On accepting that you can't - and shouldn't - win them all


How are you doing? We're all feeling quite chipper on the farm - the first signs of Spring are beginning to stir and it looks although Winter might finally be making it's way out the door.

Last week I spoke to a very distressed client who we're working with to launch their (rather niche) new business. Having started the journey with passion and gusto, they were in the middle of a crisis of confidence and wanted to water down their offering in a bid to make it easier to win business. It got me thinking about how easy it is for us to lose focus on the kinds of people our businesses need, so I thought I'd share some pointers with you on why you can't - and shouldn't - attempt to win them all.

The thing is, not all clients are created equal

There’s nothing worse than that sinking, stomach-churning feeling that you get when you realise that the client you poured so much effort into winning is actually completely feral. They’re demanding, they’re never happy, they’ve changed their mind (again), they’re a nightmare to get money out of - and when they do finally pay, they complain about the price. You’re not sure they really understand what your business is all about, but are convinced of their mission to make your life as tricky as possible.

The worst thing about these people is the energy and resources that they drain from you. Aside from probably taking up too much of your time in return for too little money, they crush your spirit - and that’s not me being melodramatic. They steal your spark, cause you to question yourself and chip away at your confidence. 

This has to stop.

I remember one such disastrous client really clearly. We should never have taken this particular rascal on - even at the time, my gut knew it wasn’t a good fit - but it was early days, we were keen to win the work and she was relatively influential in her field so it seemed like a good opportunity to raise our profile. I remember trying to wrap up yet another hour long marathon phone call - the second of that day - when I noticed an email ping into my inbox from another client who, by stark contrast, was an utter delight. It struck me that it wasn’t right that nightmare client was sucking up all of my time and energy while dream client was left politely waiting. Dream client deserved to get the best of us, and they weren’t getting it - because after nightmare client was done, we had nothing left to give. We were exhausted, stressed and completely frazzled. We all want to give our best, all of the time - so it’s just good sense that we work with people for whom we can give 100%, and then a bit extra. They’re happy, we’re happy and the world is rosy. Isn't it better to give that effort to those who appreciate your time?

Focus on the right people, not all the people

Of course you want as many people as possible to love your business. But it’s so, so important to make sure you’re attracting the right people (and if you do get stuck with a Mr or Mrs Nightmare, do yourself a favour and learn as much from that experience as possible to prevent it from happening again!).

Who are your people?

Think about your favourite client. How would you describe them - what are they like? What matters to them? What is it that draws them to your business? You might find my post about engaging with a mindset not a demographic helpful here! Once you know who your clients are, you can position your brand to attract them and only them. You’ll no doubt have noticed that there’s a very distinctive look and feel to everything we do at Ditto - the way we work isn’t for everyone, but for bold, left-of-centre, ballsy entrepreneurs, it’s very right. And of all the enquiries we receive, I can honestly say that almost all of them are from people who we’re ridiculously excited to work with. It’s a wonderful feeling to respond to an initial enquiry and know within minutes that the person you’re speaking to will be an incredible team mate for a project.

Have the courage to narrow your market

It takes guts to willingly exclude a great big chunk of the marketplace, but it’s something I passionately believe that you should do. It doesn’t do you - or your clients - any favours if you’re not a good fit; both parties leave feeling disheartened. Trust me when I say that positioning your business to consistently attract the people who ‘get it’ is a complete gamechanger - it’ll transform your business. 

How we did it

Once we had a solid understanding of who we wanted to work with - and who we didn’t - we could set about crafting a brand and message that stood out to the right people. Building a persona around your ideal client is so important here; all of a sudden you can imagine a real person who you want to impress. And that’s exactly what we did - we had an idea in mind of who we wanted to work with and we shaped our brand around them. Truthfully, I think one of the most powerful elements of our brand in appealing to our dream people is the words we use. When I write for our business, I write as if to a friend, using the same linguistic quirks that you might use if you were chatting (things like starting a sentence with ‘and’ - which breaks all of the grammar rules - and punctuating so as to mimic where you might naturally pause for breath), so it feels really friendly and familiar. Now, to those who want a more starched and sterile agency, that manner of writing is hideous. But to those who want a team who’ll take care of them, who won’t intimidate them or try to blind them with jargon, it’s precisely what they need to see. 

Have a thorough shake-down of your marketing pieces

I always think Spring is a great time to do this, just as everyone’s waking up and emerging from the fog of Winter. Carve out some time to settle down with a cup of tea and something delicious to really pull out your key marketing pieces (I’m thinking website, brochure, automated emails, printed pieces) and ask yourself whether they do the best job they possibly can in appealing to the right people. And if not, change them! Start with the most prominent piece - your website, probably - and work down from there. You’ll be amazed the difference a spruce up can make to the effectiveness of your marketing. Good luck!