How to Discover & Attract More of Your Ideal Client
By John Jantsch, creator, Duct Tape Marketing
Many small business marketers try to be all things
to all people and find it hard to really focus or
get good at serving narrowly defined market
Actually, I don’t think they really try to be all
things, it just sort of happens from a lack of focus
and a prospect on the phone asking for some help in
an area that’s not really your thing.
While it may seem like growth to take on a new
customer, if that customer isn’t a good fit, it can
actually stunt real growth, and may even create
detractors that expect something other than what you
were able to provide.
I think most businesses are suited to serve a
narrowly defined market segment at best—kind of like
a sweet spot. It’s doesn’t mean the sweet spot won’t
grow, evolve, and change altogether over time, but
at any given time, there exists a set ideal client
or engagement for most businesses.
The trick is to discover what that ideal client
looks like in the most specific way possible, and
then go about building your entire marketing
strategy around attracting more of them.
Before I go much farther, let me say a word or two
about the term ‘ideal.’ For some, this might simply
be a subset of folks that can afford what you offer,
but for others, this might make up one of the six or
eight clients you intend to work with long-term to
help them gain a result. In the latter, you’d
probably better be working with people that are a
perfect fit, or life may get miserable.
A perfect fit may mean that they have the kind of
need you really can help with, but it might also
mean that they value your unique approach, and treat
you and your staff with the respect the relationship
deserves. A multiple red flag client, taken because
they said they would pay you, will suck the life out
of a small business faster than most any other
A less than ideal client can also come in the form
of a person that you would love to work with, but
they just don’t really have the need that matches
what your business does best.
Below is my step-by-step approach for helping
organizations discover their ideal client, with an
eye of creating a communication plan with them in
If you can, create a spreadsheet of your clients and
focus on the amount and type of business you do with
each. You might even rank them in order from most to
least business over the last three years.
Now, carefully comb through the list with an eye on
profit. Which are your most profitable clients? Are
there entire types of work or types of clients that
traditionally produce unprofitable sales? I know it
sounds crazy, but most business take on work that,
in the light of day, ends up being a waste of time
The key is to understand the most profitable work.
Is it a certain product or service, type of
engagement, or even a challenge that you enjoy
solving the most? (This is often a good time to
resolve to get rid of work that you know is no
Now, Add Referrals
Now, let’s divide that list again. From the
profitable work, identify clients that are known
referral sources. Here’s what I’ve found to be true:
Only happy clients refer, and happy clients are most
often found because you or your approach is a good
match for what they needed.
This narrow group of profitable clients, the ones
that also refer, holds the key to discovering your
ideal client profile.
Demographics are Outbound
From your group above, it’s time to start looking at
the physical characteristics that are known about
your ideal client group. You’re looking for any
common characteristics that are shared.
Marketers call this ‘demographics,’ and often stop
here and go buy a demographic selected list to do
some outbound marketing. While I think demographics,
such as age, income, and even ZIP Code™ can be
important, they are only a part of the story, and
are useful in an outbound marketing kind of way.
Behavior is Inbound
The secret to attracting, as opposed to hunting your
ideal client, is to understand what makes them tick,
what triggers them to go looking for someone like
you, and what behavior they typically exhibit that
might act as another marker for you to focus on.
This is the essence of attraction, and how marketers
create inbound marketing paths to their business.
For example, if you know your narrow market enjoys
tech-related conferences, you might show up at a few
of these or even work to get on the stage. If they
are active in civic or non-profit causes, you might
look to create partnerships with these types of
The Biographical Sketch
Finally, once you are able to pull together profit,
propensity to refer, demographics and behavioral
markers, you have the making of what I refer to as
‘the ideal client biographical sketch.’
The idea here is that you create a picture of your
ideal client through the use of words and images
that is so rich, just about anyone could conjure up
a vision of such a client. The key question to
answer for yourself, and then ultimately for your
staff, partners, and referral sources is this—How
would I spot your ideal client?
You may have different profiles, and that’s OK too,
just give them different attributes and name
them—either Bob and Susie, or Needy and Squeezy.
If you draw a picture to accompany the ‘how would I
spot?’ question, and then hold that picture as the
filter for every marketing decision—Would this
appeal to Bob?’— you’re on your way to building a
business that every ideal client will recognize is
built just for them—and, that’s something people
will pay a premium for.
---Source: John Jantsch is a
marketing consultant and author of Duct Tape
Marketing and The Referral Engine. Visit his website