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.