I was reading an interview recently with Robert Gerrish, who was asked about his approach to attracting clients when he first started his business Flying Solo. His answer made me smile:
“In the early days if you had a heartbeat and a credit card you were my kind of client.
Let's be honest, we've all been there. When starting your own business, it's normal to leap at any potential client that comes along. And that might be acceptable in those early stages - but if it becomes habit, you could be taking your business down a very slippery slope.
Anyone who has run a small to medium business knows that one of the great motivation killers is having a client base you dread. You know the ones: the clients that don't pay on time, consistently change the project scope, or don't properly communicate their needs.
Yet if you're in the habit of taking any client that knocks on your door, this is exactly the kind of scenario you can find yourself dealing with.
Yet it's clients that pay our bills, grow our business and our brand. Rather than saying ‘yes' to anyone with an open wallet, what if we created businesses that actively attracted the type of clients we want to work with?
It is possible to achieve just that. Here's how:
Start from the inside
Many people think client attraction is purely an external process, something that requires an analysis of buyer behaviour, examination of trends and rubbing shoulders at network events. While those things are important, they're only half of the equation.
Equally as important is building a great business. One that inspires people to want to do business with you. But that has to come from within. Attracting great clients starts with answering these four questions about your own business:
- What are your business values?
- What do you offer that makes your business unique?
- What kind of work excites you?
- Are your staff supported and engaged in their jobs? If not, how can you address it?
Set clear criteria
When marketing to their perfect client, many small business owners stumble at the first step - defining exactly who their ideal clients are. This means understanding their job title, industry, seniority and specific pain points. But Rob Gerrish uses a different method, compiling a detailed checklist of his ideal client based on the type of person he wants to work with:
“I keep it in my diary and if I was going to meet someone I'd have a little look at it in the car before I met them. They were things like: did they listen to me when I was talking? Were they open and honest with how they were talking to me? Was there anything they were doing in their business that was sounding remotely shifty? Were they open to talk about past people that they had worked with? Do they turn up on time? Are they respectful of my time? Are they polite? Did I like them?
By establishing standards for the type of clients you want to work with, it helps you clearly assess who knocks on your door and gives you the power to confidently say ‘no' if they don't meet your criteria.
Set up the processes for success
When it comes to working with and attracting clients, I'm often reminded of this famous quote from Richard Branson: “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.
One of the greatest resources in attracting and retaining great clients also happens to be our most under-utilised: our employees. Yet with increasing workloads and resource pressure, staff are finding it harder to properly manage their time and working relationships. A 2014 study conducted by Towers Watson revealed that Australian workers are more disengaged from work than their overseas counterparts.
It's a concerning statistic when you consider that its your employees who have the most contact with your clients, deliver the operational work for them and are the embodiment of your brand.
One of the great joys I experience in my job is helping people work smarter. I see first-hand the difference it makes to people's work when we introduce devices that help them do their jobs more efficiently. It allows them to concentrate on more the more important tasks of working with clients and driving businesses forward.
One solution I see making a difference is the DocuMate 4799. It's a powerful scanning solution capable of digitising thousands of pages per day, automatically saving documents in pre-assigned file formats and automatically storing them to pre-assigned network locations, all with one touch of a button.
While this is a great outcome for document management, the true benefit lies in its ability to make your employees' jobs easier, so they can concentrate on the more important task of delivering a great client experience.
By investing in the tools and processes that help your employees, it can deliver real benefits to your everyday operations and build a business your clients love.