One of the biggest mistakes I see consultants, coaches and professionals make is to be unclear about who their ideal client is, and to carry out their marketing without any specific definition of their target market. In fact, most are hedging their bets and trying to appeal to everybody.
Intuitively, this seems the right way to go. We might presume that the more people you can appeal to, the more likely you are to get business. It’s the law of large numbers – if you throw enough darts at the board, then eventually you’ll hit the bullseye.
However, this approach has a number of drawbacks. First, when you try to please everybody, you end up pleasing nobody. Your marketing message will be bland and, quite likely, meaningless to everyone that is exposed to it. Secondly, trying to market to an undefined group of people is extremely hard work and involves a lot of wasted energy and expense. How will you know where to place your ads, who to send direct mail to, where to network, who to call or who you want to attract to your website? Thirdly, if you don’t specialise in any way, then you’ll never build up specific expertise in any particular area or get paid the premium that specialists get paid.
So, if you haven’t already, I suggest that you define your precise target market and start building up a profile of the ideal client.
Who is NOT an ideal client?
For a lot of people, who they think is their ideal client and who genuinely is an ideal client may be world’s apart.
Here’s a list of types of businesses or consumers you probably don’t want to target:
People who are shopping on price are very, very rarely your ideal client. Unless you have a business model that allows you to somehow "mass produce" services and leverage your time, then you’ll never create your dream lifestyle or large pension fund working for price shoppers. My experience, and that of thousands of other service providers, is that "cheapskate" clients are often more demanding, take up more of your precious time and cause more headaches than clients who are looking for a premium service.
People who you think "need" your services:
Virtually every small business I come across could use my know-how and expertise to improve their marketing. I could surmise that they "need" what I have to offer. However, there is an abundance of research that shows that people rarely buy what they need, but nearly always buy what they "want" (finances permitting). This is a critical distinction. You may be meeting people all the time who you feel "need" what you provide, but until such time as they actually want it, they’re unlikely to buy, and therefore your time spent marketing to them and building the relationship is largely wasted.
People who can’t comfortably afford your services:
You may meet people who both need and want your services, but if they can’t comfortably afford them, then it’s going to be an uphill battle proving the value of what you do and why they should invest. If they do decide to buy your services then they may also become "problem child" clients.
Sometimes you will get business from people who can’t comfortably afford your services, but to actively target them and to spend too much time wooing them is likely a false economy. Your marketing efforts and resources will be better spent when aimed at a market that can easily afford you. This market will also perceive less risk in hiring you, as they can more easily rationalise the purchase to themselves.
People who don’t see you as credible:
20th century marketing has taught most of us to be sceptical. Because people have made bad purchasing decisions in the past, and sometimes been outright ripped off, they’re wary of how they spend their money and who they spend it with. This is true whether they’re a corporate buyer (they don’t want to lose face or lose their job) or a consumer. They’ll look to minimise their risks, and the easiest way of doing that is by buying from someone they trust who has a substantial amount of credibility. This goes hand in hand with positioning yourself as a specialist and expert in your field – high end clients who are willing to pay high fees will want reassurance that you can produce the results you claim to produce.
People who don’t truly want change:
As a service provider, it’s highly likely that what you do involves some kind of change on the part of your clients. If you’re a consultant or coach, then your clients will probably have to change what they do or how they think in order to implement the strategies, tools and techniques that you advise them to use. If you’re a professional, then they may need to change how they do their accounting, how their website works, their visual identity or their contracts in order to benefit from the improvements you provide.
If you find yourself speaking to people who show all the signs of resisting change, then move on! They may pay lip service to wanting improved results, but if they don’t seem prepared to actually make changes and move with the times, then they’re probably not a good client.
What are the criteria for defining your perfect client?
When you come to defining your target market and ideal client, here are the factors to consider:
- Who’s prepared to pay a premium for the outcome you provide?
- Who wants what you offer, rather than who needs what you offer?
- Who can comfortably afford your services?
- Who trusts you and sees you as credible?
- Who’s willing to embrace the change you represent?
And finally, one last distinction – and this may be the most important one. You’ll build your own success more rapidly when you spend your time marketing to businesses and people who are already successful but want to move to the next level, than if you target businesses or people who are struggling.This may seem counter-intuitive. After all, aren’t those who are struggling the ones who most need your help? Yes, they probably do need your help the most. However, if they don’t want it, or aren’t prepared to pay for it, then you’re wasting your time and money marketing to them. Not only that, but the people and businesses that need your help because they’re in a mess probably got into their predicament by being short-sighted and not wanting to invest in professional help at the appropriate time. This points to them not having a success mindset or wanting to implement change, which means that not only will it be a harder sale, but they’re less likely to implement the changes you advise in order to become good success stories for you.
And at the end of the day, if you want to build a successful business, it pays to surround yourself with successful people, especially your clients!
Here are some examples of these principles in action:
1. The desperate prospect
I spoke to one potential client, who was on the brink of bankruptcy, who wanted me to help him with some marketing materials. I thought his business model was basically flawed and therefore he’d probably never see a good return on his investment in my services within the brief he’d given me. It was unlikely that he’d want to pay my fees, and I couldn’t guarantee him a result in the kind of time frame he needed to prevent the bankruptcy. I decided not to take the conversation any further on the basis that I didn’t want his money if it might become a contributing factor to his bankruptcy and because I wasn’t convinced that he was heading in the right direction.
Although he wanted what I was offering, I didn’t think he could comfortably afford my services or get the returns he needed in such a tight timeframe.
2. The sceptical prospect
I had a conversation with a potential client who seemed to have some good services, but was struggling to sell them. He really needed marketing help because he was running all over town (quite literally) presenting proposals to people who weren’t buying and was struggling to make his business model work. I suggested a number of changes and actions he could take, but he resisted each and every one. Not long into the conversation I felt my energy drop and a sense of despair overwhelm me. This is usually a really bad sign!
This guy sells services that could really help a lot of people, but his depressed attitude and resistance to every thing I said meant that he was never likely to become wildly successful or build the exit strategy he wanted. Not only that, but he claimed that he’d heard it all before! This begs the question "so why didn’t you act on it the first time you heard it"?
This prospect needed what I was offering, but didn’t want it. He didn’t have a success mindset, and was therefore unlikely to ever really appreciate the value of the change I was offering him.
3. The optimistic client
Stefan recognised his own limitations when it came to marketing. He knew in his heart that he had a good product and service, but was struggling to get his message out to the right people and in the right way. Although he had regular work coming in from a few reliable sources, he recognised the need to shore up his foundations by reaching more people and consistently bringing in new client from other efforts.
Stefan signed up for my Client Attraction Blueprint programme right away, and set about doing the exercises and taking on board the advice I offered him. He is now reaping the rewards through having a marketing plan that works for him and a much clearer idea of who he should be targeting, and where he should expend his marketing efforts, time and money.
Stefan wanted what I was offering. He was open to change, and happy to be directed. Although he didn’t fit the criterion of easily affording my services, he was prepared to invest in them anyway because he saw the long term advantages.
What about you? Are you targeting the people who trust you, see you as credible, who want what you offer and are willing to pay to gain the benefits of your solution? Are you positioning yourself as an expert and working to attract other like-minded and successful people to your business, or are you struggling to sell your services to a sceptical and reluctant market? Could you take your business to the next level by clearly defining the ideal client and then ensuring that all of your marketing efforts, particularly your message, are tailored to the wants and aspirations of that market?