Creating your ideal client profile

A few weeks ago, I did a post on identifying bad clients and knowing when to fire them. In the emails and comments that followed, many of you mentioned the flip side of the coin — building a business based on ‘ideal’ clients.

These are the clients we created our companies to serve, the ones who make it all worthwhile. They are the customers who, when they ring us up or ping us with an email, brighten our day. Interestingly enough, they are often also the best paying, most profitable and least painful of all our clients.

But how exactly does a small business secure this magical stable of superstar clients? It starts by defining what makes up your unique ideal client profile.

I asked a cross section of small business owners, experts and authors to define an ideal small business client and how to go about getting these. Here’s what they had to say.

“Ideal clients must appreciate the value you bring to the table and have realistic expectations. They also need to be willing to do their part in whatever process or journey you go on together. When clients meet these criteria, you can do your best work, instead of spending time bickering or playing games.” says Patti DeNucci, author of The Intentional Networker.

“The most important attribute to look for is trust. If a potential client or existing client trusts you, then you can be most effective in your role. Trust means fewer questions and disappointments. Clients who will never trust you take too much time challenging every recommendation you make, reducing efficiency and frustrating both parties,” says web designer Dylan Valade.

Michael Y. Brenner of IdeAgency suggests, “Determining an ideal client requires, first and foremost, some contemplation about what sort of client you wish to serve. Some questions to ask include:”

  • What kinds of clients do you do your best work with?
  • What sorts of environments/people inspire you?
  • What sorts of people make you feel most energized?
  • What sorts of clients leave you feeling frustrated?
  • What types of companies will allow you to be yourself?

“The first challenge is to get your ideal clients to step out of the crowd so you can begin a conversation, says Dov Gordon of  The Alchemist Entrepreneur“It happens only after you understand that it’s not about getting someone’s attention, it’s about getting his or her interest. Two things get our interest: When someone talks about a problem we have and don’t want and/or a result we want and don’t have. The best way to get more of your ideal clients to seek you out is to ask and answer these questions.”

  • What problems can I solve through my products and services?
  • What changes, or results, can I help create?
  • Who has these problems?
  • Who wants these results?

“When you have these answers clear, they form the foundation for all your marketing.”

Whether you determine your ideal client profile by asking and answering a series of questions or graphing the greatest attributes of your best customers, taking the time to articulate who your A-list clients are is a smart business move.

What’s your ideal client profile and how did you go about it? We would love to hear your comments.

Karen Leland is a freelance journalist, best-selling author and president of Sterling Marketing Group, where she helps businesses negotiate the wired world of today’s media landscape — social and otherwise.

19 Comments

Sharon Tregoning
August 8, 2011 at 12:53 pm

Karen, Thank you so much for this post – it is just brilliant!! I am still working on the picture of my ideal client & this post will certainly help!! Peace & blessings to you, Sharon

Jerry Zhao
August 8, 2011 at 11:19 am

Good points, Karen

Want to learn how the others found their ideal clients.

Karen Leland
August 8, 2011 at 6:10 pm

Sharon, thanks glad it helped. Jerry, let’s pose that question to the readers of this blog post. How do you find your ideal clients?

Accountants in Keny
August 8, 2011 at 10:14 pm

Ideal clients? The one’s who pay!

That’s a serious point, no point working for someone if they won’t pay. This has to be a key factor and it is mentioned here.

You have to be careful not to occupy too small a niche as well.

Accountants in Kent
August 8, 2011 at 10:16 pm

Sorry, that should have said isn’t mentioned here

David K Waltz
August 8, 2011 at 4:50 am

I am trying to synthesize the Valade and DeNucci comments – maybe “those who are willing to form a real, honest and personal relationship with you”?

Thanks for the post.

Karen Leland
August 8, 2011 at 8:48 am

Accountants in Kent;

Good point. Although I think that falls more under the bad clients post I did a few weeks ago :-) But yes, clearly if someone is not financially able to afford your services, they don’t make an ideal client.

Rabbi Issamar
August 8, 2011 at 9:42 am

Great post!

some clients are not worth having, no matter how much they pay… its about clients understanding that they receive more value then they pay for that makes a relationship work magic. they need to feel and appreciate that you over deliver!

Sunil Wadhwa
August 8, 2011 at 5:50 pm

I like the topic very much and have practiced it for last few years. Somtimes, firing client is the last thing in the process of sales. We only spoil the expectations of client by offering too much during pre-sales and increasing hteir expectations. However, it is a balance that keeps client aware of the value additions that we can do for him and what investment he has to make. Best regards, Sunil

Bruce Campbell
August 8, 2011 at 8:41 am

For us, the ideal client would be a large office that gets cleaned five times a week
Offices are great as they don’t get really dirty, and the frequency of cleans makes them absolutely worthwhile. And because we consistently do a really good job, they make sure to pay us promptly…nice!

Accountants in Kent
August 8, 2011 at 4:30 am

Don’t limit your target market of ‘ideal clients’ to too small a section of businesses, or you’ll never grow an develop your business.

Respect your clients yes, like them, well it helps but you don’t need to.

Jerry Zhao
August 8, 2011 at 11:00 am

Agree @Rabbi, maybe that’s why not many accountant like new start up. A long process to educate/communicate why they should pay me to do their account. A process of pain/joy mix.

Mike Dempsey
September 9, 2011 at 5:40 am

ideal clients understand the passion behind your business.

Grant Jaggle
September 9, 2011 at 6:27 am

Along with trust I would put understanding and acceptance. Understanding that you may not be the best match, accepting the reality. But isn’t that with most things in life?

Karen Leland
September 9, 2011 at 2:09 am

Sunil. I love what you said about “We only spoil the expectations of client by offering too much during pre-sales and increasing their expectations.” Over promising and Under Delivering is a definite issue with small businesses.

Dutchman
September 9, 2011 at 4:15 am

nobody mentioned honesty? If there can’t be or isn’t honesty in the communication, then the foundation is not stable. What is it that they want from your business? And how honest are you about what you can/cannot deliver?

Srini
September 9, 2011 at 5:36 am

so glad you posted this, everyone should be thinking this over, especially the questions that Dov Gordon asks.

Jeff Sutherlin
September 9, 2011 at 9:15 am

To be honest I have not thought about this enough. But I see the importance of it and will do my best at mapping out my ideal client!

Eileen Schwartz
September 9, 2011 at 7:14 pm

an ideal client is one that is satisfied! Remember, unhappy clients spread bad news about your business which then expands exponentially.

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