Few things will accelerate the profitable growth of your agency more than having a clear understanding of what makes an ideal client for you and your team.
Defining your ideal client gives you the freedom to say no to bad fits that will suck your time and energy without producing the best results for them or for your business.
When you have clarity about your ideal client, your whole team will understand what you are trying to achieve and with whom you are trying to work.
That means you will up your new business game, spending your most limited resource on those prospects who are most likely to be good fits.
It makes it less likely that you will end up with morale-busting clients who wear your team down and negatively impact your ability to retain your top performers.
Can you clearly define your agency’s ideal client right now in a way that will be easily understandable by every member of your team?
It’s not just about budget
One of the biggest mistakes that agencies make when they begin to come up with their definitions of ideal clients is that they focus mostly on how much the client has to spend.
That’s a good component of your definition, but it isn’t enough.
There are plenty of prospects who can sign a check that meets your minimum engagement, no matter how small or large that may be.
When times are tough, many agencies will take any piece of business that comes their way that means more money in the bank.
Defining your ideal client primarily in financial terms misses the mark, however, and tends to lead to higher churn and less satisfaction on both sides of the agency-client relationship.
It’s more than an industry
The experts who promote the idea of “niching-down” in the agency space are not wrong, but their advice often gets misinterpreted.
When many agency owners hear that they need to find a niche, they immediately start to think about industry verticals.
Others may resist the idea of narrowing their definition of an ideal client altogether because they find the notion of zeroing in on a specific industry too limiting.
The truth is that an industry focus may or may not be appropriate for your agency.
It isn’t about saying that you serve the automotive or pharmaceutical industry, it’s about establishing a focus for your agency business.
Even within an industry, there will be good and bad fits. Your ideal client definition needs to take that into account.
It’s not a set of logos
Agencies love the logo pages in their PowerPoint decks and on their websites.
The brand marks are presented like a hunter putting animal heads on his wall. They’re as much about swagger as credibility in some cases.
Yet your agency doesn’t do business with a logo.
Business relationships rely on the connection between the humans who work for each organization.
That means that ideal clients are the people that your team works best with.
Your ideal client definition needs to reflect this reality. It must incorporate not just the characteristics of the organization for whom your agency works, but the people within it that you work with.
You don’t need fancy buyer personas or anything like that, but you do need to know more about the people on the other end of Zoom or Teams that you get the best results for.
It needs to be understandable by a stranger
Earlier I mentioned the need for your whole team to understand the ideal client definition.
That’s not enough.
You should be able to hand your ideal client definition to a reasonably intelligent stranger and they should be able to quickly evaluate a prospective client to determine if it is likely a good fit.
When you achieve this level of clarity, it makes it much easier to engage in marketing and awareness activities so that your best prospects seek you out and get referred to you in higher numbers.
As important, having this clear definition means that you have thought through the various elements carefully enough that there shouldn’t be room for confusion.
Once you know your ideal client, stick to it*
If a prospect comes along that doesn’t match your ideal client definition, don’t immediately try to talk yourself into why it is really a fit.
Maybe you really like the work that the client wants you to do or you could really use the added revenue that they could provide.
There are many reasons why we ignore our own “rules,” but it tends to get us in trouble.
Pretty soon we have a client base that we aren’t all that happy with and that doesn’t make it easy for us to reliably produce results for them or deliver profits to our own bottom line.
There is an important asterisk to this guidance, however. You do need to be ready and willing to periodically update your ideal client definition.
This update shouldn’t happen every time your phone rings or your inbox beeps.
But you should take into consideration the additional data that you gather over time in the form of analyzing your performance for existing clients and the profitability of specific projects.
This additional information enables you to intelligently refine your ideal client definition so that you can continue to produce good outcomes for your agency and your clients.
Get specific about your ideal clients today
If you don’t already have that crystal clear ideal client definition drawn up yet, now is the time to get started.
Look at the work you have done over the past couple of years. Talk with your team about the work to determine which clients you want more of – and which you would like to avoid in the future.
Crunch the numbers to understand the profitability of different clients and engagements.
Then put pen to paper – or fingers to keyboard – and hammer out the criteria that you’re looking for when you evaluate prospective clients in the future.