Recently Paul Kennedy wrote a very interesting article on finding your ideal client, it has some very good points that are worth using in your search for that “ideal client”
If there’s one challenge all businesses share, it’s how to find ideal clients. It begins with the business plan. In the words of Thomas Edison:
Good fortune is what happens when opportunity meets with planning
Business plans are important to:
- identify and document goals and outcomes;
- create a blueprint on how to get there;
- develop relevant marketing initiatives, activities and actions; and
- build the business profile and brand amongst ideal clients and networks.
Key questions for functional and relevant digital marketing
Simon Sinek is a British / American motivational speaker, marketing consultant, and author of three bestselling books including “Start with Why.”
Meeting someone for the first time, instead of asking “so what do you do?” Sinek suggests the first question should be “so why do you do what you do?”
What does this have to do with the business plan and finding ideal clients?
In building the plan, the question Sinek poses is a great place to start: “Why do you do what you do? (what drives you, what motivates you – your purpose, cause, belief – why does your business exist?).” Answering these questions first helps ensure business and personal goals are aligned, consistent and complementary.
Sinek says everyone has a ‘why.’ Sinek’s TED Talk can be found here Having established the firm’s ‘why’, will then lead to ‘how’ and ‘what’ needs to be done (not the other way around). This approach will also help identify who the business’ ideal clients are (and why they are ideal – what makes them ideal).
Ask ideal clients what they need and want (and why) – focus on delivering those needs and wants (rather than on what the business makes or provides). Asking and answering these questions will open up a whole world of where the business may go and how to get there. There’s plenty of advice readily available on what headings (slides) to include in the business plan (so that advice is not repeated here).
Completing the business plan is just the beginning – it’s the implementation and day to day living of the plan that delivers success. That’s the difference between having a plan and achieving goals.
Key criteria for success
The key criteria for success are:
- having a well thought out and documented business plan; and
- sticking to that plan on a daily basis (living the plan each and every day).
In developing the plan, “Nirvana” is to have ideal clients seek out the business. So anything that takes the firm towards that goal is positive. Having addressed the core issues of mission, vision, values, value proposition, services, structure, people, etc., the plan should focus on clearly identifying:
- who the firm’s ideal clients are (who they currently are, who the firm would like them to be, who they could be, and why they are ideal – the types of organisations, their background, profile, traits, characteristics);
- where they can be found (how do they spend their day; what activities do they participate in; what groups are they members of; what events do they attend; what are their interests?); and
- how to engage with them on a daily basis (raising the company’s profile amongst its ideal clients and networks; building the firm’s brand; what events and activities the firm should attend or organise).
Marketing initiatives, activities and actions
The plan should identify and commit to a series of marketing initiatives, activities and actions that ensure the business:
• constantly surrounds itself with ideal clients; and
• engages with ideal clients on a daily and on-going basis.
This way, new business won or existing business retained, will be of a type that is consistent with the business plan.
These initiatives, activities and actions should be specific and detailed in the plan headings (slides) titled:
• Marketing initiatives, activities and actions; and
• Calendar of marketing initiatives, activities and actions (with timelines covering the next 18 months).
These two headings (slides) are amongst the most critical because they detail exactly what the business is going to do to attract its ideal clients (including how and with specific dates covering the next 18 months).
The plan should also identify non-ideal clients (because they too will seek the business out – and when they do, it’s imperative they don’t distract from business goals – and that they are re-directed to competitors!)
In doing so, consider what makes them non-ideal – the types of organisations, their background, profile, traits, characteristics. For example, because they are too small, can’t afford the business’ services, don’t value or act on good advice, are slow payers, are high maintenance, or will never be ideal clients.
A business plan is just as important for individuals
A business plan is just as crucial and valid for an individual as it is for a business. Everyone needs a plan – irrespective of whether they are a business, a not-for-profit, self-employed, an employee or “seeking new opportunities.”
For individuals the plan should include both business and personal goals. These should be mutually consistent, complementary and take individuals to their desired outcomes, both business and personal.
It’s best to discuss and agree the plan with partners, ensuring their views are reflected in the plan.
Generally, there isn’t just one type of ideal client – usually, there are many different types of ideal clients (across a wide range of industries, each with different characteristics and a different profile). Identify them all, prioritise them and then set about getting the firm’s story in front of them.
Also think through why the firm is the best solution for ideal clients’ needs and wants – in communicating with a prospective client, focus on the benefits to them of doing business with the firm.
In identifying ideal clients, consider who their trusted advisers are (confidants they discuss their business matters with and take counsel from – e.g. their lawyer, accountant, or financial adviser).
Think of the parties who will be involved in discussions and the decision-making process when a transaction is being considered. Where practical, include these trusted advisers in the firm’s marketing and business development activities.
Other thoughts and comments
Much of the background information required in preparing the plan is readily available from the firm’s website, marketing material, LinkedIn profiles, CVs, other business and personal documents. It’s not a matter of starting from scratch or re-inventing the wheel. If the plan is right, it will lead the business to ideal clients and desired business outcomes. Identify who ideal clients are – build a profile of them – what industries are they in; what are their demographics; what characteristics and traits do they have; why are they ideal clients; what makes them ideal?
A final thought on business planning
Have a business plan – but also be open to other opportunities that may not have been considered or identified during the planning process.
Building the client avatar
Julie Mason (LinkedIn Sales Strategist and founder of LinkedSalesFormula.com) is a strong believer in developing and knowing the firm’s client avatar (a detailed profile of target customers / ideal clients).
Mason’s advice is: “If you’re struggling to identify and find your ideal clients, or your marketing is failing to generate results, it could be you haven’t fully developed a client avatar for your business.”
“Your client avatar needs to go much deeper than simply ‘small business owners’ or ‘accountants’. While this is at least a start on the demographics, it doesn’t even touch the surface of emotions that will motivate your ideal clients to purchase your goods or services.”
Mason also notes “every sale is based on emotion and justified with logic in the purchaser’s mind – if you haven’t delved into what makes your ideal clients tick, then you are leaving money on the table.”
Mason concludes: “This information will help find your ideal clients by using business tools such as LinkedIn, where you can search on the demographics and then create marketing material and content that will appeal to their emotions and draw them towards your business.”
“Unfortunately, most businesses don’t dig deep enough on this topic opting for the basic ‘my ideal clients are accountants.’ Yet, studies show that businesses that take the time to really drill down into the emotions and motivations of their ideal clients will enjoy far more success.”
CASE STUDY ONE
Who are the firm’s ideal clients currently – who would the firm like them to be – who could they be?
A leading Australian consulting firm works with medium to large companies in helping develop their strategic thinking, leadership, and sales and marketing skills.
In the past, the consulting firm typically delivered their program at a single location chosen by the client (e.g. the client’s head office). The program runs for ten months and involves the client’s senior management team coming together for a day each month.
A prospective client approached the consulting firm about engaging their services. However, the prospective client was a national firm with offices and managers located throughout Australia. The cost and down time of bringing 30 senior managers to a central location every month for a day, for ten months, was prohibitive. Other than cost and logistics, the prospective client and the consulting firm were an ideal fit.
The solution was to hold the monthly team and individual meetings via video conference, with all managers coming together in the one location twice during the ten month program.
The outcome was that the consulting firm delivered exactly what the client wanted – all that changed was how they delivered their service. As a result, the consulting firm has totally re-defined who their ideal clients could be (and opened up a much broader range of prospective clients they can now offer their services to).
CASE STUDY TWO
Know your ideal clients and where to find them – even better, if they find you!
A wonderful example of someone who truly understands and knows their ideal clients comes from Helsinki in Finland.
The magnificent Uspenski Cathedral was built from 1862-1868. It is set on a hillside overlooking the city. The Cathedral is said to be the largest Orthodox Church in Western Europe and attracts over 500,000 visitors a year. In front of the Cathedral, there’s a large area for tourist buses and cars to park while people drop in to have a look around.
Every day a homeless man sits at the bottom of the steps leading from the parking area up to the Cathedral. He looks bedraggled and down trodden – sitting there sad and down faced, shaking an old and dirty coffee cup with some loose coins in it, every time someone walks by.
This man knows exactly who his ideal clients are – every day, the system delivers him more than 1,300 ideal clients – busloads of tourists on holiday, visiting a grand place of worship, feeling grateful for their situation and no doubt empathy for the homeless man.
Who could walk past him without dropping a Euro or two into his cup? Those Euros all add up.
If Nirvana is ‘to have your ideal clients seek you out’, then this homeless man has created the perfect business model. Businesses can learn from him!
Some final thoughts on business development
- identify ideal clients (the types of organisations and people the firm wants to do business with);
- invest time with ideal clients;
- know what ideal clients need and want;
- be the best there is at delivering those needs and wants;
- constantly surround the firm with ideal clients;
- “appoint” everyone the firm knows as their business development manager (so if they hear of an opportunity, they can refer ideal clients to the firm);
- keep it simple; and
- love and enjoy what you do!
About the Author
Paul Kennedy is the Principal of PGV Consulting (a Brisbane based business planning and business development firm with a focus on the Australian and New Zealand markets).