Yes. I meant it: Are you intentionally and deliberately choosing clients who are a good fit for you?
Often, especially in tough economic times, we take on clients who have robust purse strings but who are far from our ideal. I had one colleague tell me they would take on any client who “had a pulse and a checkbook!” Perhaps those potential clients bring a salient project, complex problem or a challenge that you could remedy with relative ease. Therefore, you rationalize that you have a good client fit for your work and your business. What you end up with sometimes, is a client engagement that feels strained and doesn’t enlist your full effort or produce your best work because you overlooked an obvious mis-fit at the outset. This is hardly a win-win situation!
As we all know, the client is 50% of the equation. Your ability to deliver on your promise, do your best work and fulfill the expectations of your reputation must fit into the client/vendor scenario to produce a winning result. Instead of looking at every client need or project and trying to assert your value, why not take the approach that YOU will choose the right clients as much as the right clients must choose you?
When you can clearly articulate your brand, identify your target audience (including your ideal client) and define your positioning in the marketplace, you avoid attracting and accepting clients who are not a good fit.
Here are some things to consider next time you are evaluating whether to work with a new client or not:
- How did this potential client find you? Did one of your happiest clients refer them? This would be a good indication that it might be a good fit for your business. If your happiest clients appreciate and value your assets, they will likely refer you to others who might need the same type of help and who will appreciate you.
- Is the work being proposed in your “lane”? It’s always good to stretch your skills and talents and learn, but is this project too far out of your comfort zone or area of expertise? If so, you could damage your reputation (by producing a poor result) and become frustrated in the work. Evaluate the cost/benefit of working outside your lane of knowledge and expertise.
- Are you reducing your fees… too far? What does it say about you and your integrity if you constantly reduce your fees to get a job? How can you regain your competitive position when the market recovers? Is this project worth the investment of lowering fees (Will you learn new, marketable skills? Can you grow your business into a new market with this experience?) or are you just lowering your fees to land ANY engagement?
- Do you want to know their friends? It might sound funny, but I always consider who a potential client might know (possible referrals?). If the people and companies they network and do business with are not companies/people I’d like to work with, then I risk having them refer me out and being back in this same dilemma. On the other hand, if the potential client is well networked into a growing industry I’m interested in pursuing, they become more attractive to me.
- Do you share the same values? I’ve blogged and spoken about a time when I turned down a lucrative contract, early in my business, because I honestly felt that my values and the values of the potential client didn’t align in the right way. That was a very hard decision! In the end, I believe you learn more about yourself, your strengths and your brand value when you can identify the alignment (or mis-alignment) of your values with potential clients.
The next time you consider an engagement opportunity, evaluate the prospective client to see if they are a fit for you. You can set out to better define the clients you want to work with, where they are, what they offer and who knows them and use that information as a key part of your brand strategy to produce powerful results!