Do you feel like you spend so much time trying to grow your client list but you aren’t bringing in the revenue to show for all your efforts? You may be wasting a lot of energy courting the wrong customer.
Many fledgling entrepreneurs make the mistake of trying to make everyone their customer. Motivated to grow their business quickly, they fear turning any business away so are too general and don’t take the time to define and target their ideal customer.
I see this in every kind of business from coaching to retail to service. In fact, I just heard a story this morning about a young woman who in an attempt to build a Mary Kay business, held a party for all her friends, college students who are mostly on financial aid. No one at the first party purchased except the host who received a huge discount. But the representative wanted to build her customer list so she asked each of the girls attending to host a party. The idea is for each of them to bring in other friends who will purchase and bring their friends who will refer their friends and become repeat customers. But, if none of them purchased at the first party and they each have a party to get the free hostess gifts she is going to waste more time and effort doing several more presentations to the same girls who will do nothing to grow her business. She’s wasting energy wooing the wrong client.
I saw this in my own businesses as well. Years ago I studied massage and wanted to grow a practice quickly so gave discount coupons to everyone I knew in hopes that some would become regular clients. Thinking I should practice all the different bodywork I had learned, I would do whatever type of massage the client wanted. What I saw very quickly was that many of them enjoyed the massage but couldn’t afford weekly or even monthly bodywork. Then I sat down and wrote out criteria for my ideal client. I decided to specialize in one modality and only target clients who could benefit from upper body, neck and shoulder work and who could afford to pay for the work regularly. Then I made a list of people I knew who either fit that profile or who were in a position to refer my target client. Rather than offer discount coupons, I gave this targeted group gift certificates for a free session. Instead of attracting clients who were only taking advantage of a free or discounted service, these were chiropractors, physicians and people with the means to pay and refer. By putting my time and effort into targeting a very specific profile rather than courting everyone, I very quickly built up a thriving practice.
When I opened a gallery of contemporary american craft in a tourist town, I realized that the majority of people walking down the street patronized the shops that sold souvenirs and imported nicknacks. I quickly learned that only a small percentage of the visitors either valued or would pay for handmade items. I knew in order to make it, I would have to adjust my inventory to appeal to at least twenty percent of the foot traffic. I could have started carrying chinese knock-offs and thus brought in more customers but I had made a commitment to support American crafts people. Also, if I carried the same old trinkets everyone else did, I would appeal to a larger population but what would differentiate me from the other shops in town? So, I made the decision to stay focused on a specific client and added in some more affordable pieces that were still handmade and continued to target the customer who would refer and return. Yes, I missed eighty percent of the foot traffic but the twenty percent who I did reach were my ideal client and became loyal, long-term customers.
If you’re you working too hard to be everything to everyone and finding it frustrating and unprofitable, ask yourself the following questions about your client list:
Can most of them afford to pay you fairly for your product or service?
Do they come in regular contact, either in person or virtually, with others who are your ideal client?
Are they people you enjoy working with who will tell their friends or clients about you?
Will they become long-term repeat clients?
Are they likely to purchase other products or services you offer in the future?
If you answered no to any of the above questions, you are courting the wrong client. Stop and make a list of the qualities your ideal client possesses and then figure out how you can reach those people. If you stop trying to reach the eighty percent who won’t become long-term paying clients, you’ll find the twenty percent you do target will bring in the majority of your income.