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Who Is My Ideal Client?

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Many of you have heard me (and most marketing people) talk about how important it is to find your ideal client. What exactly IS an ideal client? In fancy terms: your “ideal client” is the specific segment of the market you’re selling to. In plain English: It’s the type of customer you are going to sell your stuff to. Why is this important? It’s important because it helps you make decisions about a lot of things, like how and where to advertise, what your company logo and colours are and so on.  Knowing your target market sets the tone for your business overall.

Briefly let me say that sometimes this is called “niche” – but I tend to use that word to apply to the kind of work you do – the style, the feel, the types of events. For the purposes of this article, I’m going to talk about niche from a customer point of view.

When we first get into business, we think our ideal customer is, well, everyone. After all, doesn’t everyone like cake and cookies? Doesn’t everyone have a birthday at least once a year?  When we work in custom products, we can sometimes feel like we don’t have a single ideal type of client because every order is so different. Sometimes we don’t want to define our ideal client because we think that it will limit the number of enquiries or orders we get. We all start out wanting to be all things to all people, but that needs to get more defined as we go on so that we can start to create the business we want. I recommend starting out simple with this and then getting more detailed – because as your style evolves, so too does the picture of your ideal client.

You’re going to have an ideal customer even if you’re starting out because, at least on a basic level, it sets the direction you’re going in. You want to create that picture so that when it comes to making decisions about marketing, you can ask yourself – would this appeal to my ideal client? Would they read the magazine I’m going to put this ad into? Would the colours of my logo appeal to them? How should I target my social media ads? You’re aiming to build what in fancy terms is an ICA – Ideal Client Avatar. In plain English: A picture in your head of what your customer might be like.

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One of the best ways to define your target is to look and listen to your existing client base.  While the orders might differ, the people themselves will have commonalities. The easiest way I found to define your target market is old school – sit down with a piece of paper and a pen and ask yourself a bunch of questions about this person. Start off nice and basic:

  • Are they male or female?
  • How old are they? (For this one, think about who makes the buying decisions. So while your cakes might be for kids, your client is actually the Mom, not the kid – because the Mom is who you will deal with.)
  • Where do they live? Are they within 50 miles of you (that’s how far you can deliver) or within your country (for example,that might be for cookiers who can mail the products)
  • Are they likely to be very price conscious? (Not everyone is!)
  • How far in advance are they planning to purchase? Are they likely to be planners, or are they “pop by on my way home” type of people?
  • Do they have kids?
  • What’s more important to them – they way it looks or the way it tastes? So are they foodies for whom you might need to have a ton of crazy flavours, or are they people who are more concerned with appearance and are really happy with 4-5 basic flavours?
  • Do they have a lot of disposable income? (are they wealthy overall? Or people who will splurge on a special event but otherwise not really.) Similarly, will they be paying for this themselves, or is it an event (like a wedding) where someone else holds the purse strings?

At this point you can start to get more detailed:

  • Do they work, and if so, is it full time or part time? What kind of job?
  • What kind of stores might they shop at? (Anthropologie…..or WalMart? Target…or Bloomingdale’s?)
  • What do they do in their spare time?
  • Where and how do they socialise?
  • What is their personal style? Is it classic and elegant? Quirky and fun? Bohemian?
  • You can consider race/religion, but this will really depend on where you are located geographically and if you offer special items – for example if you sell only Kosher or Halal products, or if you specialise in Greek sweets.
  • Where do they go to shop for things like the kind you are selling? Do they shop online? Search via Google? Or do they prefer real life stores?
  • What do they read? Blogs? Which ones? Magazines? Which ones?
  • Are they the kind of person who would attend a bridal fair, and if so – a high end one, or a more local one?

You get the idea – we want to get to know them as best we can so that we can then SERVE THEM as best we can.

 

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HERE’S AN  IMPORTANT THING to be aware of – even if you define your target client down to the teeny tiny details, there will ALWAYS be outliers. Always. The outliers are people who just don’t fit your mold for some reason, and that’s totally fine – hey, an order is an order, right? So use your target market to define your website style, where you advertise, etc etc but don’t obsess over it if “everyone” does not fit into that exact description. So in my own case, I hated wedding cakes – still happy to do them but they were not my target market in the least. So I never pushed them at all – but I left it as a category on my website (which was all bright happy colours, kids cakes and words like “rock star” and “awesome”)  and if I got an order or enquiry for a wedding cake, I just did it (provided I had the skills and time).  I neither worried nor cared that this person wasn’t at all what I pictured my clients to be like.

Here’s the point: Your target market is who you AIM for but not always who you get.

And lastly – the way your cakes and website or FB page look will attract that target market as defined above, which is why I say that while you are happy to take whatever order comes your way, only display or make a big deal of the kinds of orders you want to be doing.  If you’ve got a website full of superhero cakes, then a super high end, couture, very traditional bride would look at your things and think, “Ehh, not really the style I’m after” and would move on – she’s unlikely to even send through a quote request.  Figuring out your ideal client in part also helps you to begin to define your style.

Wedding Fair Vendor Success

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Tis the season…for wedding fairs! If you are a cake maker who makes cakes for brides, chances are you’ve either been invited to or you want to go to a bridal fair to showcase your wares. The fairs can often be rather pricey to be involved with, so in this week’s article I’m sharing my top tips for getting maximum value out of attending wedding fairs.

Tip #1: Attend the fair yourself before signing up to be a vendor and go on a re-con mission. See if your product will fit in there – are the other vendors of the same calibre as you are? What kinds of people are attending? What’s happening at other stalls? Is it crowded? Empty? What was the marketing of the event like in the lead up? Basically don’t consider showing up to this event until you’ve thoroughly checked it out.

Tip #2: Grab a couple of business cards at the event of vendors you think are of the same style and calibre as you are. Call those vendors a little while after, explain that you really admired their booth and you’re thinking of going and you wanted to know their thoughts on it. Find out if they got any business from it, if they think they would do it again, and any advice they might have for you.

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Tip#3: Don’t just put out a platter of samples and hide behind the table. Be picky about who you give samples to, and try to have a conversation with them before you give them one.

Tip #4: Make it very easy for them to book an appointment with you right there and then (offer it to them!) or if you’ve very brave and it’s reasonable to do so, take a deposit right then and there. You can offer an incentive for this – anyone who books in for a consultation today gets free delivery (etc.)

Tip #5: Gather email addresses – do this by either asking, or offering a prize for which they need to register to win. Then after the fair, FOLLOW UP with these people via email. Within a week of the event I’d be sending an email to them, and then once again 6 weeks or so later -you can again offer a special incentive if you like. Then add them to your normal mailing list so they are getting regular communication from you. Often the people at wedding fairs have a VERY long lead time on their event, and you can’t expect them to remember you 18 months later. Since you should be tracking ALL your clients anyway by asking, “How did you hear about us?” – track this event too. If within 6-9 months not a single person books from you that was at that event, I’d consider not attending again.

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Tip #6: If you give something away, try to make it more memorable than just a business card. A magnet, a company branded bag of candies, a cake server, keychain, pen…whatever you can afford which is more “keepable” than just a business card. Something they will hang onto rather than something they will recycle.

Tip #7: Involve social media to make your booth interactive. There are going to be lots of people doing a “enter to win” type of raffle – but how boring is that? Create a simple photo booth or have a funny cake and encourage them to take a selfie and upload it to social media with #yourbusinessname in order to win.

Tip #8: Do something which makes you stand out from the others and which makes an impression to OTHERS at the event. For example if people can sample directly from the booth, give it to them in brightly coloured cups or bright coloured forks so people walking around will see it and want to know where the heck all the red forks are coming from. Tie a balloon to the fork – whatever it takes really, to create some buzz around your booth.

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Tip #9: Make sure everything about your business actually talks the talk and walks the walk. If you’re high end, your booth needs to look it AND SO DO your website and social media account so that when they check you out later, it’s consistent. Also, YOU need to look good and exemplify all your company is about. Don’t show up in jeans and a t-shirt and think you’re making a good impression. Branding, branding, branding – on everything! Make your booth visually appealing AND useful for the client – perhaps a photo album with more designs, a beautifully printed menu of flavours you offer, maybe price the dummy cakes so people can get an idea of how much they would spend with you and how many those examples would feed.

Tip #10: If you suck at talking to people, take along a friend or family member that is chatty and get them to break the ice, then hand the couple over to you for more detailed talk about appointments and cake. You do not want to go to the event and either hide behind a tall cake or just stand there with a tray of samples looking awkward. You need to do your best to have conversations with people because they’ll remember the chat they had with you.

Wedding fairs often cost a lot to do, so if you’re watching your marketing budget be selective about the ones you attend. Don’t feel like you have to go to ALL of them in your area. For everyone I meet that says the wedding fair they went to was great and they booked a ton of work, I meet someone else who says it was a complete waste of time and money and they would never do it again.  Don’t stress if it wasn’t a success for you the first time around –  different events have a different vibe so it’s worth trying out a few before deciding which to keep going to and which to ditch. Lastly, wedding fairs are a GREAT place to network, get marketing ideas, and check out your competition and what they’ve got on offer.

Any top tips you’d like to add? Comment and let me know what’s worked for you, I’d love to hear it!

Setting Boundaries for Your Home Based Business

privateWhen you work from home, you’ve actually got TWO sets of boundaries you need to set up. The first is boundaries for yourself, things like being disciplined about not answering the phone at odd hours, not letting cake making take forever and keeping your business expenses separate. The second set of boundaries you need to set up is with your clients: the times they can come and pick up, when you’re available for consults and so on. Quite honestly each set of boundaries can be hard to maintain, but the second one is the more difficult because you just can’t force people to be on time or respectful about your space.

Here are some ideas for how to keep customer boundaries when you’re working from home:

  • Treat your business as a business and they will too.

    Be professional across the board (no taking orders via text, no answering the phone when someone is screaming in the background, no giving people quotes on random scraps of paper) and people will take your lead on how to behave. It’s when you start to be casual about things that they start to be casual as well – so if you’re always bending the rules  for people, not communicating properly or professionally…guess what, they will do that too. You set the tone for your business. Set a friendly,  professional one that has boundaries in it.

  • Have set opening hours and advertise those widely.

    If you have set opening hours clearly listed on your website, social media profiles and in your emails people are much more inclined to follow and respect those rules. The opening hours tell them what to expect from you in terms of availability.  Your opening hours are whatever you want them to be as they fit into your life – mine were 10am-4pm M-F and 9am-12:30pm Saturday (closed Sunday) because that’s what fit around my kids. If anyone questioned this, I just said, “That’s when I’m open,” and left it at that – if I felt pressured to justify it, I’d say, “As much as I’d might like to work 24/7, my family doesn’t appreciate it, so having set business hours is how I make time for both.” Did I work more than my advertised hours? Of course I did…but my clients didn’t need to know that. I also found that having a “range” of time that I was open on a Saturday worked a LOT better than having  set pick up appointments, so if you can do it that way, I recommend it.

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  • Don’t “advertise” that your business is home based. 

    It’s sad but true,  people will naturally take liberties with your time if they know you are at home. Your website should have your suburb or area listed, but not an actual address unless you need to give it to them. People see the words “home based business” and for some reason they think this is a reason to behave as though you have nothing to do all damn day but sit perfectly still at home in your perfectly clean house waiting for their arrival as though they are the Queen.

  • Remind them of your availability at the time of confirmation and give them a reason not to be late.

    When you email them a final payment invoice, or call to confirm the details of pick up address, gently remind them what the rules are and INCLUDE A CLEAR DEADLINE. “So I’m here until 3pm for your pick up, straight after that I’m heading out to do several deliveries.” They do not need to know that the truth is that at exactly 3:01pm you will be on the couch in your pajamas eating Pringles and watching Grey’s Anatomy. They only need to know that there is a damn good reason for them to be on time.

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  • If it looks like time is running short, call them.

    If the time for pick up has passed, don’t wait an hour to call and see where they are at then yell at them for making you wait. Do the polite thing and call them within 10-15 minutes of their being late. Sometimes they forgot to come, got lost or there was traffic, or any number of things happened to make them late. Make sure you remind them of your deadline. Be nice but firm. “Hi Jane, just checking where you are, because I need to head out for those deliveries in about ten minutes.”

Lastly, even when you do all of that there are some people who are just chronically whiny or chronically late. For the whiny ones, I find it’s best not to enter into a long discussion about it. Your hours are your hours, that’s when you can help them, and you have other clients/family which mean that pick ups at 9pm on Saturday night are not an option. If you struggle with this because you are by nature a people pleaser (as many of us are), then in that moment I want you to remember that your being in business is not only about your client’s happiness – your happiness counts for something too!  For the chronically late, make their pick up time earlier than you really need to. Want them there by noon? Make them pick up at 11. Better yet, offer to deliver – which solves their problem AND yours.

I highly, highly recommend having boundaries around your home based business. The major difference between home and store based boundaries is in how YOU behave around those boundaries. If you know that clients are more inclined to take liberties because you are a home based business, then you’ve got to be just that touch more firm and professional about your boundaries. Be polite, loving, and accommodating where you can – but also make the rules clear and it’s win/win – they know what to expect and you can crack open the can of Pringles a little bit sooner.