As I was doing my morning GoogleReader scan, I came across a sentence relating the famous Chilean solidarity chant: “The People United Will Never Be Defeated”. But in my half-awake state, I read “The People United Will Never Be Delighted”. It took me a couple of minutes to realize what I (mis)read, by that time I had clicked too far forward and could not trace back to the original page.
The misread phrase has been rattling around in my head for a few hours, until it connected to an incident I experienced.
If you meet me during a networking event, one question I will certainly ask you is “Is there a specific client or profile of ideal client you are looking for at the moment?” Most of the time the answer I get is “Well, anyone!”.
Well, I’ve just lost interest. What you’ve communicated to me is that you don’t know who you want as a client, therefore I (and anyone I might refer to you) will probably be disappointed with your service…because you don’t really care for ME.
The biggest problem I see with solos is that we are so desperate hungry to get clients that we try to be all things to all people. However, there is only one of me and there are many of you. If I want to satisfy every one of you, I will definitely spread myself too thin, and end up delighting no one, especially myself. And if I’m not happy providing my services to you, then what’s the point for me to be in business?
I think trying to be all things to everyone is a leading cause of solo burnout.
This is why it is so important for solos to hyperspecialize: to focus all one’s energies on a specific laser-focused subgroup of people who recognize the value we offer and who are ready to commit.
Here are four questions I ask my clients to help them identify their ideal client:
– What are the demographics of your ideal client? I want my clients be 30 to 55 years of age, which means they have had a couple of jobs, at least one career under their belt (and sometimes more), they have completed their education, have some life experience and maturity. Although several people have told me that what I teach would be very good for university graduates (and I have had good experiences doing workshops with the Jaycees, college and university groups), I don’t have much passion for that demographic. Define a demographic that clicks with you.
– What are your ideal client’s passions, values and dreams? I go back to my definition of passion-driven business: “Business is an exchange of resources between you and I, so that you can satisfactorily live your values, passions and desires while allowing me to live my values, passions and desires.” Therefore, by understanding what is important to me, and what is important to you, I can focus on offering products and services that allow both you and me to create a win-win experience.
– Where do your ideal clients congregate? This is a question I discovered in Michael Port’s “Book Yourself Solid” program. Look at where your ideal clients physically and virtually gather: the media they consume (magazines, music, books, TV, web sites, etc), where they physically meet (is your ideal client a Starbucks person or a nightclubber?), what networks they belong to, etc. The idea here is to get a sense of what are the links that bind the “tribe” of ideal clients together, where is the “village well”. By identifying where your ideal clients cluster, you can go to where they like to hang out and meet them there, instead of trying to persuade them to come to you before they get a chance to know you.
– What is your ideal client’s “decision trigger”? This is an idea I learned from Craig Elias and ShiftSelling: find the issue, question or situation that’s monopolizing the attention of your prospect, and be the answer to what they are looking for. This approach underlines the basic mistake I see in most business plans – the prospect may need you, but do they WANT you? To answer this question, put yourself in your ideal client’s shoes and ask yourself, what are the situations where they would be looking for you as the answer to their situation?
As you answer each question, you will find that you are getting more and more focused. By the end of the fourth question, you should be in a position even to recognize specific faces.
Marketing professionals use a tool called “personas“, composite descriptions of the ideal client. They give each persona a name, a face, a biography and a backstory, in order to better understand how to connect with them and build their trust. Writing out your ideal client’s “persona” description by examining the above questions is an excellent exercise.
It could be that your ideal client’s persona starts to resemble someone you know well… you! And that is okay, because we work best with clients who share our values, passions, needs and desires.
Is there such a thing as too narrow a focus? Taking into account that my ideal client can live almost anywhere on the planet, thanks to the Web, Social Media, and today’s communication technologies, I believe it is even more important to be hyperfocused. For example, I look at my target community as being self-employed professionals in North America (Canada+US): if we assume 10% of the total workforce is composed of self-employed professionals (conservative estimate), then theoretically my clients come from a pool of 10,000,000 people. Assuming I can support 100 clients a year, this means I only need 0.00001% of this total community each year to live well. And even if I say I need to be in touch with 100 people to attract that one person who is ready to buy, that means that I only need a 0.001% “market share”. Is that hyperfocused enough?
The good news is that people want personal service and attention, and they prefer doing business with people they know, trust and like. This is a key advantage us solos have over big business, why not take advantage of it?
You can’t please all of the people all of the time. Focus on connecting with your laser-focused community of ideal clients, and you will attract people who recognize the value of what you offer and who are ready to commit. You will discover that these people are a delight to serve, and in return they will be delighted with you.
For more information
Image Credit: Cover of a recording by Montreal-born pianist Marc-André Hamelin, of 20th-century composer Frederic Rzewski’s suite “The People United Will Never Be Defeated” (Hyperion, 1999 ). I watched excerpts of the piece on YouTube, it’s an intriguing experience that requires extreme virtuosity to play successfully. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_s0H38-NJe8 )
Amazon link to the record (no affiliate): http://www.amazon.com/Rzewski-People-United-Never-Defeated/dp/B00000IXWM
Craig Elias: http://www.craigelias.com
Michael Port: http://www.michaelport.com
Book Yourself Solid: http://www.bookyourselfsolid.com