The Spooky Secret to Designing
Your Perfect Business

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Recently on the Remarkable Marketing Blueprint* forum, some folks were saying nice things about the space I’d created.

And I have to admit — I love it there. The members are generous and supportive, everyone is working their tails off and making progress like crazy. It’s exhilarating and warm and fuzzy all at the same time.

But here’s the thing.

I didn’t make it that way

You may know that I’m into visualizing one single, perfect customer for your business.

That means you figure out the perfect person that you want to do business with. Then you always speak directly, one-to-one, to that person. Your blog, your email, even a highway billboard should be written for that person and no one else.

I thought I understood how that worked. Basically, it activates your brain to perceive that person when you’re out and about. (Otherwise, trust me, she’ll be standing right in front of you and you won’t see her.)

It makes your communication feel more intimate, because you’re using the language of individual conversation rather than giving a speech to millions. And your conversational, intimate tone will make customers (particularly those who look like your perfect customer) feel really comfortable and welcome.

But there’s a part I didn’t get.

Your customers shape your business

Business decisions get made to solve problems and open up opportunities. Usually a lot more of the former than the latter.

When you don’t do any work to define your customer, you have to create a lot of policies and processes to deal with people you shouldn’t be dealing with in the first place.

  • Time-wasters and energy vampires
  • People who can’t afford your service or don’t get enough value from it, so they’re always battling you on price
  • Negative people
  • Mean people
  • People whose personalities are incompatible with yours (maybe they’re flakes and you’re a stickler for detail, or vice versa)

You get the idea.

Some of them might be perfectly nice. But they’re not right for you. And when you have customers who aren’t right for you, they invariably become a gigantic pain in the ass.

When you know exactly who your customer is, you shape your product and service so it’s exactly what she wants, the way she wants it.

So you’re not creating that business. She is.

Honestly, it’s kinda spooky.

The problem with appealing to bottom-feeders

You may know that I’ve gained a little notoriety making fun of the “yellow highlighter” internet marketers.

It’s not that I think they’re bad guys, or crooks. (Ok, some of them are crooks, but some are 100% straight shooters.)

I just don’t like the way their customers have shaped their businesses.

They pitch to the lowest common denominator, to the “get rich quick” business opportunity junkie who has no faith in himself. That customer is always looking for a magic pill. He only responds to a “fast money, no work” message, and that ends up shaping the marketing and the business.

Some of the yellow highlighter guys are actually terrific teachers. But their message gets messed up because they’re going for a problematic customer.

The distinction between connection and marketing gets fuzzy

Naomi and Mark had a really interesting call last week that touched on the times in our business when we’re creating connection, and how that can be at odds with the times when we’re selling something.

I won’t say the boundary ever completely dissolves. There is a difference.

But when you’ve uncovered who your exact perfect person is and then you shape the business around what she cares about, selling really does become a form of connection.

And there’s another side to it — you don’t kill yourself building extraneous stuff that doesn’t really float her boat. (In other words, stuff that won’t create a connection or sell.)

You’re making an offer of help, rather than “asking for the sale.” You don’t need to out-yell the Sham-Wow guy, because the product itself is doing the shouting for you:

I’m the perfect product! I’m exactly what you’ve been looking for! I’m going to help you and make your life better and you’re going to be so glad we found each other. Buy me, you gorgeous perfect customer, you!

When connection and selling come together, even though it’s a lot of work, it doesn’t feel like work. It feels completely absorbing and interesting and you wish you had more hours in the day so you could do more of it.

Anyway, that’s how I see it. How about you? Had any moments where a customer shaped your business, your practice, your service? (Could be either in a good way or a bad.) Let us know about it in the comments.

Comments

  1. Tamarisk says:

    This post really resonates with me! As soon as I changed my website copy so that it spoke more directly to my one perfect client (I’m a psychotherapist), my perfect clients started showing up all over the place. The very best thing about doing things as you describe is that I started enjoying my job even more than I thought possible! I’m working with client who really get it and really want to work with me, which is amazing!
    .-= Tamarisk ´s last blog ..How To Snap Out Of A Bad Mind Set And Get Back On Track =-.

  2. Kristin says:

    This is such fabulous advice. And this: “when you have customers who aren’t right for you, they invariably become a gigantic pain in the ass” is SO true. I learned that the hard way, and found myself pouring endless energy into trying to please clients I didn’t even like – clients who didn’t get it. When you’re unapologetically yourself with your business, your best clients seem to naturally flock to you, while those pains in the patooties disappear. Natural selection? Great post!
    .-= Kristin´s last blog ..How to Accept Criticism, Gracefully =-.

  3. Carole says:

    Not knowing who your perfect customer is makes everything such a struggle. If you’re trying to please everyone you end up being pulled in so many directions that you simply can’t function anymore. But when you’ve done your homework and know exactly who you’re speaking to amazing things can happen! I know this now, Sonia, because I learned it from you. Thanks!
    .-= Carole´s last blog ..Kids and Nature, Enliven Your Life =-.

  4. Susan says:

    Sonia,

    A nice perspective on a classic issue which can not be discussed enough. So simple, isn’t it? Yet, so difficult.

    Any of us who have been around for a long time have heard how important it is to define and know our ideal customer. For me, it took a rejection to bring the point home.

    Once I gave a speech to a business group about technology strategy and planning. I received one particularly blistering review from a participant who wanted a more technical (how to use tool X) presentation than a strategic discussion. It bugged me for a while as I knew I spoke on the topic I promised (and for no fee) but I wondered if I should have been more technical – self-doubt crept in.

    Eventually, I realized she was not my ideal customer and I began to focus on the positive comments from other attendees. The experience helped me tremendously in clarifying who I am, the value I provide, my ideal customer and how I present myself.

    I do what I do best and I do it for people who want it and need it. I can’t be everything to everybody. And, it’s OK.

  5. Sandy Lipten says:

    This post made me want to sign up for Remarkable Marketing Blueprint immediately, but I can’t because I’m already in it! :)

    Susan, your comment above made me think about the power of rejection as a teacher in the ideal customer quest. I wonder if it’s even possible to learn this at a gut level *without* rejection being part of the learning process. Sorry you had to go through the self-doubt, but what a gift to move forward with focus!

  6. I learned this over the past 2 months as Mike CJ and I have worked with the members of the Beyond Blogging Project.

    It’s tough trying to predict the needs people have, but I know I don’t want to work with people that don’t want to work.

    I’m really frustrated by that, so I’ve decided to fire more customers…including the ones that act up.

    On one hand, I can understand why they do it…it’s easy and at some point, you get tired of trying to teach people when they don’t want to learn.

    On the other hand, that’s just not fulfilling for me, and I have no interest in doing that.
    .-= Nathan Hangen – Digital Emperor´s last blog ..Utopia is within Reach =-.

  7. Hey! No RT button? Now you’re making me work :)
    .-= Nathan Hangen – Digital Emperor´s last blog ..Utopia is within Reach =-.

  8. Sonia Simone says:

    @Sandy, you always make me laugh. :)

    @Nathan, I know, I’ve even got the plugin installed, but now apparently I have to configure it. &*#$% is how I feel about that.

    @Susan, that’s such an important one to learn. I wish there was some more comfortable way of learning it. I’m (so slowly) getting less wigged out by criticism, because it’s getting easier for me to remember that I cannot make everyone on earth happy, so I need to try to focus on making my perfect customers as happy as I can.

    It’s hard, though, coming to terms with the fact that not everyone can be on my priority list. It’s not my nature. But it’s coming.

  9. MikeTek says:

    This just as I’m coming off an exhausting multi-month project that drove me to the edge of insanity and more than once to the liquor store. And, with the charge out of the air, I’ve been telling myself, “OK so maybe I need to create some policies and processes to prevent that kind of project from getting so out of hand…”

    Just now I’m thinking maybe this is precisely the post I needed to read just before I head off to bed. Bringing my Moleskine with me. Thank you.
    .-= MikeTek´s last blog ..10 Things You Can Do This Weekend to Grow Your Business Next Week =-.

  10. cinderkeys says:

    There’s a lot to this. The company I work for subscribes to the above philosophy in a big way. I haven’t been able to apply it to my own independent endeavors though (trying to sell CDs). :)
    .-= cinderkeys´s last blog ..Ripple effect =-.

  11. Can everybody PLEASE stop hating on the Sham-Wow guy? That’s the great love of my life you’re talking about. Sheesh.

    Oh, and yes to whatever you just said. Except the Sham-Wow guy thing. He’s just passionate about what he does.
    .-= Naomi Dunford´s last blog ..On Continuity Programs and Cupcakes: Riding The Wave =-.

  12. Karen Swim says:

    Sonia, you’re singing my song sister! Have clients shaped my business? Yes, in unexpected and tremendous ways. They have highlighted strengths that I took for granted, allowed me to bring my whole self to our collaborations and led me down paths that I would have shunned believing I was not capable enough to serve. And I’m still learning. Still learning to show up big for myself , to be okay with leaving some behind and to wear a style that uniquely fits me even if it means I’ll never be one of the “cool kids.”
    .-= Karen Swim´s last blog ..Social Media: Will the Free World Begin Charging Admission? =-.

  13. anonymous coward says:

    When you said this:

    “Had any moments where a customer shaped your business, your practice, your service?”

    …you solidified it for me. Oh believe me, I’ve been on the cusp forever. I work in what is presumed to be -and largely is- a ephemeral, trite, less than introspective industry with profit mongers flogging celeb merchandise. I don’t do any of that, the celeb mongering customer (I’m B2B) annoys me. The average person attracted to my industry has the attention span of a 6 week old kitten. I don’t bother writing for them mostly because I can’t -which doesn’t mean I don’t covet their disposable income being allocated toward purchasing my eminently superior product. heh. Most in my industry love highlighters but prefer the latest color fad rather than yellow.

    Then spousal unit said something that hit home. In comments, he suggested I should have mentioned the name of a mathematical formula to illustrate a concept I was explaining (remember, average person in my industry reads People etc). To which I responded, “oh yeah? How many of my readers will even know what that is?’ He said, “about 30%”. It was a pivotal moment, he was right. Probably another 30% would be familiar with the term even if they didn’t know what it meant.

    This is very liberating. I’m developing new products. I’ve been worried about having to dumb it down for the lowest common denominator when that is the last thing I should do. My average customer/visitor is far better educated than I am.

    And btw, I’m one of those middle grounders you describe in the “your tribe” post. Friends are always shocked at the number of books (my product) I sell. I don’t have a hot boyfriend or jet off to foreign lands but I make a nice living from a relatively rural area and I enjoy my smart customers. My biggest worry in a day’s time is whether my chickens have laid enough eggs for breakfast or how to keep whatever is sneaking in through the cat door at night, from eating my cat’s food. I think I’ll go out and water my tomato and cilantro seedlings now -and I may not even change out of my bathrobe first. Have a nice day.

  14. mynde says:

    Love the reminder. Love that you take us to how it shapes our business. So true.

    And it made me think about other perfect peeps, like spouses and business partners or any collaborative project. Shaping us, our lives and businesses.

    When I say yes to any kind of unperfect peeps, it’s a tremendous amount of energy and work (I get to do most of it).

    Living the lessons that teach us this (realizing uh oh, this is no longer a match and figuring the rest out) wow! Blog post anyone? I’d be so into that one.

    This was timely. Thank you!
    .-= mynde´s last blog ..Jedi Mind Tricks: Look To No Other =-.

  15. Iain Gray says:

    I’m in the fortunate position where I’m running a fledgling business that I absolutely LOVE right now.

    I can say, without exception, that all of my clients are fantastic people who I genuinely look forward to spending time with. They refer me to other fantastic people.

    I trace this back to 2 things:

    1. a really good sales coach telling me that my business is performing exactly as I designed it to. I hadn’t designed it all at the time.

    2. The idea of designing your customer as a single ideal person – which I heard first from you, and then again in project mojave. Thank you. I now get all my clients to do this, as it make a huge difference to their businesses as well.

    That’s a long way of saying… yes… this stuff works brilliantly. :)

    Oh, and @naomi : did you hear what happened to Slap Chop Guy? He got busted for felony battery, for getting a little _too_ passionate. Not nice:

    http://www.thesmokinggun.com/archive/years/2009/0327092sham1.html
    .-= Iain Gray´s last blog ..Survey : What Are Your Networking Frustrations? =-.

  16. aj martin says:

    energy vampires – just perfect

  17. Amy says:

    So… I have been a bad RMBer of late and I was considering leaving/cancelling. Not because it isn’t Fully Awesome, or chocked full of amazing people, or brimming with incredible business information. Those are all in there! I’ve just been a phantom forum member and really scared of my businesses lately.

    However, lovely Sonia, after reading this post, I’m in love with RMB all over again. :D

    Hope to dive back in next week. See you all there!

  18. Deb Augur says:

    Hi Sonia,

    A twitter friend recommended that I read your blog post today and I’m grateful that he did. I laughed and nodded in agreement through it. It’s great advice and a very enjoyable read.

    Last week I created a complete profile of my perfect client and it was extremely enlightening in several ways. One way in particular that I didn’t expect was that I immediately recognized the clients that didn’t fit that profile and the reasons I should “let them go.”

    Thanks for the confirmation!
    .-= Deb Augur´s last blog ..Look where you’re going or go where you’re looking. =-.

  19. Sonia Simone says:

    Heh, Amy! It’s like the Hotel California. :) I would be sad if you left, so I’m glad you’ll be sticking around. I know exactly what you mean about being scared of your businesses.

    @Iain, that is so cool, thanks for sharing that!

    @anonymous coward, this whole chicken thing sounds very appealing. Cool comment, thank you.

  20. Delicious! I ate it all up! So glad you are back – and with a vengence too:-) You’ve only gained insight and charm from your hy-8-dus… going back for seconds!

    Peace!
    .-= Don of the desert´s last blog ..The child within =-.

  21. Tom says:

    I wrote myself a quick sketch of my ideal customer, but I’m afraid it’s still too sketchy. I was pleased to find that it still clarified a thing or two for me.

    I like to work from examples. Would you consider sharing yours Sonia?

    Also, I can feel your magic working on me…after reading some of your stuff at Copyblogger (especially love the landing page makeovers), the first few installments of one of your email courses, and now feeling intrigued enough to track you down here…so, I’m wondering to myself does this mean I fit the profile of your ideal customer to some extent? Is that why I’m feeling a distinct and not unpleasant urge to join Remarkable Marketing Blueprint even though I’ve easily resisted all similar offers from other people in the past?

    Something you are doing is resonating with me. I’ve already thought to myself (even before reading about Remarkable Marketing Blueprint for the first time just now) that “I like Sonia the best of the bunch” and that I would be tempted to join a program if one came around.

    Keep up the good work because you’ve got me under your marketing spell! And that intrigues me!

  22. J.D. Meier says:

    You nailed the g-spot of customer + tribe + value + segmentation.

    The key and the beauty of the tribe, is that they connect at values. If you mix customers, you mix values, and when you mix values, you dilute the common bond that brought the tribe together … and the values that drove you to do what you do. It’s all in the *why* behind it.

  23. Bob Morris says:
  24. Markus says:

    I really enjoyed this post – very refreshing. I can get quite sick of Internet marketing, because they do aim for the “low hanging fruit.” In doing so, they alienate (and annoy) everyone else.

    By appealing to a specific person/persona, marketing can be much more fun too. It’s easier to sell to someone you actually respect and have interest in, rather than a despised face-less mass of lowest common denominators.
    .-= Markus´s last blog ..“excellent ‘Scan, Repair and Optimise’ programme” =-.

  25. Oooh. Oooh.

    Weird. I’ve heard about/talked about your perfect customer/Right People for a long while.

    Somehow it really REALLY helped me to hear it in this way.

    Sonia – you just gave me a goose-y epiphany.

    Yay.

    Thanks.

    *skips off whistling*
    .-= Andrew Lightheart´s last blog ..How to present like Hans Rosling =-.

  26. Sonia Simone says:

    Always happy to give you a little goose, dear! xoxo

  27. Nathon says:

    Just last week I sat with a potential client, not to sell him my service, but to interview him about his marketing ideas.

    He taught me that I will have to market my service as getting faster and better results than any other marketing service. In my “sales pitch”, I need to position myself as a better way for local businesses to get more foot traffic than an updated website or direct mail campaign.

    I’m going to offer “local map optimization”, which is to get retail stores’ information accurate on all of the online maps, cell phones, and gps units. It’s a no-brainer to me, but my clients still think a “website” will get them more customers. I’m pretty sure they don’t even know about search engine optimization.

    Thanks, Sonia.

  28. Great post.

    What is a perfect client? For me, it’s someone with need in mouth, knowledge in brain, desire in heart and money in hand. When a potential client (new patient) has all 4 prerequisites, they practically jump into the chair to get started!

    Easy to forget those 4 criteria when facing someone with a deep need. It’s hard to walk away knowing how much I could have helped them.

  29. Sometimes you don’t get a good vibe about people but you do business with them anyway because that’s what you do. Someone has a problem and you help them. You might even factor in a few extra hours work because you get the sense that this cutomer might be more demanding than most.

    But it isn’t worth it. You need to go with your gut and just work with people who you get a sense are going to value your input and respect your professional expertise.

    Sonia, the “People who don’t get enough value from your services” really spoke to me. If you’re not sold on them how can they be sold on you and vice versa? It’s an impossible cycle and one you have to learn to let go of.

    It’s hard to give up customers who you know would benefit from your help but you have to let them go or you might not have time for the perfect customer who will benefit from it and value it too. It’s taken a long time for me to work this out. Thank you for putting it into words and showing it’s not just me!
    .-= Annabel Candy, Get In the Hot Spot´s last blog ..How to Stay Focused in 9 Words =-.

  30. Will Pena says:

    This is what I see to be the difference between good and great businesses – The way the business owner is slanted will determine the way they treat their customer. If the business owner is slanted toward self-preservation then the customer is a means to an end. When the business owner is slanted toward meeting the needs of their customer, customer satisfaction is the prize of all prizes – and the business does really, really, really well.

    What does the ancient proverb say? “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

    What is funny is that the customer will determine how profitable your business will be anyway – they are calling the shots. That is as real as gravity – and I would not want to test gravity.

  31. Lindsey says:

    I find that marketing is much easier in person, just like teaching. When I teach in a classroom, my students are much more likely to do their assignments and really try to learn. Teaching online, I find students are much more likely to complain. The trick is to find a way to bring your personality to the screen.

  32. Should I say more?, remarkable post with decent comments that are great as well.
    Trinity, small business seminars´s last [type] ..Marketing to Existing Customers

  33. JennyB says:

    Thank you so much for this post. I am in the middle of creating my “message,” defining my perfect customer, and developing a brand, so topics such as this have been rattlin’ around my head.

    I appreciate the re-affirmation this provided! It’s nice to know that, even with the speed bumps, I’m on the right track.

    With Peace,
    JennyB
    JennyB´s last [type] ..Freelance Writers- Customer Service and Tweevesdropping

  34. HI there – it may have been said, but when you truly are doing what you’re passionate about and have purpose there, making a sale becomes more about helping solve that client’s problem and celebrating together when they get what they need. As a coach, those are the best moments for me, when you can feel it in your clients’ voice that they’re really progressing toward the life they imagined and their excitement is palpable.
    cheers,
    Michael
    Michael Van Osch´s last [type] ..Marketing Tip for LinkedIn- part 1

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