Fishing for the Ideal Customer

Identify the client and tailor your message
Madeleine MacRae
May 15, 2018
COLUMN : Strategy Session | Sales & Marketing

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Bonus: Online Learning Opportunity The Window & Door Dealers Alliance partnered with Madeleine MacRae to produce timely webinars designed to respond to window and door dealers’ top challenges. These sessions are free to members but all dealers are eligible to attend. Email kgregg@glass.org for information on how to register.

Not long ago, I was on a call with a potential client who was lamenting the fact that he didn’t have enough leads in his business. “Once I get in front of them, we can close the sale,” he told me. “But getting in front of them—that is the issue.” Some variation of that theme is one of the three most consistent complaints I hear about growing businesses.

Getting the attention of your ideal client is not easy. But, at the same time, it is far easier than most businesses expect. As soon as they realize that they stink, everything begins to change. 

You see, my dad used to take my brother fishing during the beautiful summer months. My dad was a pretty decent fisherman but my brother couldn’t seem to catch anything. My dad was determined to help my brother, so he tried everything: new gear, new tackle, new bait, new locations. Nothing helped. So, my dad brought this seemingly hopeless case to a prize-winning fisherman for advice. The man looked him dead in the eyes and said, “I think your son stinks.”  

All humans stink... to fish, anyway. Turns out, humans excrete oils from their skin that are repugnant to certain types of fish. My brother’s scent sent fish swimming in the opposite direction of anything he had so much as brushed up against. Once he discovered how to wash away the scent from any bait, lines or hooks, my brother was miraculously able to catch fish.

Following this analogy, when our marketing efforts are seeming to alienate the very people we are trying to attract, we need to stop focusing on where we are advertising, how we are advertising and the lack of results. We need to start taking a closer look at our messages and our ideal client. 

The ideal customer

Business owners focus on the methods: ads, pop-us, banners, billboards, signs, flyers. So much energy is spent evaluating and trying the available methods that they miss the essential first step—the message—and wind up being totally frustrated and believing that advertising doesn’t work. 

Truth is, advertising works extraordinarily well, we simply need to craft a message that doesn’t repel our ideal client. The first step is to acknowledge that this “ideal” client exists. Naming them is intimidating for most small business owners. They are afraid that, if they limit their client pool, they will miss out on business. Although that logic is reasonable, there are a few flaws with it.

First, identifying your ideal client—the person who is as delighted to work with you as you are to work with them, the customer who willingly and even happily pays your premium prices for your premium products, the homeowner who becomes your biggest advocate by referring you to friends and family—does not mean you cannot serve others outside of this criteria. It simply means that you know who your business is optimally designed to serve and can speak to their needs and concerns naturally and well.

Further, think about whether you already have an ideal client, but just haven’t identified them. If that’s the case, you aren’t leveraging the information you have about this demographic to draw more of those in it to you more expressly.  

By trying to attract everyone, it’s likely you’re watering down your own message to the point where you just blend in with the landscape. Getting clear on who your ideal client is and focusing your messaging directly to them makes you stand out like a red dot in a sea of gray.

Your ideal clients immediately recognize the value you bring to the table, they get what you do and they’ll love it. The people you’ve worked with in the past who fit this archetype of happy, easy-to-serve clients are your ideal clients. You don’t have to look harder or work more to find them. They are already right there in your raving fan base. And, once you have figured out who this ideal client really is, you can start to get into their minds.  

The message

When your ideal clients can see themselves in the messages you create, through the images you select and the copy your write, they will stop and take notice. Your message will attract them to you when it reflects them. 

Beyond the product you sell, what is it that your client values? What is keeping them up at night? What are they concerned about? Stop talking about the details of the products you sell and start talking about their issues, concerns and fears related to the products and services you sell. People pay for products, but they buy solutions.

Retool your messaging to speak specifically to your ideal client and you will attract the very best customers for your business—those that are easier to sell to, easier to serve and easier to convert into raving fans. 

Having built sales from zero to more than $1 million in several small businesses across several markets, Madeleine MacRae brings real world experience to her business, MM MacRae Coaching & Consulting. She has worked with contractors, dealers and manufacturers in the home professionals industry for more than a decade.