Describing your ideal client can be really hard. But if you don’t know what you are looking for, it’s very hard to find it. Lots of marketing courses will take you through creating your customer avatar – a written description of your target client. They will encourage you to go into quite a bit of detail and in areas you might not immediately think of as relevant. For example, are they married, do they have kids, what car do they drive etc. The objective is to build a clear image of the target client so that when you write your marketing material, whether it’s a sales letter or an e-mail, you make it more personal. You appeal directly to them, identifying their problems or pain points before offering your solutions.
It’s a great approach and can really work well if you can get into that mindset. But many business people struggle with the avatar approach. It feels false and somewhat trite. So what else can you do?
Your best existing clients
If you already have clients, which ones do you like working with most. What is it about working with them that you enjoy. Are these traits you could look for and identify in other potential clients. For example, if you are selling a business coaching programme, your best and most engaged existing clients will be those that really want to improve their own business skills by learning and taking action. Those that constantly come up with excuses for not doing stuff will be ones to steer clear of.
Clients you don’t enjoy working with
It’s sometimes easier to identify who you don’t want as a client than those you do want to work with. If you have been in business any length of time you will have come across difficult or awkward clients. The ones that want to pay the least and ask more fussy and irritating little questions until you wonder if they are really worth doing business with. Likewise, some potential clients might be looking for things you don’t offer.
For example, in my project management training business I don’t want to attract prospective clients that are looking for a Prince 2 qualification. I don’t offer the qualification because the training for it is geared towards passing an exam, and not focused entirely on becoming a better project manager. So I don’t want to work with people that see that as their best route to being a project manager. If they want the Prince 2 badge to meet the requirements of a recruiter but want to learn the real business of project management with me, then they are in my ideal client domain and I’ll help them understand Prince 2 and recommend courses from someone else to get them through the exams.
So now that you have a good idea of who you want to work with (or not, as the case may be), how do you find them? This is where LinkedIn comes into its own for the business to business salesman or entrepreneur. There are two distinct strategies – finding people by where they hang out and finding people by how they describe themselves.
Where they hang out
Most industries, professions or interest groups will have a number of LinkedIn Groups active in their field. You need to find and join those groups. Look at the LinkedIn profiles of your existing clients and see what groups they belong to and join them. If they require invitations, ask your existing client if they would be prepared to help get you an invitation. Once in, what and listen first before then starting to comment and contribute. Always obey the group rules and never, ever, sell directly in to the group. If you give value to the group and demonstrate your worth, they will seek you out to buy from you.
Make sure you hand out in groups that your target clients use and not those of your own industry. For example, if you are selling accounting services don’t expect to find clients in accounting related groups. Join those to keep up to date with your profession. Instead join groups relevant to the client sectors you are targeting. So if you are looking to service IT Contractors, join those sorts of groups and post useful information about IR35, claiming business expenses etc. If they are useful, you’ll soon get enquiries about your services from the group members.
How clients describe themselves
LinkedIn has a very powerful search capability. Even for users of the basic free profile you can search for people using keywords and narrow down the search by location. The results can be astonishing. If you have one of LinkedIn’s premium accounts you get up to eight additional filters which you can use to narrow down your search criteria to pinpoint your ideal targets. If you are looking for an obscure role but have target companies where you know that sort of role exists, search for the company and scroll through the employees that are on LinkedIn. Even if you don’t find the right person, you might identify a connection who could find that person for you.
So with LinkedIn you can identify the right person. If they are in an active group you can use your contributions to provide a reason to connect directly. If they are not in a suitable active group my earlier posts describe how to get connected in the right way.
That’s client acquisition sorted then!