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By clarifying who your product or service is for, you are better able to craft content that appeals to them and create products they are eager to pay for. The clearer you are on who you serve, the more power your messaging will have. But how do you identify your ideal customer group before you have customers? In this post I’ll walk you through how to characterize your perfect customer so you can start attracting them to your business.

Ideal Customer Avatar (ICA) is a phrase that’s been used in marketing seemingly forever. Sometimes it’s replaced with buyer persona, marketing persona, or customer profile, but it all comes down to one essential idea; Who is your perfect customer?

There are a number of reasons it’s worth taking the time to clearly define who your product or service is for.  A clear definition of who you’re trying to sell to: 

  • Helps you create content that speaks to people who are actually interested in your expertise. 
  • Increases your email open rate because your subscribers know it’s going to contain value.
  • Assists in product development by helping you create products or services your audience truly wants and needs.
  • Makes your paid marketing more productive by allowing you to more effectively target.
  • Allows you to create a more user friendly experience for your followers.

However, recently I’ve been rethinking the idea of an ideal customer avatar. 

What’s wrong with having an ICA?

A customer avatar, when conceived as a single person, limits our ability to imagine our potential customers as a diverse group. Even more troubling, the avatar that most business owners create is typically a white, cisgendered, straight person, even when those qualities have nothing to do with what they’re selling.

If we instead think of our clients and customers as a group, we’re better able to envision that group containing people of color and with different gender identities and sexual preferences, and therefore create a more inclusive company.

It’s important to note, however, that trying to define an ideal customer group (ICG), rather than a single customer avatar, is not an excuse to get loosey goosey with your description and understanding of that group. 

In fact, by eliminating some superfluous facts usually contained in an ICA description, you can hone in on the attributes of your ideal customer group that will really make a difference in your messaging.

For example, some proponents of ICA deep dives suggest you should know your ICA so well that you know what brand of toothpaste they use, what size shoes they wear, and how much money they have saved up for their second-born child to attend college. 

But unless you are selling dental health products, footwear, or 529 plans, that information probably won’t help you.

What should you know about your ICG?

This is where defining an ICG is a little tougher than an ICA. 

You can do a Google search and get more than a million returns for defining your ICA. Many of them will provide you with questions to ask to get to know him or her, as well as suggestions for things you can do to make them more “real,” like download a picture and create a dossier about them.

But when you’re trying to define a group, it’s not so easy. 

Instead of answering questions about a single avatar, which will have only 1 answer, your answers might have ranges, and instead of answering every question, you’re looking for commonalities.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself about your ICG in order to create a more complete picture. Don’t feel the need to answer all of them. Instead, focus on getting quality answers to the questions that are truly pertinent to your business.

How old are they?

What gender are they?

What is their marital status?

What do they do for a living?

How much money do they make?

What’s their level of education?

Where do they live?

What kind of home do they have?

Do they have kids?

What are the ages of their kids?

Do they have pets? What kind?

Where do they hang out (online or in-person)?

What are their hobbies?

What magazines or books do they read?

What gurus do they follow?

What kind of personality do they have?

Are they an introvert or an extrovert?

What are their values? 

Let’s take a look at a couple of these questions and see how our answers might change when defining an ICG as opposed to an ICA.

How old are they? When answering for a single ICA, there is only one right answer (32), but an ICG may have a range (31-41). 

What gender are they? This may or may not be relevant to your business at all. If you work with busy moms, you can specify women, but if your business, like mine, isn’t gender specific, you can say it’s a mix, or just skip the question.

You can also choose to dig more deeply into some questions. For example, at Side Hustle Teachers, the question, “What do they do for a living,” is very important. But I also like to go a little deeper, asking how long they’ve been teaching, what are their favorite and least favorite things about teaching, etc.

Similarly, if you have a values-based business, like environmentally friendly cleaning products, you can choose those to ask more questions about that and examine that aspect of your ICG more thoroughly.

That said, what you absolutely, 100%, no excuses, must know about your ICG are the answers to these 2 questions (in relation to your product or service):

What are their pain points, challenges, or struggles?

What are their desires, dreams, and goals?

If you don’t know the answers to those 2 questions, you need to spend some more time getting clear on what you do and who it helps.

Clarifying your ICG as you go

As your business grows and you get more data, your ICG may change. As you engage with people, work with clients, get testimonials and reviews, and your products or services evolve, you can adjust your ICG.

Once you start to have customers you can use the data you get from them to refine your description and messaging, and your business will grow exponentially.

But don’t let the fact that you don’t have “real” data prevent you from getting started. Make assumptions and educated guesses where you don’t have data, do research when you can, and remember that, just like everything else in business (and in life), your first ICG may not be your only ICG. 

And let me also remind you that establishing an ICG isn’t just to attract people who want to work with you, but also who you want to work with. 

As a teacher you have the skills to work with pretty much anyone who walks through your classroom door. But in your business, you don’t have to do that. You can pick and choose who you want to work with. Use the characteristics of your favorite clients to help define and attract more like them.

Be picky, my friend. Create an ICG who will be a joy to work with.

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No More ICA: How to Define Your Ideal Customer GroupNo More ICA: How to Define Your Ideal Customer GroupNo More ICA: How to Define Your Ideal Customer Group