We know the phrase, “the customer is always right” all too well. But what if that’s not always the case? What if the client isn’t right for your business? It’s naïve to think that every customer that comes along is a perfect fit for you and your company. (Although it would be amazing if that were the case!) It’s tempting to try to make it work with every client, but doing so could hurt your business in the long run.
So, how do you identify your ideal client?
Before you identify your ideal client, you need to get to know your company first. Sit down with all the top dogs and discuss these questions:
- What does your company value?
- What is your business’ style?
- What is your company’s tone of voice?
- What kind of work do you want to be associated with?
Make strategy, not war
Once you know what your business is all about, invite your client to a strategy session. Sit down together and review everything your client is looking for. Listen closely and ask a lot of questions. The client may be vague about some things, so it’s important to understand what you are getting yourself into. If a red flag comes up, whether it be a difference in opinion on a topic or a lack of understanding on how much time something will take, bring it up and talk it out. It is better to put everything on the table from the get-go so that there are no surprises down the road.
If you’re completing a specific project or deliverable for them, figure out every aspect that will need to go into the project and make sure it’s something your firm can handle. It’s important to understand the vision and style the client imagines so you both will be happy with the result.
If you’re just starting out, it’s hard to not let money be a factor in deciding who you do or don’t work with. Even if your company has been around for a while, this still may be a factor. Try your hardest to not money make your decision for you. If your goals and values do not match up, then don’t take on the project. You want to be free to pursue and take on clients that are closer to your ideal.
Even if everything check outs on paper and it seems your partnership will work, something still might pop up that will force you to reassess. It’s okay to periodically step back and look at the bigger picture. In fact, you should be scheduling regular review sessions to ensure that everyone is on the same page. It is easy to get lost in the weeds and lose sight of the goal.
The bottom line
Unfortunately, your clients will not have ‘wrong’ or ‘right’ stamped on their forehead. There are certain signs you can pick up on to help realize when it might not work:
- They aren’t respectful towards you and your coworkers.
Some clients are easy to dismiss: those that are blatantly rude or overly-critical. This also includes calling you or demanding your attention at inappropriate times, ignoring your recommendations in favor of less effective measures, or even not being up front about budget and project costs.
- You’re not enjoying the work.
This is a major red flag that should set off alarm bells. Do you procrastinate on this project, but are an eager beaver on others? Take some time to figure out what is stressing you about this client. Is it a factor that is within your control, or theirs?
- They eat away at your finite resources.
We only have so many hours in a day, so much money in the budget, and so much patience and courtesy. If your client is taking up more than their share of these resources, it’s time for a frank discussion.
Letting these behaviors go on can result in a lack of productivity, bad reviews of your work, and a loss of employee trust. Is this really how you want to run your business?
Always trust your gut. If you have a bad feeling about a client, it’s okay to politely tell them it won’t work out. There are more clients out there waiting for you to make magic for them.