Client acquisition tends to be a top goal for nearly every professional service firm. In a recovering economy, you might be enticed to take on clients who are not a great fit. My advice? Don’t do it.
Instead, focus on those kinds of clients where you and your company can have the greatest impact. The payoff to you and your clients will be huge. Here is my advice about how to position for and attract new ideal clients.
Use your ideal client profile to build content that pulls prospective new clients into a relationship with you.
Define your ideal client
What does an ideal client look like? What makes an ideal client … well ideal? There are seven major qualities that cause ideal clients to stand out.
- Impact. You deliver services that have a significant impact on their situation, usually their top or bottom line or both.
- Budget. Ideal clients can easily afford your services and usually have already reserved a line item in their annual budget for those services.
- Profits. You earn a substantial profit by delivering these services.
- Insights. You understand what your ideal client needs, often better than they do.
- Expertise. Your ideal clients want and need your specific capabilities and have limited options for acquiring that expertise.
- Culture. There is a good fit between the way you do business and the way your ideal clients prefer to be served.
- Chemistry. Your staff and your ideal clients’ staff work well together with few conflicts.
When you think about the clients you serve today, how do they stack up against these attributes? How could your firm benefit from serving more clients who are a great fit?
Build your ideal client profile (ICP)
Before you can position for and attract new ideal clients, build an ideal client profile or ICP. Here are steps you can take to build an ICP unique to your business.
Step 1. Pick a service that you offer and would like to sell more. This service should be one that you believe in and that you feel could have a much greater impact on clients than you’ve realized today.
Step 2. Ask yourself: Who need this service? Why do they need this service? How will it benefit them? What kind of impact will it have on their business, their life and family? Make a list of these benefits.
Step 3. Now it’s time to go deeper to build the ICP. Focus on three areas:
- Demographic, psychographic and geographic factors.
- Decision-makers and influencers by title and responsibility.
- A deep-dive discussion of decision-makers’ top goals, opportunities and challenges.
The last category is what matters most and is, quite frankly, the most difficult to build. So begin by brainstorming your best guess about the top goals, opportunities and challenges of ideal clients, but be ready to change these in the next steps.
Step 4. Ask yourself who, amongst your existing clients, sounds like the ICP you’ve just built? In my experience, the best way to build an ICP is by identifying existing clients who already fit your ICP parameters; not by vaguely thinking of someone out there who might do business with you. This also allows you to change your list of top goals, opportunities and challenges based on what your current clients say.
Step 5. Schedule some time to talk to existing clients about the results of your brainstorming efforts. I recommend that you record the sessions if they allow it. Have the recording transcribed and run a word analysis to identify common phrases that occur repeatedly. Make a list of these phrases and integrate them into your list of top goals, opportunities and challenges.
Step 6. Now go back to the beginning and ask yourself how the service benefits (Step 2) compare to your updated ICP? Is there a match? If there is, you are ready to move on to the next step. If not, you probably need to work on your service offering.
Use your ICP to build a pull marketing and content marketing strategy
Now it’s time to use your ICP to build a content marketing program that pulls prospective ideal clients toward your company. Here are the steps to accomplish this goal.
Step 1. Pull out your ICP and look closely at Step 3, particularly at the deep-dive discussion of decision-makers’ top goals, opportunities and challenges. Review these with a colleague and make sure you have a good list of what matters to prospective ideal clients. Refine any ideas that need to be updated.
Step 2. Organize these top concerns into three buckets based on how easy they are to address. For instance, a topic that is easy to address lends itself to a 1,000-word blog post. A topic that requires more discussion and analysis may lend itself to a webinar. A complex, multi-faceted topic may lend itself to an e-book or Action Guide. The end of this process should result in a list of topics that are organized by short, medium and long-form content types.
Step 3. Build an editorial calendar to define how you’ll produce and broadcast the content. If you’re not sure what I mean by an editorial calendar, you can learn more about this in a webinar called Nurture Leads to Fill Your Sales Funnel: How Professional Service Firms Can Realize Consistent, Predictable Growth.
Step 4. Build your broadcast plan. All of the greatest ideas and content types in the world won’t do you any good unless prospective ideal clients access them. To engage prospects with your content, you need a solid plan. These days, most services firms use email marketing, social marketing, pay-per-click and, to a limited degree, search engine optimization to get their content in front of the right people.
Step 5. Build tracking mechanisms using marketing automation. The primary benefit of marketing automation is not automation. It’s digital footprint tracking. Once your content starts pulling prospects into your sales funnel, it can be difficult to tell who is really interested and who is simply kicking the tires. Marketing automation fixes all of this by way of lead scoring. To learn more about the value of this important technology, check out the webinar called Five Pillars of Marketing Automation Success.
Execute your plan
Once you’ve taken these steps, you’re ready to execute a pull marketing plan that will attract new ideal clients to your company. They will come because you’ve produced content on topics they cannot resist. They will be ideal to your company because you’ve addressed topics that only people who fit your ideal client profile will care about.
Give these steps a whirl and let me know how they work for you. I look forward to hearing your story.