As freelancers, one of the most important questions we can ask ourselves is ‘what do my clients really want?’ To find out, you first have to know who your customers are. Tea Ideal customer profileor ICP, is a tool used by many professional service providers and employers to find out.
It’s a convenient way to zoom in on exactly the type of customer you want to serve as a creative business owner. In this article, I’ll walk you through the steps of creating customer profiles for your own range of customers so you can understand them better and provide them with valuable services.
Used correctly, ICP can be so effective your clients will think you can read minds.
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What is an ideal customer profile?
Although it goes by various names in the business and marketing sphere, some business owners even have their own proprietary versionscomplete with data and personalized questionnaires: the basic premise of the ideal customer profile is the same in all aspects.
Wearing detailed information about habits and general needs of your target market, you can create a unique and ideal “persona” that you can use as a model for your marketing efforts.
Forget trying to serve hundreds or even dozens of different customers: with ICP you can have a finely tuned ‘average’ that most of your customers will comply with, making it that much easier to get into their heads.
Like a novelist creating a character for a book, a freelancer creating an ideal client profile must first have basic information about human psychology and behavior to use as a reference.
However, unlike a novelist, you can’t just make things up or modify facts using your creative license (well, you could, but it wouldn’t be very useful in your business).
The easiest way to get accurate data on the type of clients you want to pursue is simply to ask them. Interview potential, current and past clients. allows you to find out what expect, fear and wish for more in their businesses. It’s something you should be doing anyway, to stay up to date on what customers are really looking for.
what you should be asking
Like the main character in a story, your client has motivation and an overall set of goals. Here are some examples of what you should be asking:
- Do you want more sales? probably but What else do you want
- Do you want the respect of your peers? What about the trust of your customers?
- What gets them out of bed in the morning?
- What keeps them awake at night?
- What are the three biggest challenges you are facing in your business right now?
All these questions and those like them help you form the basis of your ICP.
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Be clear about the basics
However, before we go any deeper, we first need to establish who exactly your ideal customer is as an individual. Start from the beginning and build your perfect client from scratch.
First, what is the name of this client? don’t laugh Giving this ‘person’ a name helps a lot in allowing your to connect with them and take their needs seriously.
With a name, the Ideal Client becomes a real human being, instead of an abstract concept. So go ahead and name them and also give them a gender. The gender should reflect the majority of your customer base, but if it’s split down the middle, pick one at random.
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Dig, dig and dig
Next, how old is this person? Where they live? What type of business do they own and how much income does it generate? What kind of lifestyle do they have? Do they attend many industry conferences and other events? How often do they travel? Are they satisfied with the amount of time they spend at the office compared to their family?
it’s important to be super specific when answering these questions. As the exercise implies, you are averaging your data and consolidating it into a person and one person.
Again, be specific!
Don’t give answers like ‘so-and-so works in manufacturing and their business earns around 8 figures in income’. What do they produce specifically and how much do they sell it for? Write an actual figure (even if it’s just an estimate) of how much money they make.
Don’t forget the currency – even something as simple as converting US dollars to euros can become a powerful marketing tool when used correctly.
Avoid bad clients
In a perfect world, how could you reverse this bad habit? Answer those questions and add them to your customer profile.
Perhaps you have realized through your research that it is only customers who have been in business for a certain number of years that give you the most trouble. Or maybe all of your best clients graduated from a certain university.
The possibilities of data points are only limited by your imagination.
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Don’t be afraid of the niche
Once you’ve answered as many of the basic questions as are appropriate for your business, it’s time to delve into the mind of your ideal customer. Ask yourself everything you can know about a client that will help both of you have the best possible experience.
Remember, this is the perfect client we’re building, so do not forget your own needs as a freelancer. Tired of customers who never know what they want? What information might you have about your customer that would eliminate that problem? Or maybe you keep getting customers who throw creepy at you like ninja stars.
As you get deeper into the mind of your ideal customer, you will begin to focus on a particular niche which can be much more specific than what you are used to serving.
Let’s say you typically serve clients in the tech startup space. Knowing the exact revenue of your client’s business and the exact products you offer to your customers, it may turn out that you need to adjust your niche from ‘tech startups’ to ‘a productivity software company in Silicon Valley making $6.2 million a year and has received at least one round of venture capital funding.’
Before you balk at how ultra-specific you are, remember that you’re building this ideal customer from the data you’ve pulled from your existing customers. If this is your perfect client, do not hesitate, go for it!
The game plan
Focus your energy on making yourself as attractive as possible to this customer. Infiltrate their network and surprise them with your new ‘psychic’ abilities. Use the insight you’ve gained from your ideal customer profile to establish yourself as the person of reference to solve your unique problems.
If you’ve done your job right, word will spread and you’ll soon find yourself with more ‘perfect’ customers than you ever thought possible. Do you think you can use an ideal customer profile to help you better serve your customers?
How can you analyze your customer data and feedback to help you establish that perfect customer for your freelance business?
For many people, the last two years and more have felt like a vast experiment in which they have tested new ways of working, socializing and finding the right work/life balance. As organizations adopt different models as the Covid crisis subsides, the experiment continues.
Amid all this flux, Prithwiraj Choudhury, who studies the future of work as an associate professor of business administration at Harvard Business School, is sure of one thing: hybrid working is here to stay.
“I don’t think a CEO should try to turn back time. Workers will demand flexibility – and rightly so,” he says, warning that companies that have forced staff to return to headquarters five days a week will find it harder to recruit and retain talent.
Choudhury has been a strong advocate for remote work, particularly the work from anywhere (WFA) model, since before the pandemic. Its studies have indicated that majority remote work can lead to greater productivity and offer improvements in work/life balance.
For example, a 2019 research report he co-authored on a WFA program that began in 2012 at the US Patent and Trademark Office concluded that the arrangement increased productivity, measured by the number of patent applications. examined each month, by 4.4% . Participating employees also said the flexibility it gave them to live anywhere in the continental United States provided them with a better quality of life.
Find the right balance
The widespread shift to remote working imposed by Covid has brought similar benefits to employees around the world, according to Choudhury. In particular, he points to the results of a 2020 field experiment that he and his colleagues from Harvard and Stanford University conducted on hybrid work with 130 administrative staff from the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee, the one of the largest NGOs in the world.
Over a period of nine weeks, they found that employees who spent between 23% and 40% of their working time in the office found the optimal combination. According to the working paper they published in March, this was the sweet spot where staff “enjoy the flexibility and yet aren’t as isolated as their peers who work primarily from home”.
Basically, people in this “middle” group produced the most original work, as measured by the novelty of their email communications. They also received better performance ratings than their peers who had adopted different models, including working entirely in the office.
“This is the first real-world experiment I’ve seen that attempts to uncover how different levels of hybrid working affect work outcomes,” says Choudhury.
Another recent study by academics from Stanford and Columbia University focused on the ability of remote meetings to replicate the kind of creative collaboration associated with in-person confabs. Published in the journal Nature in April, it pointed out that videoconferencing inhibits innovation because it forces participants to focus too much on their computer screens.
This study found that online colleagues generated virtually fewer ideas than face-to-face participants because their restricted focus “constrains the associative process underlying idea generation.” Anyone tired of the sight of Zoom grids on their monitor might just agree. The finding indicates that all brainstorming sessions are best reserved for occasions when people are together in the same space.
But Choudhury thinks asynchronous communication can help foster creativity when people are working remotely. Through tools such as Google Docs, a Slack channel, or a corporate intranet, employees can share ideas and trust colleagues, perhaps in different time zones, to read and digest them as they work. are ready and respond to them with more thoughtful thoughts.
“I wake up, read your ideas, walk the dog, think about what you wrote, come back and add my thoughts,” he suggests. “The argument for the asynchronous brainstorming-first model is that it leads to more in-depth work.”
Is the hybrid here to stay?
These factors partly explain why Choudhury backs the WFA deals that have grown in popularity since the pandemic. Airbnb, for example, joined companies such as Facebook, Twitter, Deloitte and PwC in April to allow employees to work 24/7 from anywhere they choose.
This clearly offers employees a great deal of flexibility, so that a worker whose parents are aging, for example, might choose to move closer to them to provide better elder care. It could also reduce the kind of career conflict that can arise between couples when one partner gets a dream job that requires the other to make sacrifices in their own careers.
“We have been limited in our lives by geography for decades. WFA sets us free,” says Choudhury.
While a tech startup may be a perfect fit for the WFA, its research suggests large organizations can also successfully adopt the approach. For example, Tata Consultancy Services, the Indian IT giant that employs more than 500,000 people, is moving to a model where its employees will spend a quarter of their working hours at headquarters. But schedules must be coordinated among his various groups to take advantage of the limited time they spend together in the office.
“Each team at the start of the fiscal year should put in everyone’s calendar when those roommate days will occur,” notes Choudhury.
WFA isn’t necessarily limited to so-called knowledge work either, he adds. A recent co-authored case study examines Unilever’s pilot projects to digitize its manufacturing operations. This initiative, launched in 2018 in a factory in Brazil, allowed factory employees to work remotely, without changing the workforce. The company is studying the possibility of creating a global virtual control room to oversee operations at its 200 production sites worldwide.
“A control engineer could now live on a beach in Barbados,” he muses.
Adapting to the hybrid world
Some employers note that having the best of both worlds has a catch. London law firm Stephenson Harwood, for example, recently said it would allow staff to work remotely, but at 20% less than their current salary. The reduction in salary reflects the reduced expenses of not having to travel to the capital. It also makes the choice to work from home more difficult.
Such measures reflect how different policies are likely to emerge around remote working beyond just whether to allow it or not, says Choudhury, who notes that Airbnb, by allowing the staff to work from anywhere in the United States, will keep them at the same level. Pay.
“My prediction is that companies with more flexible policies — and pay equity policies — will continue to interact better with their teams,” he says.
Flexible work arrangements stemming from the pandemic have also sparked debates about their impact on companies’ choices about who gets promotions. Having time to face the boss has long been considered the key to climbing the career ladder. Thus, a staff member who spends more time in the office with senior managers might have a better chance of advancement than a colleague who works primarily from home.
Choudhury acknowledges that this is “a real concern”. One way to solve the problem is to revamp the way performance is measured so that ratings are based solely on the quality and quantity of results, not the number of days a person comes to the office, says -he.
But this is simply part of the larger restructuring that business leaders must tackle to adapt their organizations to the new work paradigm. Key metrics would include enabling asynchronous communication, creating “internal Wikipedias” of company knowledge, and aligning people’s schedules to maximize in-person collaboration, mentoring, and socializing.
“What you really need as a business to support hybrid working and WFA is to install a new set of management practices,” Choudhury points out. “This work needs to be led from the top – the CEO and the entire C-suite needs to embrace it.”
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