I think many of us have experienced a project where we had the best of intention, but quickly learned that something about this particular client just wasn’t right.
Maybe they tried to hijack the design process by revealing their budget was actually quite lower than what they had previously told you. Maybe a nitpicky spouse vetoed every last bit of personality out of the overall design.
Or maybe your problems don’t even get to that point because you can’t seem to find the right clients to begin with. If this is the case, you’re likely encountering plenty of price objections or simply losing the job because the prospective client never gets around to committing to the project.
Whatever the scenario, there’s usually one cause behind all this:
Not knowing your ideal client avatar.
An ideal client avatar (ICA) is a character sketch of the person you would love to work with – not just a demographic range. An ICA is an actual description of a person and everything about them.
Understanding your ICA is the key to projects that result in portfolio-quality work and raving client testimonials. You need to be able to identify exactly what your client looks like – inside and out – so that when you see them, you know they’re right for you, and that you’re the right person to help them.
I’ve found it’s that last bit – knowing you’re the right person to help your ideal clients – that increases confidence enough to prompt you into approaching a prospective client and, eventually, asking for the sale.
Before we dive into how to define your ICA, I want to assure you that it won’t hurt your business to go narrower than you have in the past. Being very specific allows you to speak directly to people who will hear and appreciate your message.
Step One – What is your ideal project?
Before we ever talk about WHO you’re working with, you need to understand what type of projects you’ll enjoy working on.
If you’re a designer focusing on residential design, what is your ideal scope? Is it just a single room of furniture and accessories, or a full remodel? Something in between, maybe?
Regardless of whether you’re a seasoned designer or just starting out, identify your most ideal project. Then, if something comes along that’s not exactly ideal, you now have a metric against which you can measure every opportunity.
So, first step, think of that ideal project.
Step Two – Who is your ideal client?
Now that we know your ideal project, let’s ask ourselves, “what kind of people live here?” But before we can understand who you could best work with, we have to understand YOU.
It’s important that you’re working with clients you can relate to in some way, so definitely don’t choose an ICA you’re not familiar with at all. Often, our best clients are people who are just a few steps behind us in any kind of life journey.
In my Facebook group for interior designers, we often talk about the types of clients they can relate to. Some designers have overcome traumatic events and want to help others build a space which will be their clients’ sanctuary. Others are ambitious and career-focused and want to design spaces that make their clients feel inspired and motivated.
It’s not enough to simply say you design spaces for “families” or “couples.” You must understand who these people are and their unique motivations.
So, ask yourself about your own life journey.
- What events – good or bad – immediately come to the forefront of your mind?
- What have you overcome that other people can relate to?
- What achievements have you made in life that other people can relate to?
- What things do you find sentimental and how does that connect you with others?
Step Three – Create a character sketch
Now that you’ve identified what your ideal client might look like, we’re going to dive even deeper and create a story about them.
At this point, you might asking, “is all of this really necessary?”
If you want to have a steady stream of clients and income, yes.
To sell high-end personal services – regardless of actual cost – you must use everything in your arsenal to get deals closed. Remember, you’re not just up against competitors, you’re also up against the entire DIY industry and plain ol’ apathy.
Sometimes design projects are “a must,” but many times they’re more of a nice-to-have. And, when push comes to shove, nice-to-have projects have a way of getting relegated to the graveyard of backburner projects that never become realized.
Yes, you must get into your client’s mind so you can 1.) attract the right clients in the first place and 2.) create rapport and a bond to help close the sale.
So, back to that character sketch …
Think about it as though you were writing a character in a movie or a book. If you were, you’d want to know this person’s motivations, tendencies, and perspective. To get those answers, we need to ask some questions.
First, we need to know demographic info:
- Age (an exact age, not a range)
- Marital status
- Household income
- City of residence
- Children or none? Why or why not?
- Career – corporate, self employed, unemployed, etc.
Next, we need to know psychographic info:
- Personality type (Myers-Briggs or other)
- Personality quirks
- Tone of voice
- Bad habits
- What three words would she use to describe herself?
- What does she worry about?
- How does she think people see her?
- What is her primary goal in life right now?
- Favorite magazines, books, blogs, movies, TV show
- How does she spend her weekends or off-time?
- Does she have hobbies? What are they?What are her political leanings
Write a 500 word narrative about them. Why? Remember when I said “most direct way of getting clients”? This is how you find them – by understanding who they are. Then, go to unsplash.com and find a free stock photo of someone who represents your ideal client. Keep it visible for when you’re writing blog posts or posting on social media.
Getting 100% clear on your ideal clients allows you to focus on actually finding them. The work of marketing for your interior design business doesn’t have to be hard when you know what you’re looking for.