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Marketing / Attracting new business

Choosing the right customers

Most of us see the decision to buy as the customer’s. But us soloists are, to a degree, defined by who we do business with, so our part in the decision is equally important. This short exercise will help you to focus on choosing the right customers.

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Taking on a new customer is a much bigger deal for a soloist than for a larger business. A new customer can have a major impact on your business and your life. You’ll probably be working closely with your new customer, sometimes for a long period of time.

Therefore, to build a successful solo business, it’s important to clearly articulate who your ideal customers are and to leave enough room in your schedule to work with them.

Here is a short exercise to try when you next plan or review your sales and marketing activities. It will help to sanity-check your strategy and to focus on the kind of customer relationships you most want to attract.

Sort your current customer list, or last year’s customer schedule, into three groups according to how they fit these three descriptions.

“A” customers are your ideal target customers

These are the people who most need what you have to offer. They are the ones who you most like to work with as they generate the most revenue or profit, present the best chance of repeat business or referrals. These can be in the form of  high-profile assignments which enable you to stretch and learn. Basically they provide criteria that are important to you. This is the group you will be actively marketing to.

"A new customer can have a major impact on your business and your life. "

“B” customers are not your ideal target customers but offer the prospect of solid bread-and-butter work

You might decide to take on a “B” customer if the job looks reasonably straightforward, the customer is willing to pay a fair fee, the customer seems organised, committed and easy to work with and/or you can easily fit in the work. This is a group that may be attracted by some elements of your marketing strategy, but who you do not chase after directly.

Want more articles like this? Check out the attracting new business section.

“C” customers are the ones that your business could do without

For example, if you are a specialist in a particular area, you may want to refer requests for other kinds of work on to someone else. This list may also include those who are difficult to deal with, late paying their bills or possess some other negative quality.

What kind of picture emerges from your list? Are you working mostly with “A” and “B” customers or are there too many “Cs” in there? What thoughts has this inspired and what actions could you take to change the way you filter prospective customer relationships? Drop us a comment and let us know.

Choosing the right customers is important to the growth of a solo business so it’s worth taking the time to do an exercise like this regularly. As a result, you will be happier and more focussed, both you and your customers will have clearer expectations and you will be able to get the very best from one another.

Robyn Haydon

is a proposal strategist and writer and the author of The Shredder Test – The Australian Guide to Writing Winning Proposals.

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