] what you need to tell them. Whom do you enjoy working with? Who are your most profitable customers? Who refers you to other profitable customers? What are your most profitable customers afraid of? What motivates them? Are they married or single? [...]

  2. [...] The all too common error of trying to serve too wide a market is likely to result in watered down services, taking on clients who are not a good fit, and the inability to truly meet the needs of the wide base.  For assistance in defining your ideal client, reference Phil Lauterjung’s 5 Steps to Identify Your Ideal Customers. [...]

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