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Let me ask you this, if you have clients, and had the chance, right now, to chuck them all, and be able to go out there and say, “I can work with anyone I want to work with,” would you still be working with who you’re working with today?
Experience tells me that you would say, maybe some, but probably not all. That comes from the feeling that anybody who buys what you do, or anybody who needs the products that you make or sell is an ideal client.
What you have to do in order to get your marketing strategy started, is you have to think about how you can narrowly define your ideal client.
I’m going to talk a little more about each of those, but you have to get to the point where you are so sure about how to describe that ideal client, that you are also defining who your ideal client is not.
Let’s say I wanted to refer business to you, whatever your business is. I’ve got friends, neighbors, and colleagues that need what you do, and so I came to you and said, “Hey, I want to send some folks your way, I really love what you’re doing.”
How would I spot your ideal client? Think about that. That is one of the greatest places to start when you’re thinking about how to narrowly define your ideal client is if somebody came to you and said, “Okay, how would I spot that person?”
Could you define and describe all the characteristics of your ideal client in a way that I’m going to say, “Oh, okay, yeah, I know a couple people like that.”
That’s what you’re really after.
It’s really important that you develop the habit of understanding who it is that you’re going after, identifying them, and building your entire business around attracting them.
You may get lucky and be able to define them quickly, but what I’ve experienced is that you start with a hypothesis, and over time, if you pay attention, you’ll learn who you like working with.
Your ideal client will find you, partly because of how your business evolves, because of how your messaging gets tighter, and because of the results you’re getting for people like them.
If you’re just starting you don’t have to have the answer to who your ideal client is.
You have to have an idea, and you have to try to prove that hypothesis, but mainly you have to pay attention, because I know a lot of people that have decided that they love working in certain industries, or in a certain niche, and they had no idea they would, it just found them.
They started working with a couple clients like that, and they discovered what they really enjoyed doing.
So what if you do have clients and still haven’t defined this idea of an ideal client? Take a look at the stratifying of your current client base.
What I mean by that, is rank each client by profitability.
When I do this with people, I often help them discover that there is work that they’re doing, or segment that they’re serving or a product or service that they are still engaged in that maybe they did when they started, but it’s not something they focus on anymore because it’s not really profitable.
What I find happens, is that a lot of businesses don’t realize that there are certain segments of their market or their community or certain demographics that they do most of their business in.
That’s step number one.
Step number two is this idea of actually looking at those folks that refer you today.
What I found is your most profitable clients who also refer you, typically do so because they were the right fit, they had the right problem, they went after the right service, they really engaged and they allowed you to do the work that you knew you needed to do.
Consequently, they were profitable. They’re also referring you because they like you, they like doing business with you, and they like your people.
Typically if people have a great experience, they’re going to be more inclined to refer you.
What are the common characteristics of your most profitable clients who also refer you today?
What I want you to do is think about more narrowly defining who makes an ideal client for you based on that discovery, or based on the fact that you did some analysis on your current customers.
This doesn’t mean you’re never going to serve anybody else, but it does need to become the filter where you go out, and you start prospecting and where you change your messaging to attract that ideal client, client niche, or those industries that you specialize in.
Because there is a real practical reason for this, you’ve already decided, or determined that they make an ideal client based on profitability and referral, but there’s also an expectation, that once you start narrowly defining who makes an ideal client for you, you can then go to work on more narrowly defining what their problem is, and your promise to solve that problem.
People aren’t looking for our products and services, they’re looking to get their problems solved. The person who can define the problem the best quite often is not only the one that gets the business but in many cases is paid a premium as well.
This is a very practical reason to narrowly define your ideal client.
The primary reason people don’t do it, is that they fear that they’re going to turn potential business away, and I get that in the beginning certainly, but over time, you’re going to discover that turning that business away is the most profitable thing that you can do.
Defining your ideal client starts with things like:
Those are the kinds of things that a lot of people go towards when it comes down to narrowly defining their audience. Those are important, but I want you to think about three specific categories.
In regards to your clients, you’re going to have must-have, nice-to-have, and ideal. Those are your three categories.
In my case, my must-have is a client has to be a small business owner. You must have the budget to afford what you sell, or what, in my case, what I sell. You must have the decision-making ability.
From there you can get into breaking down the types of businesses, and other requirements that you put into the must-have category.
The next one is nice-to-have. Again, in my world, if a business owner has a marketing person internally, they may not be a strategic marketing person, but if they at least have somebody that is doing Facebook for them or doing the newsletter for them, that is a great nice-to-have, because I can actually add even more value by helping them manage that person. Once I get through the must-haves, then I start looking at nice-to-haves.
Ideal starts to get into more of behavior. For example, the owner participates in their industry, they are active on their board, and they are very interested in having other outside professionals other than marketing.
If I’m starting to describe my ideal client, those are the things I want to break it up into. Those must-haves are deal breakers. If they don’t fit in the must-haves you don’t talk to them.
The nice-to-haves are the ones that you’re going to put in a little extra effort to try to build a relationship or to try to get in front of, and then if you’ve got some of the ideal-to-have, then that’s somebody you want to go and really prospect, and you want to focus a lot of time and attention on, and give them value over and above any of what you might see as your normal marketing, because that’s somebody that’s going to be an ideal client.
Once you have that ideal client, you could start to move all of your targeting to that. If you’re building Facebook audiences, you could move to that narrowly defined ideal client. All of your ads should be speaking to that ideal client.
It’s okay to have multiple ideal clients, but once you have those, they need to really be the basis for all of your language, all of your website copy, all of the ads, so that you are clearly articulating the problem that that ideal client has, and how you’re uniquely suited to solve that problem.
When you do that and when you make the basis that strategy of defining an ideal client the basis of all of your marketing, guess what?
You get to choose who you want to work with. That will make life a whole lot better.
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