In my last post on the topic of ideal clients, I identified the seven qualities that make ideal clients ideal.
In this post, I want to highlight the benefits that come from focusing on ideal clients. When service firms have an abundance of ideal clients, amazing things happen. Let’s explore this together.
Ideal client characteristics
You’ll recall from may last post that ideal clients have seven key characteristics:
• Impact: where you have a huge impact on them.
• Budgets: where they have reserved budget for your services.
• Profits: which you earn by serving them.
• Insights: where you know more about what they need than they know.
• Expertise: where you deliver the expertise that they need.
• Culture: where there is a good fit between how you do business and how clients like to be served.
• Chemistry: where you get along well with clients.
A deep-dive ideal client profile has a built-in list of topics that can and should inform content marketing.
The seven key outcomes
Does this sound like a love fest to you? I have to tell you, it pretty much is. When you love working with your clients and they love how you serve them, life is good. When professional service firms attract and serve ideal clients, they realize seven very desirable outcomes.
- Revenue: they have all of the revenue they need to reward employees and stakeholders.
- Profitability: their deals are consistently profitable at levels that exceed industry averages and fuel their economic engine.
- Growth: they consistently grow at a rate that meets the expectations of stakeholders.
- Loyalty: both staff and clients feel a strong sense of affinity for the firm and want to see it do well over time.
- Satisfaction: staff enjoy their work as clients realize results that meet or exceed expectations.
- Commitment: staff devote themselves to supporting clients and giving their best efforts.
- Vision: executives and stakeholders take a long-term view and invest in initiatives that enable the firm to achieve its full potential.
Why don’t more service firms realize these outcomes?
Having worked with dozens of leaders of professional service firms over the last 20 years, I can say with a high degree of confidence that these are the outcomes that those leaders wanted to realize.
So why do only a small percentage of professional service firms break the feast or famine cycle, enjoy solid profits, grow consistently and realize a high quality of life? Why is it that so many leaders of professional service firms come home at the end of the day frazzled, worn-out and frustrated?
I see two primary root causes and they are both fixable by focusing on ideal clients: having two few deals and clients and running franken-business. Here is what I mean.
If your firm is struggling because you have too few deals and clients, more marketing may not be the answer. If you’re putting the right pieces in place (email, social, content, marketing automation) and you’re still struggling, it could very well be that you’re marketing is not connecting with the right prospective clients.
Franken-business is what happens when we stray from serving primarily ideal clients or stray from offering services that are core to our capabilities. Sometimes clients ask for services that we could provide, but probably shouldn’t provide. Sometimes people or companies who do not fit our ideal client profile want to work with us, and we take them on when we know we shouldn’t. We try to sew things together (thus the Frankenstein reference) when we know they really don’t fit.
How does focusing on ideal clients fix these two issues? Before I answer that question, let me draw an important distinction.
This is not about buyer personas
Some companies develop buyer personas. But I often find that they do not go deep enough. An ideal client profile (ICP), the way I think of them, is not the same as a buyer persona. An ICP goes much deeper because it gets to the heart of what matters to ideal clients. An ICP, the way we develop them, focuses on three major areas:
- Demographic, psychographic and geographic factors
- Decision-makers & influencers by title and responsibility
- A deep-dive discussion of decision-makers’ top goals, opportunities and challenges
When I begin talking to leaders of service firms, I’ll ask them if they’ve developed an ICP. Most of them will say yes. Then I’ll ask them to list the top 3-5 goals of their ideal clients for a specific service and the room grows suddenly silent. This tells me that they may have a buyer persona, but it’s not nearly insightful enough.
The other indicator of an ICP issue is content. An ICP’s major benefit to marketing is that it informs the topics around which you produce content. A deep-dive ICP has a built-in list of topics that can and should inform content marketing.
How an ICP fixes low-deal-volume and franken-business
So how can an ideal client profile address these two key issues: feast-or-famine and franken-business? I see two primary benefits.
First, when you have a strong ICP, you are in the best position to produce content that prospective ideal clients cannot resist. If you deliver insights in your content, prospects will recognize you as the expert. This will draw them to you. You may have to promote the content and you may have to be diligent in your social media efforts, but the prospects will come. Why? Because they cannot resist the opportunity to hear from an expert, a thought leader, who is speaking to topics that deeply matter to them.
Second, when a new opportunity lands on your doorstep, the ICP will help you gauge whether or not it’s right for you. When you have a detailed ideal client profile, it’s pretty easy to compare it to a new prospective client and ask yourself if there is a fit. If there is not a fit, it may not be the best thing to take on that new deal or new client.
An ideal client profile delivers tremendous benefits to service companies. But I’ll bet you might be wondering about how to build one. That is, in fact, the topic of my next post on this subject.