Ask the small business community how they identify their ideal client, and I’m guessing most will reply – “The Ones Who Pay”. There’ll be no disagreement there!
But being able to define other attributes that you consider your ideal in a client can make a huge difference both, in how much you enjoy your work and ultimately in your success.
If you’ve been in business for a while, you probably have a story to tell about a bad client experience. We’ve all had them – even though we wished we hadn’t. The reality is that not every client is suited to you or your business, and that’s ok. You only need to attract the ones who are. As marketing guru Andrew Davis says:
So Who is your Someone?
Can you identify your ideal client?
To recognise your ideal client, it’s essential that you have a deep understanding of who s/he is.
Firstly, they should be a member of your target market.
Secondly, it’s important to know what it is about them that makes them your ideal. Chances are you’ll instinctively know when you work with them, because it will have a significant impact on how successful and fulfilled you feel. You’ll genuinely enjoy the work you are doing.
Can you identify your non-ideal client?
Working with someone less than ideal can quickly drain your energy and undermine your confidence. I learnt this lesson early on in my business with one of my first clients. It was an experience that, though difficult to get through, really made me think about the type of person I did and did not want to work with.
This particular client was someone who wanted to know everything I was doing and why I was doing it. To say I’m not fond of being micromanaged is an understatement. It drove me crazy. I didn’t handle it well, and eventually, we parted company. It wasn’t my finest moment. I would never choose to work with someone like that again. In hindsight, it was a clear lesson, and I’m glad I learnt it.
As service professionals, we work closely with people for long periods. So it makes sense to work with people we like spending time with, people who motivate and inspire us to do our best work. But how do we know who they are?
HOW TO IDENTIFY YOUR IDEAL CLIENT
The Poor Client Experience
When determining who your ideal client is, it’s easier to start with an understanding of what type of person you don’t want to work with. These are the clients that are not a good fit for you or your business. They drain your energy, keep you awake at night and display behaviours that you can’t tolerate.
You may have worked with people like this; most of us have at one time or another. Perhaps you still have clients like this. If you’re attracting these ‘poor fit’ clients, maybe it’s time to undergo a little analysis.
Have you ever explored what it is about working with these poor-fit clients that you didn’t like?
Writing it down helps you identify traits to look out for and avoid. Ensure you’re very specific about what made working with them such a poor experience. The experience can be quite cathartic!
Keep this list handy and refer to it occasionally, just as a reminder. So when you recognise these traits in a prospect, you’ll immediately know to recommend them to someone they’ll be more compatible with.
The Good Client Experience
Next, think about the clients you enjoyed working with.
These are the clients that make you wish you had ten more just like them.
There’s a high probability that your personality, traits and values were compatible with theirs. For example, did their communication style closely match yours? Were they upbeat and forward thinking? Did you do your best work with them?
To get to the crux of the desirable traits of a client, here’s a great little exercise to help you figure it out. Think about the past working relationships you’ve had with them. If there’s been a lot, take a sample of the best of the best – how many you chose is up to you.
Create a page for each client and answer the following questions:
Ideal Client Compatibility Analysis
- What was it about their character that you liked?
- Was there anything about them that you didn’t like and that you chose to overlook?
Did this affect your working relationship in any way?
- How did their communication style match your own?
- What values and beliefs aligned with your own?
- Were they always professional?
- Did you enjoy working with them?
- Did they fit your ideal demographic (age, location, gender, education level)?
- Did they meet all your business pre-qualifiers (specific skill or knowledge level)?
- Did you succeed in meeting their particular need? Did you get amazing results?
- Did any issues arise in the process?
- Did they meet their obligations/deadlines on time?
- How did they make you feel once you’d finished working with them?
- Did they give you a glowing testimonial or recommend you to colleagues?
Now that you have your list:
- Can you identify any clients you would consider ideal?
- Are there any commonalities among them?
This exercise is an excellent way for you to qualify the potential compatibility of clients before you agree to work with them.
Keep your list handy and refer to it to identify any red flags before committing to that ‘yes’.
What makes identifying an ideal client worth the effort?
After a while this exercise will become second nature and you’ll find that it will make a huge difference to your life:
- You’ll connect with your clients on a deeper level
- You’ll feel inspired because you know your clients appreciate the value you bring to them
- You’ll feel successful and confident, and
- It’ll seriously reduce your stress levels!
And who doesn’t want that?
Are you working with your ideal clients? How much difference has it made to you life? I’d be very interested to know. Feel free to comment below.