A few weeks ago, I did a post for this column 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 pain in the (fill in the blank) clients we have.
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.
"The ideal client profile is a clear description of the type of client you would love to have more of. It may be an exact replica of a client you're working with today. Or it could be a combination of qualities you've seen in past and current clients," says small business coach Maria Marsala.
I asked a roundup of small business owners, experts and authors to give me their tips, take and wisdom on the ins and outs of small businesses and ideal clients. Here's what they had to say.
The concept of an ideal client profile can be revolutionary for small business owners who have assumed that all business is good business. If a business depends on referrals, finding the ideal customer profile will have a long-term impact. These customers spread the word, attracting more customers like them. Taking on customers that don't fit the profile also generates referrals -- but for less-desirable business. Time spent with customers outside the target profile takes business owners further from their goals, making success more elusive.
--Joellyn Sargent, BrandSprout Marketing.
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.
--Patti DeNucci, Author of The Intentional Networker.
The first challenge is to get your ideal clients to step out of the crowd so you can begin that conversation. This becomes easy 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.
--Dov Gordon, The Alchemist Entrepreneur.
The most important attribute to look for is trust. If a potential client or existing client trusts you completely, 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.
--Dylan Valade, Web Designer.
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 smart small business all around.
What makes up your ideal client profile? We would love to hear your comments.
This article originally appeared at Xero.com, online accounting software for small business.
Karen Leland is a freelance journalist, best-selling author and president of Sterling Marketing Group where she helps businesses create killer content and negotiate the wired world of today's media landscape -- social and otherwise. For questions or comments, please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.