Are You Speaking to Your Ideal Client? And are you saying the right things…?
We’ve all heard by now that we should look for our ideal clients. After all, who wouldn’t want all their clients to be ideal? You know, show up on time, not be difficult, and pay in full at the end of each session without your having to ask. Right?
Well, those things are really nice to have, but what really makes your ideal client ideal is that she’s the one you love working with, the one you can most easily create a rapport with so you can really help her. She’s someone who’s willing to be open with you about her pain, lets you help, does the hard work, and sticks with it until she gets the result she came in for. She’s also the one whose problem is one you know you can help with.
What Happens When You Only Work with Your Ideal Clients?
Imagine that it’s morning and you’re sipping a delicious cappuccino (or tea, if you don’t share my coffee vice). You open your calendar to see what your day will be like. Oh look, your first appointment is with Jane. That’s so great. You love working with her because there’s never any BS. You don’t have to struggle to get her to share what’s going on. It doesn’t hurt that she’s such a nice person, you know, someone you’d have been happy to have as a friend (if she wasn’t a client, that is). After Jane, it’s Sarah. Another great client. Then lunch, followed by appointments with Tim and then Sam. Two more clients you love working with. After that, you have to catch up on some notes (sigh…) but not too many, and then you’re done for the day!
What would it feel like to know that’s what your day will be like? What would it feel like if that was your day every day at your practice? How would you like knowing you’ll only be working with people who let you make the biggest difference with the least struggle? That’s what happens when you focus on your ideal clients. As a bonus, they’re also the ones most likely to want to be your clients.
The alternative? Think back to sessions that totally drained you, where it looked like the clock was moving backward, mocking you, and you couldn’t wait for the session to be over; where you felt guilty, but couldn’t stop wishing that particular client would decide to drop out of therapy.
That’s what it’s like to work with clients who are far from your ideal. Now imagine having to do that multiple times each and every day.
Remember also that for each non-ideal client you work with, that’s one more slot that’s not available for you to work with an ideal client who calls.
The Benefits of Working only with Your Ideal Clients (and Providing only Your Ideal Services)
Working only with your ideal clients and only providing your ideal services serves you, clearly, but it also serves your clients best.
- If they’re truly your ideal clients, then you’re their ideal provider
- It maximizes the difference you can make for them because of your deeper relevant experience
- They’re more invested in working with you, so they’re more likely to do the hard work needed
- As a specialist (even if it’s not an official specialty), your fees can be higher, so you can take on fewer clients and be at your best for each one
- Providing your ideal services to your ideal clients isn’t draining, so you don’t burn out
As you can see, these benefits for your clients also mean that you get more out of your work. You do work you enjoy, with people you like working with, have the satisfaction that comes from making the difference you were meant to make, get paid more so money is less of a concern, and you’re energized by your work rather than being drained. What’s not to like?
How to Get (and Keep) Your Ideal Clients
Since you’re still reading, I assume you’re convinced you should focus on your ideal clients. But how do you get them to come in and stay long enough so you can help them?
All it takes is a few simple steps.
- Define who they are – age, gender, location, socioeconomic status, pain points, etc., whatever makes them people you want to help
- Define what problem(s) they have that you can and want to help with
- Figure out where they hang out (online or in the real world) and where they share about their pain/struggle/problem (e.g., FB groups, support groups, etc.) and meet them there
- Speak to them in a way that reflects to them their words and emotions, so they know you get them; then offer as much appropriate knowledge and help as you can in those forums
- When they ask, let them know what they can expect from you, and once they start coming in, deliver reliably on that
You don’t have to “sell.” The key here is having clarity around who you help, what you help them with, and what results are typical (even if you can’t guarantee those results in their specific situation).
You just need to correctly define who your ideal clients are, show up where they share their struggles, and engage helpfully. Then, you need to make it clear that you work with people with those challenges. This could be within a helpful comment, in your profile, and/or by sharing a link to your website where they’d see it along with valuable relevant content.
You don’t have to go on and on about what you do or try to convince them to become your clients. Just be generous with your advice, and provide just enough information about yourself and what you do to pique their interest, arouse their curiosity, so when they’re ready, they will reach out to you. Once you’re talking one-on-one as a result of them initiation a conversation, that’s when you can give them all the info they need to make a decision.
Concerns You May Have About Focusing on Your Ideal Client and Ideal Service
What if I niche too far and don’t have enough clients?
Boy do I know this one first hand! When I started my consulting practice, if you had a pulse and a dollar, I’d probably have taken you on as a client. “You need what done?” “Sure, I can do that!”
And for the most part, it was ok. I did the work they hired me to do, and I was paid as we agreed. But then, with some clients it was a real struggle. Sometimes I really didn’t want to work with them anymore, but didn’t want to get a bad rep that I wasn’t reliable, so I pushed through and finished the job anyway, even though I really didn’t enjoy it. Not fun. To paraphrase, life is too short to work with the wrong people on the wrong things.
Then I figured out that if I was choosier about what I would and wouldn’t do, who I would work with, and what I’d need to be paid, life became a lot easier. What’s more, after building up my practice, I got to the point where I had so many ideal clients who had projects I really wanted to work on, that I had to work more hours than I wanted to (even with these ideal people), or turn them away. That’s a nice problem to have.
How many clients can you work with at any given time? Five? Ten? Fifteen? Thirty? Do you really think there aren’t thirty people around at any given time who fit your personal definition of ideal client? Unless you live on a desert island, there’s probably three hundred, or three thousand who are close enough to come in to your office.
Don’t people other than my ideal clients deserve help?
Of course people deserve help who aren’t your ideal client. Absolutely, and you should help them find the help they need. It’s called referring out. Rarely, you can take on a client who wouldn’t normally fit your definition of ideal client, but only if there’s a compelling reason for that exception.
What about people who need help with things other than my ideal services?
If you went to your local cobbler and asked for help with a stomach ache, would he start treating you? Of course not. He’d send you to a doctor. If you have chronic asthma and go to a podiatrist for help with your inhaler prescription, do you think he’d take you on as a patient? Again, of course not. He’d send you to a pulmonologist. In fact, if you need help with asthma, many pulmonologists would refer you to a colleague who specializes in that specific condition.
There’s a reason why people specialize. It’s so they can provide the best possible service. It’s so their knowledge and experience will be very deep about the things they want to work on, so they can offer solutions they wouldn’t be able to if they spread their training and experience too widely.
- Get clear on who you want to work with, what services you provide them, and what outcome they can typically expect
- Reflect your ideal clients' words when describing the problems you work on and the results you help achieve
- Say enough about how you provide your ideal clients the results they want to generate interest, pique curiosity, so they'll reach out to ask questions, at which point you're having a personal interaction that they initiated
If knowing how to find your ideal clients and how to talk with them is a struggle, send me an email and we’ll set up a free, no-strings-attached call. My promise is that by the end of the call you will have ideas on finding your ideal client, and will know what’s possible from getting coaching. What’s more, even if coaching isn’t right for you, you’ll have some new insight or idea to pursue on your own.