How Do I Figure Out Who My Customers Are?

Brand New To Personal Branding? this post is for you!

Where are all my customers?

hen I decided way back in 2012 to write a fantasy novel, I had no idea who my customers were going to be. Or who would even want to read it. Fans of fantasy fiction, I supposed. But if you know anything about marketing (branding’s cousin once-removed), then you know it is a game of zero suppositions.

You’re probably also asking yourself, who are my customers? And how can I convince them to buy?

That second question above? Nearly impossible to do. Besides, you should never have to convince anyone of anything.

Okay, fine. What about the question right before that one?

How do I find out who my customers are?

My online group and solo classes go over this in great detail. I’ll give you a good sample here. I’m going to start by saying every personal brand begins with you, and you alone. And you’re going to be alone for a while. (Psst… Trust me, you don’t have any customers. Not yet.)

Why are you?

Wait… what?

No, why. Why are you doing this? And you can’t say it’s to make money or to inspire people. That’s what every personal brand does. As far as money goes, there are much easier ways to make it. Just put all of that out of your head for now, because the money will come.

Let’s focus on the why. Why do you want to start a personal brand? The answer to this seemingly innocuous question is the first step in identifying Your 20% (my customers most likely to buy). Sounds simple. But the problem is… most of us lie.

We’ve been raised in a Lie Culture

We lie to ourselves by pretending we’re something we’re not. More specifically, we pretend we are more than we currently are. It’s not really your fault. It’s very likely you grew up in a household with a support system in place that lifted you up with praise, even when you might not have deserved it. This kind of benevolent toxicity spans every generation and takes on many forms: You can do anything you put your mind to, be anything you want, get any job in the world. These little white lies were meant to remind us we are loved, to build our confidence, but they wound up dulling our senses to the very complex machinations of the world.

So what now? We’ve all been poisoned? There’s no hope?

There’s actually a lot of hope.

Closet Full of Costumes

Whether you meditate, pray or ponder, you need to get to the root of who you really are. What genuinely fills your life with joy? I can’t tell you how many times (because it’s practically every time) someone has told me with great confidence that their personal brand is definitely A, only to find out after some careful consideration that it’s more like… G.

Lots of letters in the alphabet. So why do we all keep choosing A, B and C?

Let me put it this way…

All my life I’ve been a writer. So when I first founded Truly Fearless Life everyone around me naturally assumed I was starting a business to help other writers. It’s not that I don’t help writers; I’ve helped lots of them. Since I’d been recently diagnosed with primary progressive multiple sclerosis (PPMS), many thought I was starting a business to help support others with MS. Yep, I do that too. But that still isn’t my Why.

My Why dates back to the best job I’ve ever had. It was in Portland, OR, in the heart of the Pearl District. I worked above a brewery in a wooden-floored studio once used by Gus Van Sant (Drugstore Cowboy, My Own Private Idaho, Good Will Hunting). We were a design studio working with rising thought leaders, some very big ones actually (Vanessa Van Edwards, Hank Zewald, Gary Vaynerchuk). We combined writing and scripting (my primary job) with video, websites and online courses that made lots of people very rich. Unfortunately, I wasn’t one of them.

I love writing. I really, really do. But the truth is I was (and now am again) happiest when I’m using my talents to help other people. At Choose Growth, (the company I worked for), our very broad and deep pool of talent helped lots of other people, too. Not just the Gary Vees of the world. We had a formula that worked, and we used it to lift people up, to empower them to help others.

By the way, we’re going to be using the “H” word a lot.

That’s when it hit me. Although I truly love writing, that’s something for me. The Writer was the costume I wore to get my foot in the door and land that job. I was very good at it, but I’d always used those skills to benefit me. Choose Growth was the first time I’d been allowed to try something else on, and it was one of the greatest seasons of my life.

Why do I do this? Because I finally found something that gives me a greater sense of purpose and joy than writing — and that’s saying a lot! I LOVE my customers, and I can feel my customers reflecting that adoration back to me!

The Power of Why

By understanding our Why, we’re able to determine the one thing that truly gives us joy. It’s up to us to find out what that special something is. It could be anything from finance to fishing, leadership to landscaping. It’s usually something you became passionate about but learned to hide because it wasn’t seen as something that could earn you a living. My, how the times have changed.

Tightening the Focus

Coming to terms with what truly inspires you provides a glimpse into who your customers will be. It’s a starting point, a very important coordinate. We can see all our customers but they’re still kind of fuzzy. What we need to do next is begin tightening the focus.

Where do you generally find others who share the love of your personal brand? Do you all belong to any groups? Do the people your personal brand caters to prefer any particular style of social media?

Drill Down

We’re getting closer now. We’ve come to terms with our true passion. But in order to survive you need to make your personal brand something that earns a profit. We accomplish this by drilling down.

We’ve defined the niche, identified the habits and preferences of our ideal customer. What we need to do next is find out where the money is hiding.

Make no mistake: there’s absolutely no shame in turning a profit. It’s a noble pursuit, something very necessary to provide the things you and your family needs. As long as you have the necessary knowledge and skill in your niche, you have to find a way to position yourself as a person of authority. This will allow you to charge a premium for your knowledge and services, which must solve problems your customers have AND improve their skill and knowledge as well.

Find the Sweet Spot

Two words come to mind: disposable income. Whichever niche cradles your personal brand, there are always a more elite group of people with the means to expand their influence and participate more often. These are your core customers, Your 20%. These are the people willing to pay more for your products and services. But there’s a catch.

While all of these people have the means and the need/desire to spend money to elevate their own game, not all of them are going to like you. That’s the big one, the icing on the cake. In order to consider someone part of Your 20%, you need to make sure your a suitable fit. In other words: they need to be someone you can at least say you wouldn’t mind hanging out with.

Emotion Sells

There’s a fine line between friendship and manipulation. I can’t stress this enough. You MUST make sure that 100% of your business dealings come from a place of genuine interest in helping and compassion with your customer. Cross this line and you become a crook.

This is something only you can determine, no one else. You have to be honest. We never hide the sale, but that doesn’t mean we can’t build it up.

When we are true to our passion, it’s very easy to sell, because you’re never actually selling anything. You’re willingly sharing your time, energy and knowledge. It’s next to impossible not to be emotional about this. You’ve finally done it! You’ve monetized your personal brand! Now all you have to do is determine a fair price.

How Much Should I Charge?

I want to be clear about that, too. You are going to be forming very tight emotional bonds with Your 20%. You will earn their trust, and it’s up to you to deliver. Just because you’re thoroughly enjoying the entire process doesn’t mean you don’t charge a fair price.

So what’s fair? Be careful here. And what I mean by this is make sure you charge enough!

Fair is a relative term. I look at it this way: Am I adding value? Is my knowledge and skill set something superior to the norm? Am I patient and kind with all of my customers? Do I make myself available? Do I go out of my way to find solutions, to listen, to connect my customers with other like-minded people who can help? Have I developed valuable deliverables and tools to expedite the learning process?

Yes. You have to be able to say Yes. Because when you can say Yes you can go to sleep at night, you can wake energized and refreshed and ready to go to work, because the work you’re doing is genuinely changing lives.