The following is a guest blog from entrepeneur, consultant and colleague Stephen Lahey. Stephen has been growing businesses for years! Read his bio at the end of the article:
In the course of working together, you meet their needs and they meet yours. A profitable and mutually fulfilling client relationship is born. It’s an ideal situation. They’re ideal clients.
Of course, consistently acquiring ideal clients seems like an impossible dream to most professional service providers. While many of them are highly skilled at their particular craft (consulting, speaking, etc.), very few of them have mastered the fundamentals of developing new business.
Market research is often completely ignored. That’s a big mistake. When people skip this step their new business development efforts lack focus and generate inconsistent results.
If your sales and marketing results are less reliable than you want them to be, then I invite you to begin the process of solving that problem now. First, analyze the working relationships that have been profitable and fulfilling for both you and your clients:
- Take a moment and list the characteristics of the clients involved. How would you describe each person in terms of their personal background, professional background, personality and communication style?
- We’re paid to solve problems. What specific problems did you help each client to solve?
- Our work requires give and take. What role did you and each of your clients play in creating and implementing solutions to problems?
- What do these clients have in common? Commonalities aren’t always obvious, so consider this question carefully.
- Patterns will emerge. What are they?
Answering these questions is the first step toward refocusing your new business development efforts and acquiring more of your ideal clients.
After your initial analysis is done, take it a step further. The goal now is to add depth and accuracy to your understanding of “ideal clients” and what they value most.
This step is simple. Ask some of your best clients to complete a brief email survey. Employ some version of this Single Question Survey: “When you think of me and our working relationship, what are the five adjectives that first come to mind?” Urge them to be completely candid. I promise you that the insights you’ll gain will be interesting.
Finally, discuss each respondent’s survey feedback with them in-person or by phone. What is it about the experience of working with you that they actually value most? Clear away any mistaken assumptions that you might have. Gain a crystal clear understanding of what your ideal clients find most valuable.
By taking these steps, you’ll be better equipped to retain your best clients. You’ll also know exactly which aspects of your sales and marketing communications should be refocused to reflect what your best clients actually want. Having the proper focus is crucial to acquiring more of the right clients, more consistently.
Do you find this approach helpful? Leave a question or comment below. Thanks!
Stephen H. Lahey has been self-employed since 2000. He owns SmallBusinessTalent.com and provides sales and marketing guidance to independent professionals worldwide. You can find Stephen and his free online resources at www.smallbusinesstalent.com (subscribe to the podcast and find more of your ideal clients using the free SmallBusinessTalent.com LinkedIn Power Checklist®). Connect with him on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/stephenlahey.