Who is your ideal client? Have you ever met them? Would you even know if you had – have you ever sat down and defined your ideal client? Do you know what they’re like? Do you know where they shop, where they spend their money, what they like to eat, where they like to vacation, and what kind of car they drive? “People willing to spend a lot of money on photography,” isn’t very helpful as a target.
It’s an exercise with a lot of value to your business, and it’s one I strongly encourage you to consider spending some time on. Here’s why:
1. Focus clarifies. Putting it into words is useful because it helps you to quantify the type of clients you’re hoping to engage with. These are the people you want to work with every week, and are the kind of people, for whom you get REALLY excited to create incredible images. Write down everything you can think of about who your ideal client is – so much so that you could pick them off the street if they walked by.
2. Focus gives you the ability to make decisions. When you know who you’re ideal client is, you’re able to make decisions about your business. You can make informed decisions about things like, where to advertise. You can make decisions about how to present your photography, whether or not to have a studio space, what types of work you want to show, and what marketing will be most effective.
If you don’t have an ideal client in mind – most of these things will be wasted efforts since you’ll have little chance of measuring the success against anything meaningful
If your ideal client reads Martha Steward Weddings, why are you advertising in The Knot? (I’m not commenting on either, except that they target different segments of the market). If your clients shop at Pottery Barn, they’re used to a different experience than if they shop at IKEA.
3. Focus enables healthy growth. It seems like diversification in your brand might be the opposite of a laser-like focus, when in reality – focus is the key to growing your business both deeper and wider. Knowing where to move next is based on a solid understanding of who you want to serve, and what they need/want.
Simply trying a little of everything – for everyone – might net you short-term returns, but it doesn’t really allow anyone to feel like they really know what box to put you in. Sure, most of us don’t want to be put in boxes, but the reality is – clients do it whether you want them to or not. Then they pass that box around to their friends that they think will like you. If you make it hard to put you in the box, you make it hard for them to share.
4. Focus means saying no. I’m not suggesting that you simply start turning away all business from anyone who doesn’t match your “ideal clients.” That would be really bad advice. In fact, when you’ve defined your target well – you’ll find yourself REGULARLY working with clients that are close – but not perfectly ideal. That’s okay, it’s the point actually. By positioning yourself in market, you’ll attract the market around you.
Focus DOES mean saying no to distractions. It means not wasting resources (both energy and money) in places that don’t help you reach your ideal client. It means saying no to opportunities that keep you from moving in the right direction. It means not spending thousands of dollars on advertising that doesn’t position you in front of your ideal client. And it actually DOES occasionally mean turning away clients when you really aren’t the best fit.
You don’t do anyone any favors by investing in the wrong places. You don’t do anyone any long term favors by investing in the wrong clients. Do yourself – and your future clients – a favor right now. Sit down and define who they are.
Written by Jason Aten
Jason Aten is a Michigan based wedding photographer. After a career in marketing and sales management for a Fortune 100 company, Jason became relentlessly drawn to the ability to impact people’s lives through photography. So in 2001 he quit his job to start his own photography business. Jason applies his previous marketing and sales experience to his photography business and now takes the time to educate others with his “Starting Out Right” one-day intensives and resource guides. You can find more posts like this on the Starting Out Right blog.