When it comes to barriers to business development, one consistently rises to the top of the list for most professionals: Time. With a host of daily demands including client service, quality assurance, personnel management, billing, and more, carving out sufficient time for developing business takes a disciplined effort. Putting careful thought to the specific profile of the ideal client you are best suited to serve can prevent wasted time chasing low-probability opportunities and taking on unprofitable or unfulfilling client relationships.
Defining your ideal client profile is an important step in the overall strategic targeting process. It helps to start by setting revenue growth goals that cascade down to determine how many new client targets will be needed to accomplish the goals. You may wish to refer to a previous post, Anatomy of a Growth Goal, that steps through the goal-setting process in detail.
Describe your best clients
Take a moment to think about all the clients you serve. If you’re like most professionals, you can group them into those you enjoy working with and those that drain you without much to show for it. Focus in on the former – the ones you enjoy. These are the clients that trust and value your advice and are not reluctant to pay for it. You have gained a lot of knowledge and experience in their type of business which helps you serve them better. It’s work that you and your team enjoy because of the nature of the work and the relationships.
What common attributes do these ideal clients have? Being as specific as possible will help you find more clients like these through referral sources and databases. Consider the following:
- Location: How far are you and your team willing to travel to serve these clients? Use terms that are typically searchable in business information services, such as entire states or specific metro areas or counties. You can also specify a certain radius (e.g., 100 miles) around the zip code of your office, for example.
- Size: What is the typical size range of the clients you want to serve? Annual sales are perhaps the most common indicator and one that is easily searchable. Other size-related criteria include the number of employees, facility size, whether they are on Fortune 500/1000 lists, etc.
- Industry: Developing a focus on a specific industry is one of the best ways to increase relevancy and competitiveness in a marketplace crowded with similar generalists. It also helps you identify organizations and events in which to build your networks and professional visibility. Reference the NAICS system (formerly the SIC system) for codes you can use in your target search.
- Ownership Type: The needs and wants of a privately held company can be very different from those of a publicly owned company, one that has private equity ownership, or one that is a subsidiary of a controlling parent company. Consider which you are best suited to serve and what is most commonly found in any specific industry you want to target.
- Business Stage: Just like people go through stages of life, each with different goals and needs, so do businesses. Are you better suited to help businesses as they are starting up? Stabilizing or expanding the business? Transitioning it to the next generation or a buyer? Targeting clients that you can help in specific stages can be a significant boost your relevancy and value.
- Other: The list above provides a few attributes to consider that apply to most industries. Depending on your target market focus, you may have other attributes that can help you narrow your definition even further. For example, financial institutions can be filtered on asset size. Hospitals – the number of beds. Auto dealers or restaurants – the number of stores or types of franchises.
Where can you find more like them?
With your ideal client profile clearly defined, now you can be more intentional and strategic about finding and acquiring more clients that fit that profile.
Consider business information sources and databases that are readily available. Most of these services allow you to plug in searchable criteria to identify the size of your target market and to pull lists of target companies. Some are general purpose and can provide data on just about any industry, while others are dedicated to specific industries and thus may have more relevant information.
Learn as much as you can about the industry you are targeting. Use an industry research service, attend industry events, join relevant associations, and talk with people in your network who are knowledgeable about what trends are impacting such businesses. Talking with your existing clients about your intent to find other clients like them could yield some very helpful insights and maybe even some referrals.
The key is to define your target market as specifically as possible, while ensuring through research that there is a substantial marketplace of potential clients fitting your ideal profile.
With your growth goals set, your ideal client profile defined, and potential clients identified, you will need to prioritize your list of prospects and develop strategies for how to connect with them at various phases of engagement. We will cover a technique for this in a future post.
If you need assistance in organizing or facilitating a growth-planning process for your firm or niche practice team, please Contact Us to schedule a complimentary phone consultation. You may also wish to visit our website to learn more about ways The Rainmaker Companies can help you Grow Your Firm or Grow Your Practice.