The “Ideal Client” is a phrase used a lot in business. It refers to that archetypical business that: generates revenue; is the right size for your business; is easy to communicate with; and fits well with your own company culture. It’s the map of a theoretical perfect client against which to measure your real prospects. It’s important to know what your Ideal Client looks like so you can spot them when they appear. The term is a bit misleading, however. Most businesses don’t have an Ideal Client, but rather Ideal Clients.
Unless you’re just starting out it’s unlikely you’ll have just one. The Ideal Client is an essential term in B2B marketing, so it’s well worth keeping in mind when looking for new clients, as well as when dealing with your current clients.
Why do you need to map an Ideal Client?
Think back to you last networking event (in person or virtual), how many people did you hear say: “I want to talk to anybody who owns a car (for example).” It happens all the time, even though it’s clearly not the most effective way to go. Think how much more effective the speakers pitch would be if they said: “I want to talk to people with old, petrol car, with bad mileage, in the Croydon area, looking to upgrade to something more fuel efficient.” The fewer people in the room this applies to are suddenly listening.
The scatter-gun approach is never going to work. At best it’s bland and impersonal, at worst it’s white noise in the background while your potential clients tune out. You want to focus on the clients with the need, means and intent to buy. It makes sense. Every pound spent marketing to this ideal audience will have a much better return on investment than a campaign targeting everyone with a car.
Picture it like this. Since your marketing budget is finite, it’s as though it’s being split between everyone in your target market. If your budget is £10,000 an your target market is 60 million, that’s not going to get you very much traction. The more you focus your marketing down to your Ideal Clients, the more likely you are to sell.
Why would you need more than one ideal client?
Unless you’re in your first year of trading, it’s unlikely that you only have one Ideal Client. If you sell to different regions, or several products or services, it’s savvy to map out several Ideal Clients. The following are a few reasons you might want to do that and how.
1. Your products or services are used in different industry sectors
You might only sell one product or service. Still, the way that product or service is used and the result it delivers might vary from sector to sector. The product or service stays the same, but the way you talk about it will be different depending on the sector it’s marketed in.
The Ideal Client Grid
|Product/Industry||Product #1||Product #2||Product #3||Product #4||Product #5|
To summarise, if your product is:
- Bought by the same decision maker,
- delivering the same results,
- used in the same way (even in multiple industries)…
Then it’s the same Ideal Client. Likewise, if more than one product is bought by the same decision maker in the same industry, it’s probably just the one Ideal Client.
2. You’re expanding your portfolio
If you’re adding a new product or service, it’s highly likely you will have at least one additional Ideal Client. This is simply because your new product (not including an upgrade of an original product) will deliver something new. It will solve new issues and problems. This may help your existing client base or it may address a completely new one. You need to map this out in order to identify the right marketing mix for each.
3. You’re targeting a new industry sector
Pain points in different industry sectors that purchase your product or service are unlikely to be totally distinct. There may be some overlap in the issues faced by a charity and a law firm, for example. But you wouldn’t use the same language or marketing mix to target both. Each time you look to specifically target a new industry sector, you have yourself a new Ideal Client.
Are your current clients ideal clients?
The idea of turning away potential clients seems to go against common sense, but in the long run, it can pay to be picky. Taking on all willing clients is a quick fix business plan that could lose you money in the long run. There are several possible disadvantages to taking on less-than-ideal clients:
- They might be unwilling or unable to purchase more products/services from you.
- Or they might be too big for your business to cope with.
- They could be too small to be worth your time.
- Perhaps they’re difficult to deal with.
- They might not be the kind of business you want to be associated with.
- Are they stagnant or declining?
- Maybe they’re not turning a profit.
While these companies might be happy to give you their money, they could end up costing you more down the road. This also applies to your existing clients. Businesses that have been with you for a long time might no longer reflect your Ideal Client. If you have a number of current clients that don’t fit you Ideal Client description, you need to work out what’s the best thing to do. More on this in a little while.
What are your options with non-ideal clients?
As for your existing customers, what are your options if you find that not all of them fit your Ideal Client profiles?
- Bin them: A drastic option especially if this is the majority of your current clients.
- Keep them: If they are profitable, there’s no need to terminate their contracts.
- Add a new Ideal Client to your portfolio: If you have a number of clients that are very similar. In other words, using the same products in the same ways, this may be another profitable target audience.
The number of Ideal Clients you have determines the complexity of your marketing. The more you have, the more marketing you have to do to successfully target them and deliver sales. Most small businesses have 2 to 5. The most we’ve seen is 20, but that was a business selling internationally, with offices on three continents.
Only you know the answer to how many Ideal Clients you should have. It all depends on the size, variety and location of your business. What’s most important is having a clear picture of your Ideal Clients, so you can spot them when they appear. The better you get to know your Ideal Clients, the more chance you have to make lasting connections with businesses on the same, profitable, trajectory as your own.
If you would like help mapping your Ideal Clients and tailoring your marketing mix to them, give us a call on 020 8634 5911, or click here.