While there are many ways to scale a company quickly, there's one factor that should always be considered: the quality of your clients. Do your clients hire you for one service, then fail to rehire you next month? Do they struggle with communication, leaving you in the lurch when payment is due? Or, do they simply not seem to appreciate what you're doing for them?
Anyone who runs a service-based business knows that it's far easier and more enjoyable to work with clients who you connect with and see eye-to-eye with. It may seem like a myth that someone could scale a company with solely 'perfect' clients, but with the right practices, it's easier than you may think.
1. Define your ideal clients.
It seems simple but defining your ideal client is a great first step. However, go beyond the obvious. If you run a digital marketing business for chefs, your ideal customer is a chef who needs digital marketing -- but what else defines them? What's their work style, their number of years in business, and their form of communication?
A common mistake many make in defining their ideal client is doing so by financial incentive. "You should define your ideal clients by who you enjoy working with, not just who is best to buy from you," notes Kent Littlejohn, CEO of Client.com. "Sure, some clients have deep pockets. But they also might make your life more difficult...instead, focus on clients you feel like you can help the most."
2. Keep ideal clients coming back.
Once you have a clear idea who your ideal client is, you'll likely recognize some of them in your current client roster. It's important to nurture these relationships and make your clients feel appreciated. This can be done via personal touches like a handwritten note on their birthday, or simply going above and beyond so that they can't afford to not have your services.
Jordan Rothstein, CEO of King Tide, shared in an article that one of the best ways to keep ideal clients around is to call them regularly. It's better to communicate for them to communicate upfront if they're unhappy with your service or have questions, rather than getting an email when they've decided to move on. "I like to schedule calls with all of my clients either every week or every month, and set some touchpoints to reach out to them randomly to catch up," he writes. "Ask them how they feel about the service you're providing, on a scale from 1-10, and if it's not a 10, ask what you can do to make it a 10."
3. Nurture ideal client relationships.
Look for other ideal clients by asking current happy clients (perhaps on your regular phone calls) to refer others to you. A way to encourage this is to offer a referral program with a discount. Once you start to meet these ideal clients, focus on building the relationship beyond a sales call. One way to do this is to set Google alerts for their name so you can congratulate them if they appear in the press, or to send relevant articles that may pique their interest.
It should be noted that certain ideal clients may simply not be interested in your services. On the Inc. #AskGaryVee Show episode #20, Gary Vaynerchuk urges, "don't try to convert the unconvertable." If you've tried all of the above and they're still not interested, consider this: they aren't your ideal client after all. Your ideal client understands the value you have to offer and sees how it can help them.
4. Fire problem clients.
It will be challenging to scale if your hands are tied with current "problem clients." There are a number of ways to determine if a client is causing problems - but it's also a gut instinct if they're making your job exceedingly more difficult. Jennifer Faulkner, Chief Communications Officer of Proposify, recommends taking stock of a few considerations before jumping to firing, such as asking yourself if the client is making your company lose money or lose staff members, and if you've exhausted all possible solutions.
The key to scaling also includes retaining clients, so it's important to first see if you can resolve issues with a problem client before immediately firing them.
There is such thing as a "perfect client," and your work will go far easier and attract more referrals as you continue to build your roster of them. Make sure to define, retain, and attract customers in alignment with your best work, while also understanding the well known Bill Gates quote, "Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning."