15 Nov How to discover and attract your perfect clients
Many small business owners fall into the trap of trying to be all things to all people, and as a result find it hard to really focus and get good at serving narrowly defined market segments.
It’s never a conscious thing, more of the fact that when responsibility for feeding, housing and clothing your family sits squarely on your shoulders, it’s hard to turn customers down when they want to spend money with you, even if it’s in an area that’s not really your thing…
While it may feel like growth to take on a new customer, even if that customer isn’t a good fit for your or your business, it can actually stunt real growth and may even create a situation where you’re not meeting expectations – damaging for you and your business.
I think most business, mine included, are best suited to serving a narrowly defined market segment, kinda like finding your sweet spot. It doesn’t mean that the sweet spot won’t grow or evolve or even change over time, but at any given time there exists a set ideal client or engagement for most businesses.
The trick is to discover what your perfect client looks like in the most specific way possible and then go about building your entire marketing strategy around attracting more of them.
Now, before I go any further, let me clarify what I mean by ‘perfect’. For some this might simply be a subset of folks who can afford what you offer, but for others this might make up one of the six or eight clients you intend to work with long term to help them gain a result. If you fit into the latter category then it’s even more important that you’re working with people that are the perfect fit or life could get pretty miserable for all involved!
A perfect fit may mean that they have the kind of need you can really help with, but it may also mean that they value your unique approach and treat you and your staff with the respect that the relationship deserves. A ‘red flag’ client take on because you need to pay a bill will suck the life out of you and your business faster than most any other dynamic known to man.
A less than ideal client can also come in the form of a person that you would love to work with, but they just don’t really have the need that matches what your business does best.
So here is my FIVE STEP approach for helping my clients to discover who their ideal client is.
Step One – Use the ‘Force’ (OK, maybe not the force, but data is just as good)
If you can, create a spreadsheet of your clients and focus on the amount and type of business you do with each. You might even rank them in order from most to least business over the last three years.
Now, carefully comb through the list with an eye on profit. Which are your most profitable clients? Are there entire types of work or types of clients that traditionally produce unprofitable sales? I know it sounds crazy, but most business take on work that in the light of day ends up being a waste of time at best.
The key is to understand the most profitable work. Is it a certain product or service, type of engagement, or even a challenge that you enjoy solving the most? (This often a good time to resolve to get rid of work that you know is no longer profitable.)
Step Two – Look at the referrers
Now let’s divide that list again. From the profitable work identify clients that are known referral sources. Here’s what I’ve found to be true. Only happy clients refer and happy clients are most often found because you or your approach is a good match for what they needed. Boom!
This narrow group of profitable clients, the ones that also refer, holds the key to discovering your ideal client profile.
Step Three – Remember that demographics are outbound
From your group above it’s time to start looking at the physical characteristics that are known about your ideal client group. You’re looking for any common characteristics that are shared.
Marketers call this ‘demographics’ and often stop here and go buy a demographic selected list to do some outbound marketing. While I think demographics, such as age, income and even postcode, can be important, they are only a part of the story and are useful in an outbound marketing kind of way.
Step Four – Understand that behaviour is inbound
The secret to attracting, as opposed to hunting, your ideal client is to understand what makes them tick, what triggers them to go looking for someone like you, and what behaviour they typically exhibit that might act as another marker for you to focus on.
This is the essence of attraction and how marketers create inbound marketing paths to their business. For example, if you know your narrow market enjoys tech-related conferences, you might show up at a few of these or even work to get on the stage. If they are active in civic or non-profit causes you might look to create partnerships with these types of organisations.
Step Five – Create a profile
Finally, once you are able to pull together profit, likelihood to refer, demographics and behavioural markers, you have the making of what I refer to as the ideal client profile.
The idea here is that you create a picture of your ideal client through the use of words and images that is so rich, just about anyone could conjure up a vision of such a client. The key question to answer for yourself and then ultimately for your staff, partners and referral sources is this – How would I spot your ideal client?
You may have different profiles, and that’s OK too, just give them different attributes and name them – like Bob, or Jim, or Audrey.
Think hard, why will they be captivated by your business. What would they value about what you do? And what wouldn’t they like? Start a mood board and really start to build up an insight into their world. Find images in magazines that reflect their taste, their lifestyle and the sorts of things that motivate them. Have fun! And don’t stop until you have built up a really powerful image in your mind. Expect spine tingles!
Find a picture to accompany the “how would I spot” question and then hold that picture as the filter for every marketing decision – “Would this appeal to Bob?” – you’re on your way to building a business that every ideal client will recognise is built just for them – and that’s something people will always pay a premium for.
Good luck, and let me know how you get on!