Our client hated our design, until we told him this

When we handed our client “John” a purple design, he hated it. John loves red. But when we explained this powerful growth secret through target market research, he not only changed his mind – he applauded us and asked for even more purple designs. Here’s that secret.


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Prefer text? Here’s the full transcript:

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When David and I started our first business, our creative agency Unexpected Ways, 8 years ago, in the beginning we worked with a lot of fitness professionals.

I distinctly remember working with one man, we’ll call him John, whose clients were young moms who were very feminine, and wanted to feel like they have safe space when they’re going to a personal trainer. Like it’s going to be a safe experience catered to them, and it was very important for them to not feel intimidated.

How do I know all this about his clients?

Well, one of the very first things David and I do when taking on any project, is interviewing our client’s top customers. These are the people who they really feel represent the kinds of people they want more of, and really want to work with.

In these interviews, we always dig really deep. So in the case of John’s clients, maybe we started with questions like:

  • How old are you?
  • What do you do in your free time?
  • What do you do for a living?

And gradually, by really listening and asking the right questions, we’d learn about their deepest struggles – a lot of times they’d tell us things they haven’t told anyone else in years…they’d share their fears, and doubts, and the needs that they have in their lives that brought them to John in the first place.

Now, after we interviewed John’s clients, we had a very clear picture of the kind of woman that was his ideal customer and exactly what she needed to read and see in an advertisement. We really honed in on the feeling she needed to get to give him a call.

So we created the ads, which used very warm colors and friendly images and tone in writing, and showed him the final result, and…

John was REALLY unhappy!

And why was John unhappy? Because John LOVED the colors black and red, and really gritty metal textures, and because he loved those things so much, he insisted on using them in his ads.

Based on what I just told you about the kind of customer he was trying to attract, do you think this type of design would work for him?

Of course not. In fact, those types of colors and elements would attract the exact opposite of John’s target market.

This is one of the biggest mistakes I see people make, and I see it almost every single day on websites, google ads, flyers, packaging, even business cards. Creating something that is supposed to bring you customers, while leaving the customer completely out of it.

One of my absolutely favorite quotes on this subject is by Dale Carnegie, who if you haven’t read anything by I highly suggest that you do, and it goes like this:

“Personally I am very fond of strawberries and cream, but I have found that for some strange reason, fish prefer worms. So when I went fishing, I didn’t think about what I wanted. I thought about what they wanted. I didn’t bait the hook with strawberries and cream. Rather, I dangled a worm or grasshopper in front of the fish and said: “Wouldn’t you like to have that?”

Why not use the same common sense when fishing for people?”

I love this quote so much because it demonstrates so beautifully the importance of knowing your ideal customer, your target market, really well, and as a result knowing exactly what you need to use to “hook” them and draw them to you.

So how do you apply this in your business? How do you get to know your ideal customers? Click here to check out part 2 of this series now where I break it all down.

Questions? Thoughts? Feedback? I’d love to hear your comments below!


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  1. I like the idea of interviewing members of a client’s target market. I’d love to hear more about what that process could look like. When can we expect part 2?

  2. I’d love to check out “part 2” but the “click here” doesn’t work. I wondered – did John give his clients a heads up that you’d be calling and ask their permission? How many people did you talk to?
    I recently interviewed my ideal clients and the similarities I found seem so hard to address but may be very common: they don’t want to do social media or blog or really do anything but what THEY do – but they also can’t afford to pay someone and have very unrealistic ideas about how much time and money it takes to do well. It’s very frustrating because then it seems like an unsolvable problem. Any suggestions?

    1. Hey Gail!

      Part 2 will be published soon 🙂

      John did let his clients know, that is very important. We like to talk to between 5-10 people, but usually even 3-5 clients that really represent the target market will do.

      From the situation you’re describing it sounds like educating them about this would be necessary, but also difficult. I’d focus on talking to them about their goals and explaining how those services will help them reach their goals, if that’s what you are able to offer them.

  3. Really smart advice! The link to the second part isn’t working and I don’t know which video on your YouTube channel is part 2. Thoughts?

  4. Interesting article and it all makes sense to me for a long time. Though clients I have now don’t want to bother either seeing me, or even answers via email market questions. Yes, to busy is the classic answer. My conclusion is ego, want to be art direct, don’t want to share ideas again to busy brainstorming and see the big picture, not sharing what they know, you get my drift. All is done bit by bit… So what to do with that situation aware that finding the right client is also the option?

    1. I have exactly the same problem with some of my clients. They’re so busy that they can’t be bothered to fill in even a short questionnaire.

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