4 Essential Questions For Understanding Your Ideal Customer

Discovering your target market or ideal customer is a foundational element of getting any business on track, and is especially relevant for start-ups, small businesses, and midsize businesses.

ideal client

Compelling marketing communication is favored by your ideal customer, but if you don’t speak their language, talk about their pain, know their habits, desires and values, you’re missing a lot of opportunities.

There are countless ways to research your ideal customer and everybody talks about target markets, but on this day you will learn the 4 essential questions for helping you get clearer on this idea.

1. Who will benefit the most from your products or services?

The common answer to this question is “everybody.” If you think every possible human being is your ideal customer chances are you’ll waste your greatest resources time and money.

To answer this question begin building a detailed profile of your current customers. Group your most successful accounts (profitable+refer you).

2. Why do they do business with you?

This question is great for understanding your ideal customer. It can measure how effective your promotion, lead generation and sale process is working.

In order to successfully answer this question you need to “go Oprah” on your most successful accounts. Schedule some time to interview current customers that are the most profitable and also refer business to you.

3. What characteristics do they have in common?

Once you have a profile of your ideal customer, you should start analyzing the common characteristics they share. Start asking yourself some questions about these people: what industry are they in?, where are they located?, what size is their organization?, what do they read?, what do they listen to?, what challenges do they face?, how do they buy?

The answers to the questions above are not always available, but thinking about them in correlation to your ideal customer may allow you to narrow your niche and sell aggressively to it.

4. How can you best service their current and future needs?

Your best prospect is a current customer. Your second best prospect is a past customer. These two target markets already know, like and trust you. When thinking about understanding your ideal customers ponder serving their current and future needs.

This could be considered a customer service question, since winning and keeping customers is the result of effective marketing, but the real opportunity is when you can uncover a unique positioning or an innovation. Push yourself to discover their current and future needs. Ask ideal customers, “what are the top 3 challenges they’re currently facing?”, or “what are current vendors or suppliers doing that they don’t like?”

Start focusing on your target market or ideal customers today. You don’t have the time or resources to waste.

Ask For Advice Before Asking For Help

I believe that asking for advice before asking for help is far more important for any business especially start-ups and SMBs. Here’s why:

You thought you knew what your business needed. You hired a specialist company to create it for you. Then once it was complete and operating you discovered it wasn’t what you really needed. Then what you really discovered is you’re not as clear about your needs as you thought.

Where Did You Go Wrong?

Many business owners discover it’s not always best to hire a specialist who gives you what you asked for. It’s often more helpful to start by hiring people who will ask you good questions, to help you determine what you really need.

We Don’t Know What We Don’t Know.

The solution is simple. Ask for advice before asking for help. Hire a strategist or an advisor before you hire a specialist. A strategist will challenge your assumptions and create clarity on needs and priorities before everyone leaps into action. I’m not saying there’s no room for specialists. I’m just tired of tactics first and strategy to the rescue.

A Specialist’s Job Is To Skillfully Do What You Ask

Specialists often assume you know what you need. It’s not their job to second guess you, even though you may be:

  • making decisions based on assumptions
  • unclear on requirements and options
  • unsure about the order of operations
  • unfamiliar with how to direct your specialists
  • unable to evaluate their work, or
  • unaware of the long-term costs and implications of your project

A Strategist’s Job, By Contrast, Is To Ask Why

Job one for a strategist is to understand your situation, constraints, needs and success criteria. They challenge assumptions, clarify requirements, help determine the order of operations, direct specialists, evaluate success and work within the context of long-term costs and plans.

It’s obvious why we hire specialists to complete tasks and projects. There is immediate gratification and the perception of progress. Strategists are likely to challenge assumptions and send us back to a point we thought we were past, potentially delaying our progress.  Strategists can be frustrating to deal with as they tend to make us think before we act and make choices based on information and facts over emotion and desire. They can be annoyingly dispassionate, logical and methodical. Which is exactly why you should consider hiring them and how they create value.

Measure Twice And Cut Once

Think about it. “if you hardly have the means to invest in a solution once, where will you find the resources to do it again?”

I’ve come to see strategists as insurance against impulsiveness and inexperience. I also find their fees typically add between 10 and 20% to my project costs, in exchange for saving me the lost time and expense of starting over. The more often I repeat the mistake of leaping into action, the more often I seek consulting before I invest in new initiatives. I hope you will do the same.

About the Author: Patrick McFadden is the owner and marketing consultant at Indispensable Marketing, a strategic marketing firm in Chesterfield, VA. We help small to midsize businesses create marketing plans and growth processes that generate leads and close sales.

5 Trusted Advisor Behaviors You Must Embrace Right Now

Do you want to be a successful coach, consultant, counselor, mentor or professional?

When professional service people start talking about being a trusted advisor these days, and they’re doing it a lot, they usually default to things like good advice,  a feel-good process, throw in some consultative salesperson tricks and we’re on the trusted advisor track.

I’ve been coaching and consulting for a handful of years now and with every emerging “coined term” there seems to be an equally reactive rush to embrace the accompanying tactical behaviors and it’s what leads people to do things that don’t make sense.

Below are five trusted advisor behaviors you can no longer ignore as they’ve become universal and cross industries and demographics in undeniable ways. And they make sense!

1. Take notes.  It works in every industry. It shows prospects that they can count on you to remember and do what they’ve been talking about.


2. Provide testimonials. Showcase what third party vouchers have to say about you. This will vary from industry to industry, but examples include case studies, references, ratings, warranties, and certifications.

Indispensable Marketing - The 7 Elements of Small Business Growth - Blurb

3. Strategic noting. Write down something your prospect says and follow up on it later. For instance, if your contact mentioned a large project the last time you spoke, bring it up during your next call. A simple question like “How’d that initiative work out?” will do the trick.










4.  Prove proactivity. Keep up to date on your prospect’s industry, and bring major changes to their attention before they reach out to you. For instance, the sales team at a tax firm should closely monitor the new tax rollouts and regularly offer to sit down with their prospects to sort out how the new guidelines affect them.

Here’s a framework that I’ve dubbed “Proactive Proof” to convince your clients and prospects that your firm is proactive. It forces you to get the right answers to questions that showcase why your clients and prospects should see you as an a trusted advisor.

  • What’s going on inside the company?
  • What’s happening with notable parties outside the company — competitors, suppliers, etc.?
  • Who do the buyers you’re working with report to, and/or who are the influencers in the company?
  • How does this company “keep score” metrics-wise, and how do you help them in what they do?

5. Exhibit chemistry.  Be friendly, clear,  and understand your prospects’ nonverbal cues and then start mirroring them. **My hands are only in my pocket for a reason! ;)**Patrick McFadden at Haley Buick GMC










Question: What do you think about these behaviors? 


Patrick McFadden on The Art of Educational Marketing [Video]

Business Owner and Marketing Expert Patrick McFadden says that ” Educational marketing is all the marketing we’ve got left.”

Indispensable Marketing - The Art of Educational Marketing [Front Page]

He goes on to say, “Teaching your customers and giving your customers the resources to believe you is new marketing.”

What is educational marketing? You’ll have to watch this five-minute video to learn more.

Interview with Patrick McFadden from Owl Train U, LLC on Vimeo.

A 15-Question Process for Painless Target Market Research

Target market research is one of the most important types of research you’ll do throughout marketing your business. It’s also one of the most difficult.

I believe that most businesses are uniquely suited to serve a narrowly defined target market or ideal client.

Determining just who that is, and making their description a central theme of all of our marketing communications, is one of the foundational elements of good marketing strategy.

There are countless ways to research, measure, analyze and theorize about your target market or ideal target client, but experience tells me most small businesses don’t have to look very far beyond these 15 questions.

  1. What gender is your target market? Are they male, or female, or an even mix?
  2. How old is your target market? The age of your target market determines the presentation of your brand.  It also affects the tone and message you use when you connect with your target market.
  3. What habits do they have? This describes what your target market likes. Habits are also sometimes referred to as psychographics and relate to values, beliefs, and lifestyles.
  4. What is their income level? Is your target market middle-class, wealthy, or barely able to pay the bills?
  5. Where do they live? Is your target market national, worldwide, or just your local neighborhood?
  6. What are their hobbies and interests? Does your target market share any of your hobbies and interests?
  7. Do they have any special needs or health issues? It’s important to take special needs into consideration when researching your target market. For example, some people who have sustained a traumatic brain injury can have seizures if presented with bright, flashing colors. Does your target market have any special needs you need to be mindful of?
  8. What media do they read? Is your target market avid blog readers? Do they even know what a twitter is? Knowing what media your target market reads will help give you insight into the topics that interest them.
  9. What other websites do they visit most often? Again, knowing what websites your target market spends the most time on helps you understand what topics, issues, and leisure activities are important to them. It also gives you some clues about how and where to promote your company.
  10. Do they subscribe to any magazines or publications? Knowing which magazines your target market subscribes to can be a great source of research. For example, most magazines have media kits available on their websites that detail the demographics and lifestyle of their readers.
  11. What is their greatest fear? Something that reduces or eliminates the fear of your target market  is a powerful means of attracting them.
  12. What is their greatest frustration? If your target market is frustrated over a problem, how can you build your company around the solution? If you can do that, your target market will feel excited they’ve found the answer to their problem in your company.
  13. What is their greatest hope or dream? Does your target market have a common hope or dream you can incorporate into your company that they relate to?
  14. What event or need causes them to search for what you offer? Do you know what causes your target market to seek your help in the first place?
  15. Is there anything you have in common with them? Sharing a common interest, problem, skill, or passion with your target market can give you a huge advantage when building your company. The common ground you have will help your target market identify with your company and engage them faster – encouraging interaction and more sales.

The answers to the types of questions above are not always available, but pondering them in relationship to your target market or ideal customer may allow you to more fully address their wants and needs in every interaction and communication.

Answered: Your Most Burning Small Business Marketing Questions – July 2014

The last Friday of every month I like to take some of the questions I’ve been answering from small business owners and share them here on Indispensable Marketing.
These answers are originally ran on Quora.

No matter how many years (or days) you’ve been at this marketing game, the questions keep coming up.

In many ways, it’s a constantly shifting and evolving landscape.

In others, it’s the same as it ever was.

We’re wrapping up this last Friday of the month by taking our best shot at your best questions.


Q: What are the most important things to consider when designing an appointment setting process?

A: The most important thing to consider when designing an appointment setting process is to make sure the prospect feels in control of the process and that you give them the opportunity to talk about what they want.

This is accomplished with one question. You must always ask the prospect, “is there anything else you would like to discuss during our time together?”

Q:  What are some social media etiquette rules?

A: My social media etiquette is to let generosity be your guide.  It’s called the giver-taker Rule or the 95% content 5% selling Rule or the 30-to-1 Rule. What matters is the number of deposits (shares, retweets, likes, pingbacks, reblogs) versus the withdrawals (promotional messages) you make from your audience. I don’t know if the verbiage,  the percentages, or the ratio is exactly right, but what I do know is that you must remarkably make more deposits.You have to add value before you start extracting value.

Q: What are the best SEO tips for a new startup?

A: The best SEO tip for a start-up is to understand SEO has traditionally been about optimizing web page copy by targeting keyword phrases in certain frequencies and densities. And yet search engine research shows that almost 85% of the total factors that determine how a web page is ranked in a search engine is based on things that happen off the page itself.

Modern SEO is all about crafting content so compelling that other people want to promote it by linking to it or sharing it, which increases your trust and authority and helps the pages you want to rank well for certain keywords.

Q:  How can you attract potential leads (target market) online using your content?

A: Today all consumers are information-empowered. In fact, consumers nowdevelop relationships with content. And to be successful with creating content that builds your business, companies need to be where their customers are and know how to engage them in a meaningful way.

Content marketing is about publishing content that focuses on the problems and desires of the prospect and customer. Healing prospects and customers true pain points with content (okay, a bit over the top, but true none the less).

How to Create Content that Builds Your Business

Q: Does chain marketing/network marketing really work for every one?

A: Of course not that would be like saying, ‘there is a one shoe fits all business.” One key to making MLMs work is to Choose your recruits carefully – make sure they are a “fit” for direct selling. 

Don’t compound the bad reputation of MLM companies by “recruiting” anyone who breathes.  Select people carefully who really are a good fit for that business model.  You will reduce your headaches by choosing people who are outgoing, self-starters, and have a track record of success.  Yes, you will have fewer numbers in your downline – but you’re looking for quality, not quantity.  You can rocket to success by having ten winners as opposed to thirty whiners and complainers.

About the Author: Patrick McFadden is the owner and marketing consultant at Indispensable Marketing, a strategic marketing firm in Richmond, VA. We help small to midsize businesses get new or better results from their marketing efforts.

How Is Small Business Blogging Different From Regular Blogging?

In short, regular blogging is simply a hobby. Small business blogging  is a low-cost way to create opportunities to get your website found by ideal clients that you want to find it, so you can generate new leads and customers for your business.


It’s also important to note that when you’re doing small business blogging, your blog posts are about a particular subject matter related to your business. For instance, Indispensable Marketing is a small business strategic marketing company, so our blog talks about small business marketing topics — taking a business and strategy-first approach to marketing your business, discovering your ideal client, lead generation, etc. Your business blog will talk about subject matters that are related to your business.

One key component to small business blogging is your visibility online. Visibility online is exactly what it sounds like — being able to be found and seen on the internet. This could mean your business pops up a lot in search engines, on social media, on other people’s blogs as a guest writer, etc. Business blogging for the small business is one way to help get your company out in front of people looking for your products or services on the internet.

A small business blog is a marketing channel (just like social media, direct mail, email marketing, etc.) that helps support business growth. It does that by driving traffic to your website and providing opportunities for that traffic to convert in some way. Traffic for various businesses might convert differently — some aim to turn traffic into leads to hand over to a sales team, others may aim to convert traffic into customers via an online transaction — but ultimately, small business blogging will initiate conversions that drive more business.

What’s the Difference Between Content and Content Marketing?

The difference between the two—content and content marketing— is significant.


Content by itself is just a tool. Plenty of companies have been using content to market their business for a long time, this isn’t anything new—whether it’s a proposal, ad, brochure, rack card, marketing kit, email, stationary, blog post or newsletter. Most of this content is entirely promotional, focused on the company: their products, services, accolades, features and benefits—not the customer or the information that they are most interested in and find valuable.

Content marketing is how you use the tool. It is the creation of free valuable content that has a marketing purpose. For indispensable marketing readers that purpose is awareness, educating and building know, like and trust, enough to do business with you.  The goal of content marketing is consumption, then behavior. 

For example, my company created an awesome newsletter, Indispensable Marketing Dispatch and we exchange it for your email address and your permission to educate you further about our services.

Why content marketing—not just content—is needed

Here is the simple truth: most prospects and customers aren’t interested in your company, your vision statement or your awards. So what do they care about? Naturally, they care about their needs, wants and businesses. Content marketing is about publishing content that focuses on the problems and desires of the prospect and customer. Healing prospects and customers true pain points with content (okay, a bit over the top, but true none the less).

Any company that wants to get found online, differentiate their business, attract prospects, convert leads, engage their customers and ultimately grow their business needs to get serious and strategic about content marketing. There is nothing novel about content itself. Every company creates content, but content marketing is using content for a distinct marketing purpose: to attract, engage and convert.

About the Author: Patrick McFadden is the owner and marketing consultant at Indispensable Marketing, a strategic marketing firm in Richmond, VA. We help small to midsize businesses get new or better results from their marketing efforts.

Small Business Marketing: It’s Good To Play Together

“It’s Good To Play Together”, was the marketing tagline for Microsoft’s Xbox gaming console, and was created to dispel the notion that video games are a solitary pursuit.

Today I would like to dispel the notion that small business marketing is a solitary activity.

Successful marketing embraces this concept of playing together and the beauty and advantage of cooperation. One of the most rewarding, inexpensive, underused, and effective methods of marketing is fusion marketing – combining your marketing efforts with the efforts of others.

In simple terms, fusion marketing is you saying, “Hey Patrick, if you enclose my business card and coupon in your next mailing, I’ll enclose your business card and coupon in mine.” or “Patrick, put up a sign for my store in your business; I’ll put up a sign for your business in my store.”

This marketing method expands your marketing exposure and reduces your marketing costs.

Last but not least. The purpose of a fusion marketing arrangement: mutual profitability.

Realize that almost everyone in your community is a potential fusion marketing partner. Reach new audiences and new wallets!

Answered: Your Most Burning Small Business Marketing Questions – June 2014

No matter how many years (or days) you’ve been at this marketing game, the questions keep coming up.

In many ways, it’s a constantly shifting and evolving landscape.

In others, it’s the same as it ever was.

We’re wrapping up this week by taking our best shot at your best questions.


Q: LinkedIn: What makes a LinkedIn profile great?

A: A great LinkedIn profile resembles a good salesperson, gets an appointment
(attention), goes out there and makes a case for your business, offers proof
that you can provide a solution, shares facts and makes a very specific offer or
defines the next steps.

Q: Marketing: What are the most effective ways for a small business to start marketing with little or no budget?

A: Great question and I have an answer for you. I have compiled all the best marketing tools and tips for startups in one post: The No Budget Marketing Toolbox: For Startups and Those About to Start

Q: What is the best way to get your blog out there and known?

A: The best way to get seen and heard by the right people is to distribute your educational content to social media channels where your ideal audience is playing, seeking and looking for information. Then I would go deeper by posting in niche groups and niche sites.

None of this works until you know who your audience is and where their attention is.

Read More: Top 5 Content Delivery Platforms For Getting Your Offering Seen, Heard and Out There into The World

Q: Marketing: Are marketers bad people?

A: Great question and here’s my full take on it The Difference Between Marketing and Manipulation

Or you can read it here. It’s short: Marketing – is getting someone to purchase something that later on they’re glad they bought it because it improved their life or work.

Manipulation – is getting someone to purchase something that later on they regret buying because they don’t need it or want it or it doesn’t improve their life or work.

Q: Is becoming an insurance agent a good way to learn how to sell in entrepreneurship?

A: In my opinion any sales opportunity will help you out. No one is an “expert” at the beginning.  We all just start where we are and get in the game.  But it’s by being in the game that we refine and develop skills, information and relationships that ultimately make us “experts.”

Jump in!

Here’s something to remember: Ultimately we are all paid because we are selling something.  Whether you are a teacher, pastor, librarian, receptionist or computer programmer, you are “selling” what you do.  That’s the only way to expect compensation.  Selling in its purest form is simply sharing enthusiasm.  If you see a great movie and tell 20 friends – you are selling.  If you go to a wonderful restaurant and then spread the word – you are selling.  We all get paid for sharing our enthusiasm.  What you need is to find something you are so passionate about that you want everyone else around you to experience the same benefits you are enjoying.

Learn more: 10 Ways to Improve Your Selling … Right Now (And in 2014)

Q: What is best for a new startup at the time of launch: explainer video or eBook?

A: The Point of View eBook. Every business should have a well-developed core story that’s documented in the form of a white paper or eBook. This content must dive deeply into what makes a firm different, what the secret sauce is, how the company approaches customer service, and why the firm does what it does.This is the primer for a company’s educational content push.

Here’s mine as an example: 7 Steps to Small Business Marketing Success

Q: Marketing: What is the best way to make a short term marketing plan for small company provide IT solutions to other companies?

A: Well, you’re in luck. I have written about this topic before  “Marketing Planning: The Ten Essential Areas to Focus On

I don’t know about you, but anytime I search the internet for marketing advice or tips and try to figure out how to do something myself, I get information overload. My attention is everywhere and my productivity goes way down.

So, earlier this year, I put together something, I’m calling Marketing Planning: The Ten Essential Areas to Focus On, which saves you time and allows you to maximize your energy and attention as you move forward in your marketing. I’d like to go ahead and share it with you today.


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