Recently, I conducted an all day workshop in the West Texas town of Coleman. The event was organized by the town’s Economic Development folks and championed by a long time Duct Tape reader Greg Martin.

During then event I outlined the Duct Tape Marketing System in great detail.

ideal client

photo credit: mallix via photopin cc

As any long time reader here knows one of the first steps in my system is to narrowly define who makes an ideal customer for your business. The endpoint involved in this step can be best summed by this statement – How would I spot your ideal customer?

The path to this endpoint involves lots of study focused on your most profitable customers that already refer – the maim reason to start here is that profitable client are usually profitable because they have the right problem or are the type we can serve well. Because of that fit they usually have the kind of experience that leads them to refer.

The trick of course is to understand why that is. Understand why they are profitable, why they are such a good fit, why they work so well, why they don’t come for low price, why they let us show them how to get value.

The reason to go to this amount of work dissecting and narrowing our focus is two fold. First off, we want to do what we can to attract more of those ideal folks. But, it’s just as important in terms of figuring out how to train, educate and work with every client in a way that makes them ideal.

When you better grasp what makes a great client great, you’re more equipped to create the intentional processes that can turn a not so ideal client into one that behaves like one.

The net effect of all of our marketing is that we get the clients we deserve or create based on how and what we communicate before, during and after the sale. Understanding that gives you complete control of the outcome.

Shortly after the Texas event I received the email below from event organizer Martin and I’ve reprinted it here as he sums this idea up as well as I could have.

I had an interesting discussion with one of our fellow Small Biz Workshop attendees a few days ago.  During our conversation, we got on the topic of the Ideal Customer.  He said something that started me thinking, and it was likely something that most of us are struggling with as we consider the ideas we heard in the Workshop.

“The Ideal Customer is a nice concept and I wish we could focus on just the best customers.  But, truth is, in our market, we have to pay attention to all of our customers.  In our world, our Ideal Customer is the next one to walk through that door.”

I knew that he was somehow not grasping the point John was trying to make.  I also knew that I didn’t have a better answer for him in that moment.  But, later that evening, I had an epiphany…

The Ideal Client is a concept worth considering and worth pursuing.  And, here’s why.  There is little doubt that the gentleman I was talking to could go over his client list and quickly point out the “great” clients or customers.  He knows exactly who they are, simply because he lives and breathes this business every day.  It’s quite likely that he could pick 4 or 5 and say “If I had 100 or 1000 customers just like this group, my business would run more smoothly, we would grow, and we would be more profitable.”

Here comes the epiphany part…

The probable reason those 4 or 5 are “Ideal” is because they pay on time, they are NOT especially price sensitive, they come in regularly instead of waiting until there is an “urgent” need, and because they refer others.  But, and here’s the big “but”…

The question to ask once you have identified this small group is; “Why do they pay on time, why are they not terribly concerned about price, why do they come in regularly, why do they refer your business to others, what do they say when the refer your business to others?”

For example, they may not be price sensitive because they Trust you and because they Value the service you provide.  Even if you are selling a retail product, there is still a service component in the way it’s delivered to you, the experience you have in the store, the availability you provide, the comfort level you have that you weren’t “sold” something you didn’t need, etc.  Same for the other aspects that make them great clients.  They understand the value you are providing.

And now, the “a-ha” moment.  Yes, you are in a limited market.  So, you DO need all the customers, not just the Ideal ones.  But,….  By understanding what makes your Ideal Client tick, you now have the opportunity to educate the “other” clients and move them along the path to becoming Ideal Clients.

Your clients that are less than ideal are not that way because they choose to be.  They just don’t know what your great clients know.  It’s possible that your great clients learned what they know from someone besides you and you are now reaping the benefits.  Maybe they did get the information from you, but it was by accident or it was because you have a closer “relationship” with those clients.

The point is, finding out “why” they behave in an Ideal Client manner is fantastic info for you.  Once you have that information, you can systematically begin making sure that all of your clients know as much about how to be good clients as that small group of Ideal Clients knows already.

Just my two cents.
Greg Martin

So, with this in mind let me ask you this – what kind of client do you deserve?

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John Jantsch

John Jantsch is a marketing consultant, speaker and author of Duct Tape Marketing, Duct Tape Selling, The Commitment Engine and The Referral Engine and the founder of the Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network.
  • penlynwilson

    WOW! This is awesome information! Thanks for sharing.

  • michelle

    Just like me, I am sure many readers are thinking the reason that clients are not price sensitive is because they have more resources/money. The reason that client are ideal in that they are a pleasure to work with (pay on time, refer you, appreciate the extra mile you go to provide value for them) is because they are ‘good ‘ people, they have manners and good character traits (they treat most people well if they are treated well). So these are two things that as a business owner you have not much sway over. I still don’t get how the aha moment translates into turning either rich, entitled people into nice, considerate people or people with scarce resources to suddenly have more.

    • $311151

      I disagree. Sure, there are nice people and mean people everywhere, and you run into some of each in business. I don’t think this is what this is about, though. I used to be a fitness trainer. I found a sweet spot in people who were going through LIFE changes (career, marriage/divorce, pregnancies) and, for whatever reason, coped with that by pursuing physical change through exercise. These people varied in how much money they actually had. The common thread was where they were psychologically. Now these people weren’t EVERY trainer’s Ideal Client. They fit my particular style, philosophy, and how I liked to relate to people. I learned to vet for this state of affairs when I interviewed clients. I took the kinds of continuing education that built the skills most applicable to these clients. These people were less price sensitive because they wanted exactly what I had to offer not just in the vicinity of what I had to offer.

      • michelle

        thanks B, This is why i wrote the provocative comment — to generate this kind of feedback, and advice.

        • Actually I don’t think you disagree at all – you simply interpreted ideal to mean what most people consider ideal – ideal is ideal to you and that’s what you are attracting – you actually helped make my point quite well.

  • Julio César

    Como adaptar este concepto a clientes sensitivos al precio? y que desconocen en su mayoría un derecho legal que pueden ejercer al proporcionarles un servicio aún cuando tengan bajos ingresos. Por ejemplo en la elaboración de declaraciones fiscales que en mi mercado puede también ser opcional?

    Les adjunto una infografia para entender la idea. Lo que muestra la infografia puede ser realizado de manera opcional por cerca de 1,789,000 personas en mi región

  • Nathan Jansch

    Hi John… great article, as usual. Just a note for you, in the 4th paragraph beginning “The path to this…” you have a small typo. “(T)he maim reason to” should probably be “the main reason to…” Just thought you might want to know.

  • What a great article! The responsibility of the outcome is placed on the business. Create what you want. Don’t just wait for it to fall in your lap. In my experience, most clients are appreciative of efforts to help them be great clients. It deepens the trust and relationship.

    • I agree – when you help someone be a great client you’re going to deliver more value through that process alone.

  • Great article John.

    It got me thinking about our journey to define our “ideal client” so that we can recognise them when they come along, and seek them out more proactively.

    I’ve eventually worked out that “Marketers with some skin in the game” are my ideal buyers.

    And I’ve learnt that clients with big budgets are nice to have, but not as good as clients who are nice decent people and who want to learn. I’ve tried to introduce affordable “price points” from free to 6+ figures to cater to our “ideal clients” depending on their budget and where they are in their journey.

    Plus I’ve said no to a few wrong clients along the way too, which frees me up to service ideal clients better!

    • I think when you can identify the behavior that makes a client idea it gets much easier to spot who is and who is not a fit

  • Brian

    Great point on needing to service all your customers but targeting the ideal ones for growth. We often make a similar point when trying to explain to clients that their marketing needs to focus on an ideal even though they will sell to anyone.

    Here is our fun analogy:

    Imagine you own a salon and a bald man in his seventies walks in and purchases $500 in shampoo. Will you sell it to him? Of course. Do you want to market to him….I don’t think so!

    Excellent post!

  • Pam

    This is nice, if you already have an ideal client. But what about those of us wanting to get started? Especially with limited funding to attract a broad spectrum of people until the right clients do come in the door. What do you suggest for those of us who do not have an ideal client, who are just starting out, and would like to capitalize on the right client and spend the limited marketing funds in the right place from go. This has been my struggle. Thanks!