Women entrepreneurs constantly ask me this question: how do I find ideal clients? Then these purpose-driven women business owners explain their frustration this way:
- I just need to know where my ideal clients are.
- I wish I knew where my ideal clients hang out.
- It’s freaking hard to figure out where my ideal people spend time.
- What’s the secret to discovering where my folks are?
Do you ask yourself these questions?
I sure did when starting my business.
My first mistake (of many) when starting my business in 2002, was not being specific when claiming my ideal client. (More on how you can avoid this pitfall in a moment.)
One thing I’ve learned after nearly 17 years of being my own boss, attracting your ideal clients is one (exciting?) set of experiments.
- First, you envision exactly the kinds of clients you want to fill your business with.
- Next, test your assumptions (vision).
- Speak directly to these specific clients (your people, your ideal clients) in marketing, communications, and networking conversations.
- You also make educated guesses (assumptions) on where your ideal clients spend time.
- And, yes, you test these where-are-my-ideal-clients assumptions also.
How do you come up with assumptions about ‘your people’?
The best place to start is by studying your past successful clients. What characteristics, values, and attributes do your successful clients have in common?
Then, when you learn what works for you and your business, rinse and repeat.
If you dream up ideas, communications, or messages that don’t bring in the right clients, shift your approach.
Continue shifting, pivoting, and adjusting until you have the right combination of marketing strategies, practices, and tactics to reach your dream clients.
Let’s explore examples of marketing practices you can experiment with, further.
But first, I’ll share my missteps about finding ideal clients.
My Gigantic Target Market Mistake
As a newbie marketing consultant/entrepreneur, I decided to serve ‘small business owners’.
That’s how I answered the question, “Who is your target market?”
I said, ‘small business owners’. Sheesh.
I can see clearly now, ‘small business owners’ is a boatload of people.
My so-called target market of ‘small business owners’ was extremely vague. It did not clearly explain exactly who I served.
By making the massive mistake of stopping at choosing a ‘target market’, I shortchanged myself.
I wasted energy, time, and money by attending networking events popular with small business owners. Turns out, few of my ideal clients were at those events.
Have you attended events where no one was a potential client for you?
If you’ve ever met dozens of people at events and yet none of them asked to hear more about your products or services, you know what I mean.
After months of connecting with too few prospects, I finally sat down with a glass of Pinot Noir and reviewed my dismal client-attracting results.
Three main aha insights hit me like a ton of bricks.
1) Precious few people said, “Tell me more!” after I gave my self-introduction while networking.
2) My self-introduction wasn’t clear or specific. Painful as it is to admit, my intro was boring and general.
3) I sounded like lots of other marketing consultants. I made the classic mistake of trying to appeal to all small business owners!
After seeing the error of my ways, I threw out my target market and focused instead on getting to know my ideal client.
At the time, this is how I shifted and described my ideal clients:
Small business owners who valued marketing as a strategic tool to increase their customers and income.
Go deeper than the target market to understand your ideal clients.
In addition to pursuing the wrong target market, I’ve bumbled through my share of other time-sucking mistakes when working to attract my ideal clients.
I have painstakingly tried client attraction strategies that worked for others but didn’t work for me. Can you relate?
Your business is different than others who do similar work as you.
What’s more, your ideal client is unique from the ideal client of other entrepreneurs who offer products or services like yours.
To help you ferret out hot to find your perfect, ideal client, here are some new and not-so-new strategies you can try out.
1. What’s worked for you before to bring in the right clients?
Have you forgotten places and tactics that were previously effective in reaching clients? It happens to all of us.
- Recall client-connection strategies that were successful in the past.
- Write them down in your journal or computer.
- Capture every place and the method you’ve used to meet prospects who became happy clients.
- List every group where you’ve found wonderful clients.
Get all of the fruitful places, people, and groups out of your head.
Go back to when you started your business. Don’t leave anything out.
Was it association meetings, industry events, or local groups where you successfully connected with clients and/or referral partners?
Put the list away for a few days, then come back and add to it.
Next, use the list to inspire yourself to reach out to generous colleagues, business owners, friends, and contacts who previously referred prospective clients to you.
Schedule time to revisit the groups that were successful for you.
What worked for you before may work again!
2. Brainstorm fresh client connection ideas!
Get out your journal, notebook, or computer and think of new client attraction ideas you haven’t tried yet.
What kinds of places where your ideal clients gather have been on your mind to test out?
List business owners you can partner with who offer complementary products and services to yours.
3. Dump what’s not working.
Identify and eliminate efforts, events, and strategies that aren’t getting the lead, prospect, and client results you want.
As you reexamine how to attract more clients, give yourself adequate time to follow through on your new ideas.
One of the best ways to win back “extra time”, is to decide which activities you’re going to stop doing.
- Is there a networking group you have attended for some time and you’ve never gotten any clients from it?
- Where else could you invest time that may put you in the same room with ideal clients?
- Are you spending hours a day on social media and it’s not helping you expand your email list or bring in prospective clients?
Pinpoint each activity that’s sucking up your time without providing positive outcomes. Quit doing them.
Be brutally honest with yourself when analyzing how you spend client-generating time.
Immediately eliminate activities that you think you “should” be doing — if they aren’t providing results.
Instead, use that freed-up time for activities you haven’t tried out before.
4. Clarify your ideal client.
This, as you may guess, is my favourite topic. I explain how to become clear about your perfect clients, in detail in my new book, She Markets, A Guide for Women Entrepreneurs.
Before you start new client-building projects, become crystal-clear about the types of clients you want to reach.
The best way to be clear is to refresh your mental view of your ideal client. The next step is to document exactly who is your ideal client.
Make no mistake: gaining clarity on who is your perfect, ideal client is job #1.
In your marketing messages, are you talking to clients who are ready to solve their problems?
If you first get crystal clear on who you want to serve, you’ll make better decisions about which tactics to apply next.
5. Commit to yourself to take action on new client generating strategies.
As you come up with new ideas to implement, schedule them on your calendar. One of the best ways to be intentional, is to commit. After scheduling time in your calendar for new client generating activities, you’ll be much more likely to follow-through, won’t you?
6. Become a reliable referrer.
Refer your business owner friends to their ideal clients.
By being of service first, your referral partners will keep you in mind when it comes to sending you folks who are likely to be your ideal clients.
Consistently ask this question, Who is a good referral for you?
7. Ask for help.
Once you get into the habit of uncovering opportunities to refer to others, it will become natural to ask for referrals for yourself.
Make a list of everyone do you feel comfortable calling to start a conversation about sharing referrals. This is a relationship-driven activity, so don’t expect quick results.
The good news is, as a purpose-driven entrepreneur it’ll be easy for you to come up with referrals for your fellow entrepreneurs and colleagues.
8. Make yourself fascinating and findable online.
Create and post relevant content your clients want to dive into. Do this on a regular basis.
The truth is, even when referral partners send you potential prospects, those folks are going to check you out online.
They’re going to search for your name or the name of your business. So, to get prepared, Google yourself regularly.
Do you like the results that come up?
- Will your ideal clients be excited to click on your blogs, articles, and videos?
- Is your online content speaking your ideal clients’ language?
- Is there anything that you don’t like?
- If you have a blog on your website, has it been updated within the past month?
- How up-to-date is your online presence, based on your current products and services?
9. Follow up. Pick up the phone and call people you’ve met.
What Cynthia? Have you lost your mind?
It’s the age of social media. You want me to make old school phone calls to potential clients?
As in “cold call”? Eeuw!
Now, I know what you’re thinking, cold calling. So about now, your stomach is in knots.
You might feel a headache coming on. Or, a general feeling of dread. I’m with you.
Nobody loves the idea of making cold calls.
I have a solution for you.
Try what my friend Chellie Campbell does: Chellie calls it “cold calling”. Isn’t that cool?
I love Chellie’s concept. She calls it gold calling because you’re making phone calls to grow your business by increasing your list of potential clients and to win new clients over — a.k.a., gold.
Isn’t that a fun way to think about making outreach calls? Try it!
Let’s continue with our calling theme, shall we?
10. Follow up with potential clients 5 to 12 times.
They say, your fortune is in your follow up. Find a method that you’re comfortable with and follow up several times.
Change it up! Use a few different methods to connect with each potential client you’ve met in person, or online.
- Send prospects an email, place a call, text a cheery message
- Go retro and share a juicy piece of old-school snail mail like one of your articles
- Be imaginative
According to Calldrip.com:
Numerous studies have found that it takes at least five ongoing follow-up efforts, after the initial sales contact, before a customer will say yes. FIVE!
Nearly 80% (yes, 80!) of all sales are made on the fifth through the twelfth contact!
11. Become proactive about getting speaking gigs.
Make it a priority to get yourself booked for speaking gigs in front of groups of your ideal clients.
Be picky about the groups you choose.
>>> Only apply to speak with groups where your ideal clients gather.
Don’t forget about virtual speaking opportunities. Search out podcast hosts whose audiences include your ideal clients and apply to be a guest.
12. Try out, new networking groups.
New groups are forming all the time so if you haven’t searched out recent ones lately, make sure you stay up to date.
By trying out, I mean attend one to three events. If after a few meetings, you’re not meeting potential clients or referral partners — find another group.
A woman business owner told me recently that she had attended the same group for five years and had gotten no leads, prospects, or clients. Five years!
I was stunned. She said she’d finally decided to end her group membership.
Are you in a similar situation?
Even if you like the attendees of a group, do not waste your time, money, and energy where your ideal clients don’t hang out!
13. Relentlessly stay in touch with referral partners.
Follow up monthly or quarterly with your fellow entrepreneurs who can refer prospects to you. After all, who else but other business owners knows what it’s like to be constantly searching for the kinds of people you serve best?
If you don’t have one, set up a system to remind yourself of who to place stay-in-contact-calls or have coffee meetings with.
Pro tip: Save travel time with virtual meetings. Learn to rely on Zoom, Skype, or another video call platform.
After you’ve met a contact in person, suggest that your next conversation be virtual. What could you do with the extra travel-time technology saves you?
With today’s video capabilities, virtual meetings are just about the same as meeting in person!
14. Schedule client-generating actions for 3 months in advance.
Are you investing enough time in finding clients? To make sure you’re spending the right amount of time to connect with potential new clients, schedule events in your calendar.
Do you calendar your ‘cold-calling’ activities each week? This is crucial. It’s how you’ll build your business.
Also, seek out podcast guest appearances and every activity that puts you in front of your people, at least three months out.
15. Polish your self-introduction.
Is it up-to-date with your current offerings? Or, is your introduction stale?
Ask friends for feedback on your self-introduction.
It makes me crazy when I ask a business owner what they do, and they say, “Well, I do a lot of things”.
This response is feeble on so many levels.
An introduction that isn’t specific, doesn’t help me decide if I can help that person. It makes me work too hard to understand if I know people who want their products and services.
Every entrepreneur you meet at business events is busy. And they’re meeting lots of other people. How can you stand out?
For starters, you want your self-introduction to be clear, memorable, and unique.
Here’s an example. A web designer specializes in serving clients who want a quality website that reflects their work and value. She introduces herself this way:
“I work with growth-minded entrepreneurs who value customized, professional, one-of-a-kind websites that attract their unique audiences.”
Remember, your self-intro is brief but mighty. Your self-introduction is not a resume or bio. It’s not everything you do.
Your intro is meant to pique the interest of your ideal clients, not everybody.
16. Practice your this-is-who-to-refer-to-me pitch.
This is much like #15 above. Be ready to answer in one or two tight sentences, when someone asks, “Who is a good referral for you?”
17. Offer your products or services.
In 20% of the content you create, videos, blogs, or social posts, link to one of your freebie opt-ins, webinar or other offers.
Now, I’m a big believer in giving first, so that’s why I like the 80/20 rule.
In this case, the 80/20 rule is: 80% of the time you educate, teach, inform, or inspire your audience with your content.
The remaining 20% you make offers to your readers, followers, and email subscribers.
How are you doing with making offers in 20% of your content?
18. When you’re marketing to attract clients, educate first.
Whether it’s a talk you’re giving, an article you’re writing, or a video recording always talk directly to your ideal client.
Consistently share valuable information your specific clients can use.
When you treat marketing as educating, you’ll increase the number of people who click on your links back to your website.
Potential clients will learn more about you, self-select, and contact you.
19. Expand your email list by offering a valuable freebie to website visitors.
They say your email list is your most valuable business asset.
If you think about it, inspiring and inviting people you meet to join your email list is gold. (Yes, more gold.) Why?
Because no matter how often big social media platforms change their algorithms, people on your email list have opted in to hear from you!
You’ll always be able to reach the potential clients on your list. You won’t need to advertise to them.
20. Be Sherlock Holmes.
Investigate. Scrupulously choose content topics your ideal clients care deeply about.
It’s true, every expert tells you to create valuable content. And while that’s solid advice, I want you to go one step further.
As we said in item #3 above, clarify your perfect, ideal client.
Because a mere sliver of business owners ever go to the trouble to become clear about their ideal clients, you’ll standout like a beacon on a foggy night.
You’ll be able to drill down to your ideal clients’ deepest challenges and dreams after you get to know them.
Once you know your ideal client like you know your family, this bonus happens:
developing content they can’t wait to read, watch, or listen to, feels natural and authentic to you. It becomes easy-peasy.
21. Become a consistent content creator.
Consistently devote time to creating fresh nuggets of information, highly practical advice, and educational content for your ideal clients.
Too many entrepreneurs, especially women, get crazy busy and don’t carve out time to share their knowledge with content specifically for their audiences.
Nothing is more important than doing everything in your business for your ideal clients. Just for them. This includes creating juicy content that makes you memorable and sharing it with your future clients. On. A. Regular. Basis.
(Bonus) 22. Purchase exhibit tables at events so you can have conversations with your people.
While being the speaker is the best way to reach the most ideal clients at one time, in between your speaking gigs, purchase an exhibit table at local and out of town events.
Much like when you’re the speaker, attendees will self-select to visit your exhibit table.
Attendees that want help in your area of expertise, will approach your table and ask you questions. Then you can have meaningful conversations with them.
You can schedule follow up strategy calls or meetings to explore their needs.
Or, you can invite them to join your email list, and enjoy your valuable content, right?
Here’s the cool thing, exhibit tables are fun!
You’ll have insightful get-to-know-you conversations with potential clients and buyers. These are people who you can really help.
I promise you this:
Once you know your ideal client, better than anyone else in your field, you’ll make better decisions about where to find them.
This is why I constantly beat the know-your-perfect-client drum.
Whether you decide to implement one or 10 of these client-generating ideas, promise me you’ll at least do the review (#1 above).
Remember to be brutally honest with yourself when rating how well your current marketing is working.
Ditch strategies, habits, and tactics-you-think-you-should-do, if they aren’t providing the results you want.
Why is it so crucial to dump activities that aren’t working for you?
So you can try out new tactics that work for you, because your perfect, ideal clients are out there waiting for you.
Please stop wasting time on stuff that’s not getting the results you want.