Who Is Your Ideal Client?

While in Teton National Park last week, I noticed a trend among serious hikers.  I parked at several trailheads during my vacation, and I noticed that the parking lots for the more intense hiking trails featured a surprising number of Subaru cars, all with outdoorsy names like Outback.  I’ve never seen so many Subarus in one place, and I’m not at all sure that I’ve seen more than a handful elsewhere.  I was curious, so I did a quick Google search and turned up a Subaru Outback user forum that includes lots of photographs, many (if not most) of which show the Subaru in an outdoor sports setting (with a canoe strapped to the roof, camping in the woods, etc.), as does much of the advertising for the Subaru Outback.

Subaru Outback and outdoor enthusiasts apparently go hand-in-hand.  I imagine that further research would turn up Subaru sponsorships of outdoor events, advertising in hiking and mountain climbing magazines, and so on.  Subaru seems to have its finger on the pulse of this market, and the market appears to have responded.

What does this have to do with practicing law?  Like Subaru, you must identify your ideal client to a level of great specificity and deep understanding of your ideal client’s interests, preferences, and activities.

When working with lawyers on business development, one of the first questions I ask is, who’s your ideal client?  It’s a marketing truism that it’s much easier to direct your services to a well-defined group of potential clients, because doing so allows your ideal clients to recognize you as their ideal lawyer.  By focusing specifically on a particular group and their legal needs, you also develop your expertise and your reputation for expertise more quickly.

How specifically should you define an ideal client?  Some lawyers stop at a fairly high level – estate planners, for instance, may focus only on those who have estate planning needs, which is an adequate description but lacking the full body that can prove helpful.  Others delve more deeply and might hone in on new parents who have never done any estate planning before, parents of special needs children who have particular estate planning needs, or those who want to arrange for pet trusts, for example.  The more narrowly you can draw your niche, the more accurately you’ll be able to tailor your message – and, or course, nothing says you must restrict your practice to a narrow group.

When you begin to define your ideal client narrowly, you can consider psychographics in addition to demographics.  Demographics include information such as age, gender, occupation, education, and so on.  Psychographics describe the attitudes, values, and motivations that your ideal clients hold.  What interests them?  What magazines do they read?  What groups do they join?  Where do they vacation?  What are their hobbies?

Don’t make the mistake of assuming that psychographics are irrelevant if you represent companies rather than individuals.  Individuals make the hiring (and firing) decisions for companies, and individuals acting together determine company strategy, goals, and planned outcomes.  While you may be less interested in the personal psychographics of corporate representatives, looking at the psychographics in their professional capacities will provide valuable information.

When you’ve analyzed your ideal client psychographics, you may find that you’ve created a roadmap of forums for publications and presentations, networking activity, and so on.  You may notice connections that had not been apparent before, or you may define known connections more clearly.  Whatever the level of revelation, you will certainly find information that you can use to better reach out to your ideal clients, which will in turn help you target your business development activity.

Uncertain about how to describe your ideal client?  The Reluctant Rainmaker includes a step-by-step process to help you discover who your ideal clients are and how to reach them.  Check out The Reluctant Rainmaker: A Guide For Lawyers Who Hate Selling.

5 replies
  1. Michelle Salater
    Michelle Salater says:

    Julie, Excellent observation re Subaru. The company clearly knows their target audience inside and out . . . down to the last detail. I know first hand–I owned a Subaru Forester for 8 years and I am NOT anything like their target market, but people would make assumptions about me based on the car I drove. A few things people immediately assumed was that I liked to hike, camp, and bike and that I was from the Northeast or Northwest. I hate the outdoors. I like concrete. I live in South Carolina.

    Thanks for the tip.

  2. Julie A. Fleming
    Julie A. Fleming says:

    Michelle, thanks for commenting — and for illustrating that even when someone knows and caters to a target market, they will still attract other customers/clients. Funny that you sound like the anti-Subaru customer but drove one for 8 years!

  3. Melody
    Melody says:

    The outdoorsy-type advertising also attracts people looking for a well-built car that will last. I know several Subaru owners and they figure if Subarus can take 4-wheeling and rough outdoor play, then they can handle bad weather and the wear and tear of city driving.

  4. Julie A. Fleming
    Julie A. Fleming says:

    Melody, thanks for reading and commenting! It’s interesting to see that non-outdoorsy types see the marketing and in effect translate it to determine how well it matches their needs. I think that’s what happens with niche marketing often… If it’s good for them, maybe it would be good for me too!

  5. Michelle Salater
    Michelle Salater says:

    Julie, Oh, no. I love the Subaru (just now what driving one implied). That car went for 200,000 plus miles, drove the mountains of Montana and the beaches of Florida. Never once broke down.

    Car aside, I think your post on target market is one of the most insightful I’ve read in a while. Thanks.

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