There's a strange duality that happens with a lot of thriving service-based businesses. On the one hand, you're not hustling anymore, because you finally have a solid flow of clients and income. But on the other hand, you still don't feel like you're on solid ground just yet, because the work you're doing with clients doesn't really reflect the way you want to show up.
So you've settled into this way of running your business that isn't fully aligned with what you value most; and because you're "comfortable", you're not interested in doing anything that might rock the boat. However, there's an undeniable disillusionment rumbling beneath the surface that you're too self-aware to let fester; and you know something needs to change.
The logical question, then, is: How can you have the clients you really want, and show up the way you really want, without compromising your current stability?
Though the obvious answer would be to go out and find more of the right kinds of clients, that assumes you've already figured out:
So rather than reaching outward first, I'm going to teach you the secret method I use with my clients (and have used for my own business) to turn the business you have into the one you want -- starting with the clients you're already serving.
Why this works
You've heard the saying before: "Keeping an existing client is cheaper than finding a new one." It's true and there's plenty of research to back it up. According to a handful of studies, it's 5-25% more expensive to get a new client in the door than it is to keep the people who already know, like and (hopefully) trust you happy.
So the logical place to start is with your existing clients, who might not be "ideal" but may have potential.
More important than the cheaper-to-keep-her factor, is the precious time and energy you get to save because you don't have to scramble to come up with and implement a new marketing strategy. Instead, you can cover your immediate money goals and create the head space you need to really focus-forward on your business' future (rather than just being caught up in the day-to-day).
It starts with getting clear on what "ideal" means to you
Much of what you've learned about how to understand your ideal client is, no doubt, centered around topical attributes, like gender, age range, geographical location, annual income ... blah, blah blah. While this information will come in handy when it comes to positioning your services, it doesn't really get to the core of what makes them ideal clients for you.
So for the purpose of this conversation, "ideal" is defined as what you value most about the kinds of clients you work with. Got it?
This goes beyond just the people who pay you well, respect your time and honor your agreements (although these qualities never hurt!). Your ideal client also makes you glad to show up and do the work. Their values somehow align with your own. And they are delighted to invest in the expertise you bring to the table.
With this in mind, take a look at the clients in your roster, past or present, and identify the one(s) who fit this unique mold. Consider what it is that lights you up about them, the work you do for them, and the way you work with them. And see if you can pinpoint commonalities among the kinds of clients they are.
As an example, one client of mine, a web designer, uncovered that her favorite clients are CEOs and owners of small companies that focus on mentorship, training and skills development for individuals. Each of the companies, though quite different in scope, share a similar mission to empower others to thrive in specific areas in life. This was a powerful discovery for my client, because it perfectly aligns with her core values and the way she likes to serve her clients.
She also realized that her preference for working with CEOs and owners, as opposed to, say, marketing managers, is because she gets to hear directly from the source about what their priorities, pain points, desires and challenges are; and she's able to take more of a partnership approach to designing solutions for them (and now you see why I love working with her!).
From there, it's just a matter of upgrading the not-so-ideal clients
Once you've captured what your ideal is, you can use that as the standard for how you work with people and who you work with. You can then look at your other existing client relationships to see who stands out as having potential.
1. Pinpoint the disconnect with the clients who are not so ideal
When clients are not quite ideal, but have potential, it typically means that the relationship has somehow fizzled out:
But these are people who still value you. In fact, if you look closely enough you might just realize that the reason your work together has fizzled out is because you didn't understand the life-cycle of the service you offer. You didn't recognize when it was time to move into the next phase of your working relationship. So rather than establishing a new set of goals, outcomes and expectations, effectively renewing your agreement, you've simply been coasting.
This happens far more often than not, especially when things are comfortable and familiar. But once you can clearly identify that the relationship has lost its flavor, you have to do something about it. Otherwise, you'll find yourself feeling resentful and waiting for the axe to fall.
2. Evaluate how you can level-up the clients who have potential
Now that you've pinpointed where the disconnect is happening with the not-so-ideal clients who have potential, you can make an honest assessment about where you can go from here. Look first at what their priorities are right now and where they need your expertise most.
If you aren't sure, ask them. Then consider how you can best support them in a way that also promotes your best work. In my experience, that usually means evolving your role from commodity service-provider to problem-solver. So make sure you're up for the task ;)
It's worth mentioning here that some of your clients are just no longer a good fit. So rather than forcing things to work, or abandoning them completely, here's my advice on how to deal with those folks.
3. Make them an offer they can't refuse
By this point, I'm sure that brilliant mind of yours is already churning out ideas for ways you can bring your not-so-ideal clients up to the level you'd like to work with them on (if not, don't worry, I've got you covered). So, now your objective is to make them an offer that will seamlessly transition them into the next level.
Ideally, that means presenting an "introduction" offer -- giving them a taste of the awesomeness that's possible with you and making it a perfect segue into a longer-term, higher-value commitment.
Be sure to cover all of the bases, addressing:
Keep in mind that you don't have to do much to "sell" this solution to them. As I mentioned before, these are the people who already know, like and trust you. And if they're your people, they'll be delighted that you're looking out for them and will be more than willing to explore this new opportunity with you.
This is your moment! Send them an email to get the conversation started and be sure to make the opportunity available for them to discuss it further (in real time) with you.
Over to you
How different would your business be if all of your clients were your favorites? What would that look and feel like for you? Tell me all about it in the comments.
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