How to stop wasting time on clients that never buy

Being a freelance creative is hard enough. You’re strapped for time. Income isn’t exactly stable. The last thing you need to do is waste your time.

One of the most frustrating things you experience as a freelancer is all the time you waste writing unanswered emails, sending ignored proposals and taking pointless driving trips to see clients that you never hear back from.

Most freelancers I work with tell me they experience similar frustrations.

The first thing I have to do is tell you that ultimately, some of your potential clients will fall through. It’s just life.

Things get in the way. Life takes unexpected U-turns. You just have to accept it.

But when people first join the Business Accelerator, they tell me they are spending way too much time trying just trying to keep their business afloat.

And so many of them are making the same mistakes, so I thought I’d share with you what I tell them:

Why your prospects don’t convert

Ok – as I said there are a million reasons why your prospect might not become a client.

But most of the time you’re wasting your time on someone who was never going to convert in the first place.

“What?” I hear you cry, “But they approached me!”

aI’m afraid it’s true. Often people are just shopping for a price, or they changed their mind, or life got on the way, or the project got put on hold.

The fact is that you can’t work with everyone. In fact, you SHOULDN’T work with everyone. You shouldn’t want to.

It’s like dating, some clients are just not going to be your ‘type’.

Finding your ‘type’: Why a target audience will help you grow

I’m going to keep with the dating analogy because it works well here.

Most people will have a ‘type’ of person they like to date. It may be physical appearance or mental traits; whatever it is – they’re looking for it in a partner. Even if they don’t think it.

You need to have a type of business, a type of client that you know you can work with, and that are likely to want (and be able) to work with you.

Particularly now, when there is so much choice and information available online, it’s SO important not to waste your time trying to please everyone. It just doesn’t work. Even the largest, most successful companies on the planet can’t do it. On top of that, Quite often when you try to please everyone, you end up pleasing no-one.

Have you ever walked into a Pizza restaurant that also serves burgers, chicken, curries, and spring rolls? The menu takes 15 minutes to read. And you just know that it’s not going to be as authentic or as good quality as it would be in a family restaurant who have been serving the same dishes for generations.

What makes you think you can appeal to everyone? Why would you want to? Even though most freelancers I work with can tell me the types of client they hate working with, they rarely act upon their experiences.

If you can’t tell me what your ideal client looks like in under 10 words, you don’t know who they are. But that’s OK because this post will help you to figure out what they look like.

How to create your ideal client personas

There’s a group of people that you already know like you and want to do business with you. They’re going to be your key ally here in working out who your ideal client looks like. Who are they? Your existing clients.

1.  Survey/Interview existing clients

Without this survey, the whole thing will fail. Your buyer personas won’t be as useful if you try to do them all by yourself.

First of all, you need to reach out to your existing clients, past and present, to find out who your clients are and what they want from you, in a deep way.

Send them a quick email asking to fill out a micro-survey.

All the ‘survey’ needs to be is: ‘What is your single greatest business challenge’, and ‘Why did you choose to do business with me?’.

You can use Google Forms or Survey Monkey for the survey but an email works too.

The other part of this ‘survey’ you’re going to do yourself.

Use our Target Audience Worksheet to help you think through your clients and their similarities.

This will help you to group your clients into ‘types’ based on more than just their survey answers.

2. Use their answers to build your profiles

Ideally, the answers to their questions (and your own target audience worksheet) are going to give you a lot of really rich data about who your customer is, and what they like about your business.

You’re probably going to get quite a bit of ‘fluff’ as well but that’s ok.

Put your clients’ answers into a spreadsheet and you’ll start to see some similarities in the language people use when talking about their business and their challenges. This is exactly what you’re looking for.

You’ll likely notice is a ‘pattern of problems’ that people have relating to your service and there may be a few of these. This is great.

You want to try and put your customers into ‘groups’ or ‘buckets’, so try to find the similarities between them. To help you do this you may find it useful to add surrounding data you have on your clients from the Target Audience Worksheet.

Create maybe three or four of these groups of issues, the kinds of customers that experienced them and their corresponding solutions (or anything the client said about them in their response).

3. Filter your prospects with a survey

Once you’ve put together your customer surveys and merged it with the answers on your Target Audience Worksheet, you should have three or four groups of similar people and their issues. These are your ‘target clients’ or ‘ideal client personas’.

But simply having a client persona isn’t going to help you stop wasting time with non-ideal clients. You need to act on them.

There are various ways of using your personas, all of which will help grow your business, but the one we’re focusing on today is the filter survey.

This is simply getting all your new prospects to answer a few key questions, which will enable you to sort them into groups.

Each of your groups should have one main ‘headline’ problem – this would be an ideal question to instantly filter your prospects.

This could be a simple drop-down or checkbox with options chosen from the actual words people have said back to you.

For example, you might ask:

What is your biggest challenge as a business:
1) Finding new customers
2) Delivering assets on time/to budget
3) Developing new products/services
4) Other: (leave space for them to write).

The answers you get should help you to sort your clients into groups, so you know what language to use and what solutions they are likely to want.

Usually, you’ll need more than one question to accurately sort your prospects but you can continue to ask ‘filtering’ questions as you get to know them.
Don’t be afraid to say no

One of the hardest parts about using a target audience or buyer persona is saying ‘no’ when the prospect is not a good fit. But you must stick to your guns. I talked about this on my September Webinar (click here to watch it).

You don’t have to be mean about it and you’ll find people often appreciate your honesty.

When you get a prospect that doesn’t fit in your persona, be as polite and helpful as possible but make sure they understand that you are not the right person to help them out. Instead, point them in the direction of someone who might be able to help them out. Then move on.

Not only will you find yourself wasting less time chasing clients that never buy, but if you’ve done your personas properly, you’ll also find those clients coming back to work with you again and again.

Let me know in the comments below if you have any techniques or questions you use to find your perfect clients – I’d love to hear them

 

 

 

Not Getting the New Business You Want? Take a Closer Look at Your Target Audience.

Grab the target audience worksheet 

As a creative professional, you know the impact of branding, market differentiation, and design, on your clients’ business. But what about your own business? Have you established your own brand positioning? Do you really recognize and understand your own target audience?

When you try to work on your own branding, marketing, messaging, or differentiation, do you get confused and overwhelmed? Do you find it so challenging to achieve consensus with the key players in your firm that your business stagnates? Establishing brand positioning is incredibly difficult when you are your own client and almost impossible when you don’t clearly understand your audience. Grab the target audience worksheet here.

Step away from your comfort zone

It’s tempting to position yourself as a ‘Jack of all trades’ ready to take on any challenge and help every client succeed, but being all things to all people is tough in today’s very crowded marketplace. It’s a bold – and sometimes frightening – step to pinpoint a target audience and go after it, but it may be just what your firm needs to succeed. Most business I work with are reluctant to choose a specific audience, fearing they will lose out on business opportunities from other sectors. But once they begin to understand their audience more deeply, they soon begin to reap the rewards of specialization.

Understand your best clients

You may find a target audience that is a very clear fit with your firm, right under your nose. I have one client who did 80% of their work with boutique hotels, yet continued to take on whatever work was going, spending time and money trying to be all things to all people. Once they decided to focus their attention and new business efforts exclusively on the boutique hotel sector, their new message drew new clients to them, and the time they spent with one client was directly transferable to others.

If a specific market sector does not seem to be a good fit with your firm, think about the client types you work with successfully. For example, you may find that you connect well with CEOs or marketing directors and are more successful when you tailor your message specifically to these roles.

Start making a list

Want a clue about who you might want to target? Write a description of your top 5 clients. What do they have in common? How much of your annual revenue did they generate? Are they easy to work with? Are they all in the same kind of business? Does the work you do for them build your reputation or increase your expertise in a specific industry? Do they have the same position within a company or the same way of working with you? As you focus your attention on these top 5 clients, you may find that they have more in common than you thought – and that their similarities help you differentiate your business and develop a successful target market

Talk – and listen.

Once you know who you’re speaking to, stakeholder interviews can help you learn more about the messages that will resonate with them. Using the boutique hotel firm as an example, stakeholder interviews with marketing directors at several boutique hotels showed that “keeping rooms filled” was a top concern for all of them. Knowing this, we were able to design and implement marketing campaigns focused specifically on filling rooms. Within 4 months of inbound marketing, my client started getting calls from prospects who said: “You understand our business and we want to talk to you about a project”. Does it get any better than that?

Want new business? Start now

New business doesn’t usually ‘just happen’, it takes time, planning, and thoughtful analysis to stand out from the crowd, understand who you and your best clients are, and attract the new clients you’re after. The first step? Start now and take a good hard look at your business, your clients, and the kind of people you want to work with.  For more clarity, grab the target audience worksheet here.