How to find the REAL essence of your ideal clients: Copywriting 101 [free download]

Ditch your ideal client profile and discover your ideal client essence instead
10 mins |

If you’d rather stab yourself in both eyes with your highlighter than spend one more minute attempting to figure out your ideal client profile this post is for you.

If you’d never do anything so violent, but you’re confused and turning despondent with trying to dream up a target buyer persona that makes sense, you’re going to love this post.

Today I’m sharing:

  • Why drafting client avatars suck
  • Who {the hell} came up with buyer personas in the first place
  • 3 reasons why ideal client profiles don’t work for start-ups, solopreneurs and small business owners
  • What you can do instead – how to find the essence of your ideal clients.


Skip the post and get to the roots of your ideal client essence – download the work’n’playsheet, only available in The Vault {my FREE Members’ Library for Change-Makers + Creative Entreprenuers}:


Why drafting ideal client profiles and buyer personas suck

Creating dream customer profiles might seem like a vital exercise at first, but you’ll soon run into difficulties and frustration.

Curating a minutia of demographics, from income and 3.7 kids, to skin tone and Netflix habit, slapping a random name on them and convincing yourself you need to know their favourite freaking house plant, will not help you write copy for anyone, let alone your mind & body retreat in Southern Tuscany.

I really don’t get why people think you’re supposed to guestimate hair colour, gender association, golf handicap – as if all your ideal clients are called Sharon, live in a 3-bed semi and work part-time as a PA. I mean, come ON!!

Before we dive into what I recommend you do instead, let’s get to the bottom of where all this came from…

{Want to skip the word-nerding + persona origin story? Click here to jump to the next section.}


Profiles, avatars, personas, oh my!

Tonnes of people are using the following terms interchangeably and it’s confusing and annoying:

  • Ideal client avatar
  • Target customer
  • Buyer persona
  • Customer profile
  • Target audience
  • Dream client silhouette {okay, I made that one up}

Do they all mean the same thing? Will my business fail without one? What do they even mean?!


Here’s the origin story of buyer personas…

In 1998, interaction designer Alan Cooper , published The Inmates Are Running the Asylum which had 25 pages dedicated to an introduction to the user personas he and his team had developed over previous years.

These personas took years to develop. YEARS! {I’ll come back to this.}

Buyer insights & persona strategist Tony Zambito credits Alan with turning his “world upside down” and presents the original definition as clearly signifying buyer behaviour:

“Buyer personas are research-based archetypal (modeled) representations of who buyers are, what they are trying to accomplish, what goals drive their behavior, how they think, how they buy, and why they make buying decisions.  (Today, I now include where they buy as well as when buyers decide to buy.)”

You know what I don’t see here?

I don’t see anything about what colour eyes/skin/hair they have, what car they drive and so on.

In fact, I love this emphasis on behaviour and figuring out the who, what, where, when, how and why – the story of the customer’s journey.


But… but… I just don’t like the phrase “persona”.


Can we the trusty Oxford English Dictionary explain why? Oh yes:

Origin: Early 20th century: Latin, literally ‘mask, character played by an actor’.
1. The aspect of someone’s character that is presented to or perceived by others.
1.1 A role or character adopted by an author or an actor.
2. In psychology, often contrasted with anima (the feminine or internal psyche, in touch with the subconscious).
Origin: From Sanskrit avatāra   ‘descent’, from ava ‘down’ + tar- ‘to cross’.
1. A Hindu manifestation of a deity or released soul in bodily form on earth; an incarnate divine teacher.
1.1 An incarnation, embodiment, or manifestation of a person or idea.
2. An icon or figure representing a particular person in a video game, Internet forum, etc. [coined by LucasFilm game designers Chip Morningstar and Joseph Romero in 1985 .]
Origin: Mid-17th century: from obsolete Italian profilo, from the verb profilare, from pro- ‘forth’ + filare ‘to spin’, formerly ‘draw a line’ (from Latin filare, from filum ‘thread’).
1. A (flat) outline of a person or place.
2. A short description of a person or organization.
3. The extent to which a person or organization attracts public notice.
4. A representation of information relating to particular characteristics of something/someone.
4.1 A record of a person’s psychological or behavioural characteristics, preferences, etc.
Origin: Mid-16th century: via Latin from Greek arkhet upon ‘something moulded first as a model’, from arkhe- ‘primitive’ + tupos ‘a model’.
1. A very typical example of a certain person or thing.
1.1 An original which has been imitated; a prototype.
2. Psychoanalysis; (in Jungian theory) a primitive mental image inherited from the earliest human ancestors, and supposed to be present in the collective unconscious.
3. A recurrent symbol or motif in literature, art, or mythology.


Okay, so… “persona” here makes no sense to describe your ideal client attributes, as far as I’m concerned.

I’m not comfortable using “avatar”, given the cultural appropriation involved.

“Ideal Client Profile” is an acceptable option, though not ideal, given the flat outline nature of it.

“Archetype” is only an option if you’re an archetypal branding queen, like Cerries Money . Seriously – go check out her amazing work! She’s a breath of tingling-fresh air.

Carl Jung, the father of archetypes, cites the persona as “the mask or façade presented to satisfy the demands of the situation or the environment and not representing the inner personality of the individual”.

Okay, word-nerding over, but you get the idea that original meanings of words can be easily lost or eroded as language evolves {and people don’t bother to do their homework}.


Get to the roots of your ideal client essence – download the work’n’playsheet, only available in The Vault {my FREE Members’ Library for Change-Makers + Creative Entreprenuers}:


3 reasons why buyer personas don’t work for start-ups, solopreneurs and small business owners

  1. Buyer personas take swathes of time and money to curate. As a start-up or micro-business, you don’t have the time or cash, or back catalogue of millions of customers, it takes to hire an expert to generate buyer personas. Remember the originator Alan Cooper and his team took YEARS refining their user personas.


  1. Personas too restrictive, creating a made-up one-person character, rather than looking at your whole audience and the narratives they have in common. And anyway, you have more than one ideal client.


  1. You’d have to base your persona on fiction, rather than reality. Yes, there’s an element of guesswork, but you have some very real and true information at your fingertips, if you know where to look.


I believe there are much easier ways to get into the hearts and heads of your ideal clients.


What to do instead – how to find the essence of your ideal clients {without tearing your hair out or making up a useless list of nonsense}

Why “essence”?

In philosophy, the essence is the true substance, inward nature or constitution of something. It is crucial, essential, yet can feel immaterial. And it’s sensory.

Profiles are a flat outline.

Personas are a mask, role or façade.

A target has aggressive connotations.

The essence of a person beautiful.


Here’s how to find the essence of your ideal clients in 3 simple steps…



First you must have clarity around the core purpose of your business.

If your business is a river, this is the clear Source. It’s a combination of your personal values {the ones you want to bring into your business}, your “big why”, your mission and the impact you want to have on people.

You can have a similar core purpose to other businesses. It doesn’t have to be unique because it helps you connect with the ideal clients who share your values.


Core purpose clarity

Identify the core purpose of your business before finding the essence of your ideal clients. Click To Tweet



Next, you’ll pinpoint your unique value proposition {UVP – also known as unique selling proposition, USP}.

This is the essence of what makes your offerings different from your competitors.

Is it your process or technique, a particular product, invention or inventive way of doing what you do?

For ALL businesses, it boils down to the transformation you offer – how you impact your customers.

As Nella Dunato explains in detail on her blog , you can use the one-word question of “WHY?” to get to the heart of why the transformation is important to your clients.



Finally, you identify the commonalities your ideal clients have.

An ideal client is someone you’d say is a dream to work with who feels the same way about you and will refer you to their friends.

As you interact with more customers, you’ll find you and certain people gravitate towards one another. But what is it that pulls you close?

It’s not necessarily how they look or what their job is or what ice cream flavour is their favourite {unless that’s critical to what you offer}.

Customers, followers, fans… they choose you because of:

  • The common ground you share with them (and they share with each other):
    • Values
    • Outlook on life
  • How you can help:
    • Ease their pains, problems, frustrations, fears
    • Improve their life, whether that’s making them feel validated, happier, listened to, rebalanced, ambitious, healthier, sexier, impactful, motivated…
  • The transformation you can offer
  • How you can speak to their very hearts

Identify the common ground you share with your ideal clients to speak to their hearts. Click To Tweet


Get to the roots of your ideal client essence – download the work’n’playsheet, only available in The Vault {my FREE Members’ Library for Change-Makers + Creative Entreprenuers}:


Lush Cosmetics – an example of ideal client essence perfection

UK brand, Lush cosmetics, grew from a husband and wife team working from home in their Poole, England in the 70’s to an international brand with hundreds of stores across the world. Their background story is pretty interesting, but what I want to tell you about is their  fantastic example of ideal client brand positioning.


Lush Cosmetics ideal client brand positioning example


Their whole product experience is very sensuous – from the heady scents radiating from the huge slabs of soap and unpackaged bath bombs (you can smell a Lush store before you see it), to their “try me” everywhere, delicious enough to eat massage bars and funky bright gift wrapping.

Plus the way they’ve fused politics, social awareness and activism into their brand is incredible. For-profit business and political activism rarely mesh well, but Lush have 26 mission-led policies , which include ethical buying and anti-animal testing campaigns.

For example, their Charity Pot is a hand & body lotion which, since 2007, has donated 100% of the proceeds  (and hundreds of thousands of $$$) to human rights, animal rights and environmental protection projects.

Lush’s deep awareness of their ideal client essence is right on-brand and on-message across their whole operation.


Want more ideal client myth-busting resources? Check out:



What are your thoughts on buyer personas – completely disagree with everything I’ve said? Tell me in the comments!

Finally feel vindicated that you can toss out that client avatar moodboard? Some of it may still come in handy, but I love your phoenix attitude! What commonalities do your ideal clients share? Let’s chat below.