3 ways to validate your ideal client avatar
Running your own business can be a roller coaster of emotions, and my recent highs and lows trying to define my ideal client avatar (a.k.a. ICA), (sometimes called an ideal client profile) is a prime example.
I joined Marie Forleo's B-School where we went deep with ICA's. (Full B-School review to come, keep an eye on the blog for that). I had already created an ICA previously so I felt 100% ready to roll with 'Victoria' (my old ICA) and fly through that part of the course.
Oh-hell-no was I wrong!
After a Mastermind call with fellow B-Schoolers I realized they knew significantly more about their ICA's than I did mine. They had dove more deeply into their ICA's feelings and thoughts on the world, which of course, affects buying preferences and decisions a whole lot more than their hair color does. (Unless you're selling hair dye of course, which unfortunately, I'm not).
My superficial ICA wasn't going to cut it. So back to the drawing board I went to try out ICA #2. It just so happens, just previously I had some clients who fit ICA #2 pretty well, but I admit, their projects didn't light a fire of excitement within me.
Around came week 3 of B-School dedicated to communication and I felt stuck. I couldn't formulate good ideas around communication style and content when I wasn't happy with my ICA still. Yep, you guessed it, ICA #3 appeared.
ICA #3 was the easiest of them all to write. It just flowed from my brain, through my pencil onto paper in no time, with little thinking needed. She is, as many ICA's tend to be for business owners, a lot like me (fab gal that one)!
For the first time with all of my ICA writing, I felt a genuine true excitement to work alongside this gal for 2 weeks designing a website. Not a 'yeah, I'm looking forward to that project,' but a 'I'm equally as excited as the client to get started,' type feeling.
One problem. ICA #3 was an online entrepreneur.
Online entrepreneurs, as my boyfriend pointed out (much to my annoyance) tend to be tech savvy folks and have DIY'ed a website for themselves.
(While I know the boyfriend was only trying to help I couldn't help but be annoyed all night for him making me doubt something I was SO excited about. Happy to report it's all good, I've since gotten over it and know his heart was in the right place.)
Where does that leave me and my custom web design services I wondered?
Even though I'd be over the moon to work with that ICA, does that ICA need me and what I offer? How many of my current audience fit the description of that ICA? Was she some unicorn that didn't really exist? Did I go to narrow?
Or maybe, did I already have a large segment of people reading my blog and on my email list that I should be trying to target instead, if my ICA #3 was truly some unicorn that wasn't real. Was my second choice, photographers, a better ICA?
I knew I needed to do some validation, before pouring hours into reworking messaging, my content plan and my site.
I wanted to be sure ICA #3 actually wanted and would pay for what I offered. Or, if that ICA really wasn't a good option, what was the next best?
I realized I had 3 options to try to validate my idea. I'll share those with you here, so if you ever end up in a similar pickle, you can pick which one you think will be most effective for you! Or of course, mixing and matching them together works as well!
1. Interview ICA
Yes, the thing people most hate in this world, going out of their comfort zone and asking a stranger for help. Eeeeek! However, when starting my business, I had decided to live by Tim's words.
BAM! ... Mic drop.
Basically the quote is a swift kick in the buns to just get on and do the thing you need to do, instead of waffling around it and avoiding uncomfortable situations all your life.
So, I decided to get over myself and find ICA's to interview. First, I emailed my list with a 5 bullet point description of my ICA and an ask for help. Here's the email I sent my list to give you an idea.
I have a favor to ask, can you help?
I'm doing a little bit o' business Sherlock Holmes-ing (aka investigation)! I'm doing some business research, and in order to complete it I need to chat with someone who fits the following description (or at least 4/5 of it).
Does this description fit you?
Running an online business (eg. copywriter, coach, digital marketer, graphic designer, social media manager, or anything else that's run purely online and NOT in a brick and mortar building)
Is full time with said business
You’ve achieved an amount of business success so that you’re now getting close to/are at the place where you're able to justify to yourself investments back into your business
You’re super busy with your massive to do list and you know you can’t do ‘allthethings’ alone anymore
If you read that and thought 'hey! that sounds like me' please reply to this email to let me know! (And I'll uncover my mystery mission to you!)
Your help is oh-so appreciated!
Next, I headed to the B-School Facebook group. I posted with a description of my ICA and asked for anyone who fit it to holla at me.
From there I asked if they would be open to speaking with me for 15 mins so I could interview them, and set call times. I had a few things I needed to get clear on, so I wrote out a list of questions. (Highly suggest this so you don't get on the phone and blank.)
Tell me about current business, how it started, what business looks like now, what offer visitors/clients
What are you currently using for your website? What was that decision process like?
Did you DIY or hire help for your site?
Frustrations or limitations of current site?
If you went to go look for a website designer, where would you look? What would be your method?
What would you want to know or see on the website designers website to solidify it's the person for you?
Are there any important factors you want to see in the studio you hire?
If there was a web design process built just for you, what would that look like?
The results of this method? I had 4 calls set up with different ICA's over 2 days, and on the 1st call the ICA was asking me about my availability for redoing her site in the summer. 2nd call also resulted in a booking.
Clearly my ICA was not some imaginary unicorn, and she was indeed willing to pay for my services.
I actually stopped with the validation here, but there's still two more options if you want to keep going.
(But don't you dare just avoid this one because it's uncomfortable to reach out to people! Remember what Tim said? Plus people don't bite, and aren't nearly as scary as you think they are, promise! Plus, if they truly are your ICA, you'll hit it off when you're chatting and enjoy the conversation anyways.)
2. Survey audience
Pssst - if you don't have any audience to speak of (either a list or blog readers) see the next tip!
Another method of going straight to the source is surveying. This is beneficial if you have a large audience that you wouldn't have nearly enough time to call individually. Or, if you want a large number of responses as opposed to a few really in depth ones.
The main purpose for this validation method would be to determine how much of my audience already fit into a what categories, (eg. new business owner vs. established, what field they worked in, current website uses, DIY'ed or designer, etc).
It could have happened that there was a large segment of my audience I just hadn't thought of, and maybe should consider for my ICA. Or, maybe I'd find out I had a whole bunch of photographers on my list who would also make for a fab ICA.
Questions would be similar to the ones in the previous step, just tweaked for best performance in a survey (yes/no, tick boxes, select what applies, as opposed to open ended questions which people are fine with on the phone, but tend to get annoyed by in surveys).
For surveys, I've used and liked Survey Monkey.
I unfortunately can't tell you the effectiveness of this option as I had my decision made after testing out the first method, but I highly encourage you to test it out (and then come back to update me on your results!)
3. Run Facebook Ads
Facebook Ads, at this point in my business are unfamiliar territory, so this one never would have crossed my mind myself. Shout out to one of my B-School Mastermind gals, Courtney from Oso Social Media for this idea!
The girl knows Facebook Ads like the back of her hand and quickly came up with this.
Run a $20 ad over the course of 2-3 days targeting the different audiences I was considering as ICA's, which should reach about 1,500 - 2,000 people. The ads goal would be to click through to my website where I'd have a freebie set up just for that specific audience.
My fall back ICA was photographers, and I wanted to know if they would be significantly more interested in Squarespace web design rather than online entrepreneurs (copywriters, digital marketing strategists, coaches, etc.).
Courtney suggested to run a Facebook ad targeted at those different groups, speaking directly to them (eg. '5 step guide to the perfect photographer website on Squarespace') and compare the opt-in rates.
To see where they were in their business and if they were ready to invest in custom web design services I'd have a poll question in a follow up email.
There we have it, 3 ideas to get the ball rolling! I wish you the very best in finding your ICA, so you can truly LOVE working with each and every fab client.
If you do test out the 2nd and 3rd strategy, I want to hear from you! ... Seeing as I got my answer after strategy 1 and never tested them out. Leave me a comment or drop me an email friend, firstname.lastname@example.org.