You love everybody.
And when you opened the doors to your business, you were bursting with excitement about all the ways that you knew you could make your clients’ lives better.
…Their world better.
So you threw up a website, printed some business cards, flipped the sign on the door to “Open”, and waited for the crowds you knew would come.
And a few have. Maybe even more than a few. And some of them are perfect for what you offer in every possible way.
You love them. They love you.
You can help them. They can pay you. :)
But some of them, if you’re honest with yourself, really are not quite the right fit.
You like them just fine, but what they need isn’t really what you do, so you have to contort yourself in some way to meet that need. Or their energy feels off in some way that you can’t quite explain, so the relationship doesn’t quite flow.
And you know it.
Knowing your ideal client, knowing who you really want to serve (and how) is critical to being effective – and profitable – in your business.
And knowing who you don’t want to serve – or can’t – is just as important.
Because you have something to sell, a product or service that others need, value and are willing to pay for.
But if you’re selling to everyone,
you’re selling to no one.
I have been running a business for over 25 years, and I am at least on my 4th or 5th incarnation of what I consider to be my own ideal client.
What I wanted to do and the people I wanted to work with 20 years ago is very different from who I feel called to serve today.
And it will be the same for you.
So taking the time to get really clear about your ideal client, their needs and how you can help, is a valuable process. (It will also help you know who to refer out.)
Here are seven steps I use when coaching my students on how to determine who’s ideal for them.
Step 1: Make Your Love List.
List five to seven of your absolutely favorite clients, those who light you up because you love them so much (and know you can help them!)
If you’re just getting started, pull your list from co-workers, family or friends. If you work with groups or organizations, think of a contact there you love.
Now, study that list. What do they have in common? What is it about them that makes them such a pleasure to work with?
Step 2: Define and Describe.
Describe each of them with as much detail as you can.
Start with the easy stuff, like their demographics (age, gender, education level, occupation, income, etc.).
Then, add the kind of labels they’d use to describe themselves. (Single mom, therapist, artist, CEO, introvert, attorney, adventurer.)
When themes begin to emerge, that’s the beginning of an outline for your unique, ideal, client.
But you’re not done yet.
Step 3: Demons and Dreads
For each person on your list, think about the demons that chase them, the things that they dread, the worries that wake them up at night.
See if you can come up with two or three of their greatest doubts, fears or challenges. Then, dig a little deeper. What’s underneath each of those dreads, really?
For example, almost every practitioner I know worries about earning enough income to pay her bills. If you poke around a little, though, there are always other things underneath that.
Many of my clients worry about whether they’re worth what they charge, and whether they really have what it takes to make their business work.
(They are, of course. And they do. But that’s another conversation.)
Step 4: Dreams and Desires
Now, what are their greatest dreams and desires? What would they give anything to be, do or have, if they really thought it was possible?
Imagine that you could offer them a magic wand, one that could move them from problem to possibility.
Where would they (really, really) want to go?
Step 5: Hang Ups and Hold Outs
You know these people better than they know themselves. And you know what they really want.
You can see how they get in their own way, how their internal roadblocks hold them back.
What are their objections to getting the help they need? What keeps them from getting the results that they want so badly?
Once you understand that, you can help them get past it.
Step 6: “It’s Just Not Done That Way.”
I work with a lot of therapists who can’t imagine having a successful private practice without taking insurance. That’s a limiting belief based on an industry-wide (mis)perception.
Your peeps, too, may have self imposed limits based on the industry that they’re in, or their belief in the way things are “supposed” to be done.
What are those limits, and how can you address them?
Step 7: Design and Deliver
This time, the focus is on you, not them.
Knowing your peeps as well as you do, what would their cynical selves expect to get from a service like yours?
And how will you surprise and delight them instead?
Make a list of tangible and intangible results that you know they will get when working with you. Then, design your business to deliver those results.
Knowing the client who is perfect for you,
means delivering a service that is perfect for them.
And isn’t THAT a great way to start a relationship! :)