Who are the right clients? Isn’t grabbing every customer you can get a good thing? If this is your mindset, did you know it is actually holding you back? It sounds counter-intuitive to say that you need to be selective about who you do business with, because when you are starting out you feel under pressure to find as many paying customers as possible, and never mind who they are as long as they can pay! It’s a perfectly understandable way to feel, after all, and being selective about who you work with seems like an unaffordable luxury. However, if you have the foresight, that is exactly how you will build your business up successfully.
The right clients
If you are selling anything, you have to know who you’re selling it to. There has to be a need or desire for what you are selling, so you wouldn’t for example try and book advertising space for your deluxe pork sausages in the American Vegetarian Association magazine. It is important to get your positioning right. Before you start writing any promotional copy, be confident about who you are talking to. Remember, you are speaking to an individual person through your marketing materials, and you want that individual to buy from you. Target the kind of people who are most likely to want to buy your services. This needs to be researched carefully, with a realistic eye on what you are offering. It’s no good trying to sell cheap watches in a high-end magazine like Esquire for example. Yes, their readers will undoubtedly be interested in watches, but only good quality, designer brands. They would actively shun anything cheap, so your ads would be wasted. This is why you have to be so specific about your placement. Knowing that men between 30 and 50 are the most frequent buyers of watches doesn’t mean you should have blanket coverage in all publications and websites aimed at this age group. Within that age range, there are numerous different social groupings, incomes, attitudes, desires and needs. You need to be able to pinpoint what the attributes are of the person who is most likely to buy the specific kind of watch you are selling.
Why targeting matters
Focusing your marketing budget on communicating with the people most likely to buy from you makes sense. If you spread your marketing efforts across a wide demographic, you will be seen by more people, and you may indeed find some who are likely to buy from you. However, just because you are visible to one million people doesn’t mean there will be a significant proportion of those who are potential customers. You could still end up with only twenty clients, which doesn’t represent a very satisfactory return on your investment. However, if you target your marketing very specifically, you could be seen by only fifty thousand people, but one hundred of those are potential clients. Targeting a set audience can be hugely beneficial in the long run if you learn who your target audience is from early on, and are able to build a strategy based on this. Find out the truth behind statistics and probability, and you may find that a tightly focused group is better to approach than approaching a wider target market. It will cost you more to use a blanket approach, and returns are likely to be lower; you can run some numbers for yourself to establish the veracity of this claim.
Knowing your client
In order to be able to target your marketing, you need to know exactly who your client is. Knowing your client means more than just their age and income, but involves further specifics, including their beliefs and attitudes, education, experiences, social status, career, interests, and hobbies. Through understanding what your client may need or desire before they do, you can accurately offer a product or service that they will be interested in. By creating this persona of your ideal client, known as an avatar, you’ll have the information you need to accurately select the best places to advertise and the most effective forms of advertising. Make your avatar a real person, someone who is formed fully in your mind, and on paper, and give them a name. This can be a useful exercise if you are struggling with the concept of using such a specific targeting method in your marketing. By defining your perfect customer, you can help visualize and realize what they may be looking for from your company.
Where to advertise
This will obviously depend on who you are trying to reach, and now you have your avatar you can select the publications, placements, and methods most suitable for communicating with your chosen audience. Think about where your target audience is most likely to see your ad or article. Ask yourself questions like ‘How does marketing online grow your business?’ Will an AdWords or Facebook ads campaign be more effective, or should you target websites in your niche with copy, offers and exclusive ads? One of the reasons for taking such pains to build your avatar is that it will give you the information you need to use exactly the right methods for communicating your offer to the people most inclined to be interested in it.
Understanding your client
Once you’re sure about who that ideal client is, then you need to work out what you want to say to them. That takes just as much effort and planning as creating your avatar, because unless you get the message right, all those potential clients won’t turn into real, paying customers. The essential factor in your communication is to answer a need they have or solve a problem. Decisions can be influenced by the price and other practicalities, but in the end, most decision making comes down to feelings. How you feel about something is the overriding influence, so to sell yourself successfully you need to offer something that will look into the emotions of your potential customers. Say you are offering your services as a writer. You carefully craft your publicity materials listing all your qualifications and experience, describe how meticulously you research and copy edit your work, and that you can write in a particular style or styles. That all sounds great, but on the same web page there is an ad from another freelancer saying they can boost the client’s profile, increase their authority, and generate more sales. Which ad is going to generate more interest? Your ad is all about you, and it’s all very impressive, but it doesn’t tell the client what you will actually do for them. You’re selling features, not benefits. The rival ad states clearly how they will increase profits, and therefore is answering the fundamental need of the client. Features are great for backing up benefits, but it’s the outcomes you will achieve for your client that will get them to engage you.
Why you want to avoid the wrong clients
Wrong clients can sometimes be more hassle than they’re worth. Anyone who is causing time-consuming issues may not be worth the time you’d invest in them. Don’t be afraid to turn down work with clients who are like this. It is about achieving a balance, of course. However, it may be worth it to seek clients that are more fitting to your business model. You could argue that any client is a good client, but if the relationship gets to the point where there are many more negatives than positives it may be time to reassess the situation. You should always deliver, and you need to be able to deal with editing suggestions and constructive criticism. However, clients who are continually making a nuisance of themselves are simply keeping you from finding better, more respectful clients. Don’t waste too much time on these low-quality clients, and put your efforts instead into finding more of the people who will value you and your work.
Knowing if you’re getting it right
If your sales are going up and your profits are increasing alongside them, then that’s a reasonable indication that you’re on the right track. It is always worth checking the facts behind the sales though, as you may find that one part of your campaign is bringing in all the clients whilst another is bringing in very few. If they’re both costing the same amount, then you are clearly not getting something right in the poorly performing activity. If you are aware of these scenarios, you can look at what might be wrong, fix it and thus be making twice as much when the failing activity starts matching the successful one.
It can’t be emphasized too much how important these planning stages are for your business. By taking the time to analyze your ideal client, position your advertising in the most appropriate places, and sell the benefits of your service rather than its features, you will lay the foundations for a successful marketing strategy.