Your Ideal Client: Quality vs. Quantity
In my first year running Reconciled, I took on every client that was interested in our services. We worked with remote QuickBooks® Desktop clients and QuickBooks Online (QBO) clients at multiple stages of their process. We were just getting off the ground and needed to see what worked – and what didn’t.
One of the reasons people – me included – go into business on their own, instead of with a big accounting firm, is the freedom to decide what your business is going to look like, including what types of clients you want to work with.
Are you interested in startups or established businesses? Freelancers or teams? How do you want to serve those clients? Remotely, or perhaps in their offices? What type of tools do you need for the workflow processes you’re creating?
I asked myself all those questions. I had created a business plan and had an idea of what types of clients I wanted to serve, but plans and ideas are always abstract until you’ve actually put them into practice.
Here’s what we’ve learned at Reconciled about identifying our ideal clients to help build a scalable business.
Determine Your Ideal Processes
We learned a lot in that first year – mainly that building a scalable service business isn’t just about seeking out a particular type of client. It’s about developing the processes that work best for your business and then finding clients who want those processes. The clients whose needs match your offerings will be your ideal clients.
As we began to streamline our processes for scalability, we realized fairly quickly that we wanted to focus on QBO and stop working with QuickBooks Desktop. So, we notified our existing Desktop customers that we’d love to keep them on as clients, but that they would need to switch to QBO. If they wanted to stay with QuickBooks Desktop, we were happy to refer them to a firm that could help.
Almost every client stayed with us and made the switch to QBO.
It may make sense in the beginning to fit your business into the needs of your clients, but eventually you need to learn to fit your clients into the needs of your business.
Identify Your Ideal Clients and Market to Them
Once we were only working with clients using QBO, we spent some time looking at the types of existing clients whose needs were fitting most closely with our service offerings. We didn’t go into our business trying to develop a niche with female entrepreneurs, but we found that our blend of online processes and a trustworthy personal experience appealed to many women business owners.
So, we began tailoring our marketing efforts to attract and appeal to female-owned startups. Identifying our ideal clients allows us to use our marketing dollars more strategically and get more benefit from those resources.
Of course, you can have more than one ideal client. We also have a specialty in e-commerce businesses and the food and beverage industry, so we’ve created marketing campaigns to appeal to those clients. We’ve also spent time and energy building up our knowledge and skills in those areas so that we can provide exceptional service to clients in those industries.
Let Go of What Doesn’t Fit
If you spent the early part of your business development taking on whatever clients showed up at your door, then you likely have a mix of both ideal clients and less-than-ideal clients.
So, how do you let go of those clients that are impeding your ability to scale?
We’ve found that the best practice is to reach out to them near the end of a contract term and explain our processes, as we did with our early QuickBooks Desktop customers. A non-ideal customer that’s taking up too much of your time because you’re changing your processes to fit their needs could become an ideal customer if they’re willing to make some changes to their internal systems to match the processes you’ve created.
And, if they’re not willing or able to make those changes, referring them to another service provider is a good way to end the relationship on a positive note, while continuing to move toward the scalable business you want.
If you spend all your time recreating your processes and systems to meet the needs of a wide variety of customers and clients, you will never be able to build a scalable business. And, perhaps more importantly, you won’t become an expert at those one or two things that your business can do best.
Having a lot of clients may feel like success, but if they’re not the type of clients that allow your business to scale, then it won’t be a success you can build on into the future.