Buyer personas, target clients, ideal audience, ideal customer avatar – all ways that I’ve heard and seen others talk about finding your preferred audience.
Niching down and discovering who you like to work for – and more importantly, what they like about working with you – is a huge key to growing your web development business.
Often when others talk about niching they think they need to work with a specific industry, like financial or fitness. But that can get bored after you’ve built 10 gym websites. So how do you niche down and identify your ideal client, without risking boredom?
Note What You Like Building
If you’ve already worked with some freelance clients, this is a little easier, but think through the projects you like building. Do you like complex websites with a lot of pieces. Do you like working with smaller businesses and helping them get their first website live? Do you want to keep the design more simplistic but the functionality smooth?
It helps to know what you want to build more of, because you’ll only like working with your ideal client if you like what you’re building long-term.
For instance, I love building websites that are maybe version 2 or 3 for my clients. They’ve been around a couple of years but they’re ready to grow and change their business a bit. I also know that I like working directly with the business owner, because I love translating their personal stories and passion into the website copy and just in the website itself. That typically means my clients are solopreneurs or small business owners with about 5 employees.
You’ll notice that that doesn’t limit me to an industry. In the websites I’m working on this week alone, I’m working with a physical therapy service, an urban winery, and a lawyer. All very different, but in all cases I’m working directly with the owner and getting to translate what they love about their business in simple websites that will be easy for them to maintain on their own.
If you’re just starting, I’d recommend trying to work with a couple of different industries and a couple of different business structures. You’ll learn pretty quickly what you like (and don’t like) about working with different types of clients.
What Problems Do They Have?
So you know who you like to work with. Now, ask yourself, what common problems do people that fit into that have? What issues are they struggling with? What are their goals for their businesses, or even some of the fears they might have about their business?
List out the commonalities that you can think through. Just because they’re not all in the same industry doesn’t mean they don’t have similar issues or goals. Many of your clients might want to grow their business, sell more products, or even find better quality employees.
Write out the questions and struggles your past clients have brought you before. If you haven’t had many clients, you can also do some Google and YouTube research to see what kinds of questions are being asked, what kinds of answers are being provided, and if you agree with those answers. Nothing’s better than seeing that someone out there is providing a solution you think is just way wrong and being able to “correct” it with your own service.
Talk in Their Language
Now that you know roughly who you might be working with, it’s time to get out of your own head and into the customers’. After all, you’re not talking to you. If you want your ideal clients to pay attention to what you’re saying (or even be able to find it in the first place), you need to speak their lingo.
Building a customer profile through persona builders like Hubspot’s can be a good start, but that just helps you start to think of your customer in real terms. You’ll want to make sure that your services and products are answering those problems and pain points that you’ve identified. Keep anything you write out of the technical and more about the benefit of what you provide. Even better when you an showcase that X services solves Y problem that we know you’re struggling with.
The trick here is to tell them that you solve Y problem by talking about it how they would, not how you would. After all, how they talk is how they’re going to Google and look for an answer to those problems.
For instance, I wouldn’t call myself a web designer, but because not a lot of people understand the fine difference between “web designer” and “web developer,” I use the term in my own marketing.
I also know that very few people are going to be looking for WordPress websites, but I do know that they’ll be looking for websites they can edit and keep updated without my help.
Google can be your friend here, as will looking at some competitors or other web agencies you want to be like.
Though let’s be real, most of us are terrible with our own websites because we’re too busy building everyone else’s, so look at them with a bit of a grain of salt.
Talk to Them Where They Are
One of the things you’ll want to keep in mind is where your ideal client “hangs out” digitally. It might not be where you are already. If you have a younger, maybe hipper audience, they might be on TikTok. If you have a more B2B audience, they’re probably spending time on Facebook and LinkedIn. Want to speak to business coaches and small service providers? They might be on Instagram.
Where your audience spends their time for fun matters, because you’ll want to talk to them there. You also have to keep in mind why they might be on that specific channel or app. Are they there to talk business or have fun? Knowing that impacts the type of content you’ll create. Honestly, what we do on TikTok does not necessarily translate to LinkedIn. Keep the platform in mind when you’re creating content for it.
Take what you learned above about speaking to them in their language, and work on applying that throughout your social media and content marketing strategies. “Listen” to some of your target hashtags and join in the conversation (engage!!!) where appropriate and you’ll be amazed at who comes back to discover more about you.
One thing that I’d highly recommend doing is some Google research to discover keyword and key phrase search volume. More popular means that’s more common for what people are searching for. You can create a Google Ads account for free and use their Keyword Planning Tool to get some awesome forecasts for that.
Then, take how you normally might discuss something and show how that gets translated into your customers language, i.e. Custom WordPress Websites -> Websites that Grow Your Business.
Having your own personal thesaurus on hand can be a huge time saver as you identify and start talking to your ideal customer!