Guest post by Lawyerist.com

When you are trying to build—or expand—a law business, you need to think about what kind of people you want to help. Sometimes lawyers do that by imagining an ideal client. Not ideal as in imagining an absolutely perfect and well-behaved and affluent client, but ideal as in building a client persona that encompasses all the traits of the types of clients you expect to serve.

Building that ideal client is at the heart of client-centered marketing. It isn’t just imagining who you want to work with. It’s about understanding their pain points and their goals. It’s about understanding both why they seek out a lawyer and why they fail to. It’s about knowing when and how you can reach them.

When you think about pain points and goals, it helps you adjust your marketing strategy. What should you do to connect with clients earlier in their process, be that the process of fighting off a debt collector or the process of building a new business? Where and when will those people be looking for help?

In order for this to work, your client persona needs to be realistic, and in order to do that, that persona needs a name and a backstory. You might even go so far as to create a picture. But it needs to be based on real people you’ve met in real-life situations. That doesn’t necessarily mean client-related—or even networking-type—situations. Think of your friends. Think of people you’ve met at the gym. Think of your family. Think of where they live, how old they are, what type of jobs they hold, what their future plans are.

And make sure to think inclusively. It’s great to say you want to focus on creative professionals, but don’t accidentally frame all those creative professionals as urban-dwelling millennials in co-working spaces because you’ll miss out on a lot of business that way. Put another way. if you design your client persona too narrowly, you’ll exclude a lot of potential clients.

It’s a delicate balance, to be sure, but if you take the time to think carefully about the clients you’d like to have, you can start meeting those clients where they need it most.