Originally Published in the Piedmont Business Journal, Winter 2012

Finding new clients is an ongoing challenge for any business. In tough economic times, finding any new clients may be a sign of success.

But is it?

Are these new clients the types of folks you want to work with long-term?
Do they truly value your service?
Or are they one-time buyers attracted to your lowest-price special deal?

Although one-time special deal buyers can be great for generating quick cash-flow, they may not be the kind of clients that will help sustain and grow your business over the long-term. Low-price offerings are only one tactic in a broader sales strategy. So, it is important to develop a clear method for attracting ideal clients – the clients that really appreciate your service, gladly pay your fees, come back for more, and eagerly refer their friends.

To get the best return on your outreach investment, consider the following in developing your ideal client attraction plan:

1. Know your firm.

Finding your ideal clients requires a focused look at your brand.

What are you selling?
What do you stand for?
What is your message?
What are the benefits of your work to your clients?
What is the emotional impact of what you sell?

For example, insurance agents, accountants, and attorneys may be selling peace of mind and safety; newspapers may be selling a sense of community, access and insight; homebuilders may be selling dreams and future memories; bakeries may be selling joy and comfort; jewelers may be selling love; consultants may be selling clarity, confidence and possibility.

Connect with the emotional impact of your offerings.

2. Describe your ideal client.

What is their personality?
What kind of work do they do?
Where do they live?
What is their lifestyle?
How do they socialize?
What groups do they belong to?
What social media do they use?
What do they read?
What are their hobbies?
What are their biggest concerns?

The answers to these questions create the profile of your ideal client, around which you can build your niche, your target market. If you don’t know the answers to these questions, identify several of your favorite clients and conduct a survey.

3. Identify the specific problem that you are solving for your ideal client.

What pain are you relieving?
What pleasure are you providing?
What are you offering that addresses their biggest concerns?

People buy from those they know, like and trust. How are you like your ideal client?

Oftentimes our ideal clients are folks just like ourselves going through similar life challenges and joys. What are you offering that they want, need and/or are willing to pay for?

4. Know where your ideal clients spend time, physically and online.

Frequent these circles and get to know people. Focus your advertising in locations where your ideal clients will notice, perhaps the gym, volunteer groups, local newspaper, or industry trade journals. Join social media groups (Facebook and LinkedIn) that cater to your ideal clients and be a consistent presence by offering helpful tips and comments. Participate regularly to show your commitment and get to know folks on a deeper level. As Woody Allen once said, “80% of success is showing up!”

5. Establish yourself as an expert among your ideal client prospects.

Write articles, give talks, organize special functions and bring in other experts for advice on topics important to this group. Always have something new and interesting to share for free. Become a leader among your prospects.

6. Ask current ideal clients and others you respect for referrals.

This is one of the best ways to expand your sphere of influence. Your ideal clients usually have friends with similar interests who may need exactly what you provide. And, since the trust is already partly in place, your timeframe for securing the prospect may be quick. However, still be sure to develop a relationship with the referral before asking for a sale.

7. Join up with other firms selling different products and services to the same niche to broaden your market position.

For example, a chiropractor may team up with a nutritionist and yoga instructor and offer a workshop on “Finding Your Optimal Energy.” Creating a joint offering is a win-win for everyone, since all firms are offering something of proven benefit to their ideal clients while expanding the awareness of their specific product or service.

8. Share client success stories.

Collect and post testimonials on your website and use them in your advertising. Be a beacon of positivity to attract your ideal clients.

This process can take a little time, but the investment is totally worth it. There is no better work than supporting your ideal clients since their success becomes your success.