When you first started your system integration business I bet you worked with anyone who’d pay you. Am I right?
That’s how most of us start out. We just need to get some clients and start making money. But over time patterns develop and you start to see some clients are much better than others.
Would you like to work with great clients all the time? I’m hoping you just said “yes,” because working with clients that don’t value what you do, don’t pay you on time, and don’t do their part are a recipe for consistent headaches. The solution to this is to identify who your ideal client is.
When you outline who your ideal client is you have the ability to attract those people who value what you have to offer, view working with you like a partnership, and want you to succeed.
Some people refer to ideal clients as buyer personas or avatars. They’re all the same thing — a specific description of the client(s) you want to attract.
The 5-Step Process for Identifying Your Ideal Client
Step 1: Focus On Profitability
Create a spreadsheet of your past clients and focus on the amount and type of business you did with them. How many years you go back really depends on how many clients you serve on a yearly basis. You need to go back far enough to produce enough data to spot trends.
Once you have the spreadsheet completed, focus on your most profitable clients. Is there a certain type of product or service that made them very profitable? What specifically made these clients the most profitable?
Step 2: Who Referred You Business?
Now that you’ve identified your most profitable clients and what made them so profitable, I want you to further separate the most profitable clients into an even smaller group. That group is the most profitable clients who also refer you business.
This group will be the key to discovering your ideal client profile.
Step 3: Narrow Down the Demographics
It’s time to really dig into the group of your most profitable clients that also refer you business. Start looking at the characteristics that are known about this ideal client group.
You are looking for common characteristics across the group. For residential clients, this might be age, home price, income, or city. For commercial clients, this might be industry, the number of employees, or location.
Step 4: Client Behavior
In this step, our goal is to understand what makes our ideal client tick. Why do they seek the help of a business like yours? What problem or desire do they have that you can uniquely address? What behaviors do they typically exhibit?
For example, if you identify the majority of your most profitable residential clients belong to country clubs, it might be time to start looking for opportunities to get in front of the country club crowd.
Step 5: Create Your Ideal Client Profile
Now that you’ve identified your ideal clients, the demographics of the group, and their behavioral patterns/characteristics, you’ve got all the info you need to create an ideal client profile.
You want to create an ideal client profile with words and images so that anyone can conjure up a thought in their head of this exact client. Your ideal client profile should be able to answer the question, “How would I spot your ideal client?”
You may very well have more than one ideal client profile, and that’s OK. By the way, make sure you name them too — Bob, Linda, Joe — whatever seems appropriate.
Also in this series: Why you must focus on your marketing strategy before tactics.
Armed with your ideal client profile(s), you now have a filter for every marketing decision you make. You can start by asking yourself, “Would this appeal to Bob, Linda, or Joe?” If the answer is no, then it’s not the right tactic for your business. Focus on only those tactics and strategies that will attract and resonate with your ideal client(s).
When you complete this exercise effectively, you’ll start to attract the best type of clients and running your business will become easier and much more enjoyable. After all, who wants to work with clients that like to make life difficult?
Tim Fitzpatrick is the President of Rialto Mobile Marketing. He spent 10+ years in the consumer electronics industry as a partner in a distribution company before getting into marketing consulting and digital marketing. He helps small businesses differentiate themselves from the competition, work with more ideal clients, command a premium for their products and services, and make marketing easier with consistent, repeatable results.