What are the attributes of an ideal client?
Fletcher Prince is still a new company, in many ways, and I haven’t worked with loads of clients before. But I feel fortunate that my client relationships have mostly worked out, because I’m not sure I’ve put lots of thought into it. Today I read a great article in The Washington Post about a successful design firm, Design Army, that got me thinking. The principals of this firm decided upfront what kinds of clients they would and would not work with. For example, they do work with high end clients and they don’t work with health care clients.
So, I ask you: if you could work for your ideal client, what would that person be like, for you? Have you conceptualized your ideal client vs. just working with the next person you think is willing to buy from you? Have you ever wrote it down on paper? I think that would be a good exercise.
Think about it. Think about how your business would change if it was made up of “ideal clients.” What are your current or former favorite clients like? What did you love about working with them? What common traits did they share?
- Is it the type of company, the industry, what they do? And if so, what kinds of industries do you gravitate toward, and why? Do you fear getting locked into one type of industry?
- Does the company or nonprofit have to be established and reputable for you to be interested in working with them? Or would you work with a start-up? Do you like the prestige of big-name clients, or do you love helping an underdog take a bite out of the competition?
- Do they have to share your values about an issue before you work with them? For example, if you thought smoking was unhealthy, would you think twice about working with a firm that manufactured cigarettes?
- Is it personality? Factors like a sense of friendliness, humor, trust, reliability? Would you invite your client to a party? Would they invite you?
- Is it how they treat you? Pay on time? Provide testimonials? Refer your company to others?
- Does it just boil down to revenues for you? What would a company (or nonprofit) have to boast in revenues (or budget) to attract you? $1 million? $250 million? Quite a bit more, or quite a bit less?
- And building on that last question — and I’m sorry, but I have to go there — has the recession altered the kinds of clients you would be willing to work with? Are you compromising a little, or a lot? No judging here, just wondering if the economy is impacting you in this way.
I know I’ve posed a lot of questions here and not a lot of answers. I need to think about them, myself. You know what they say, if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there. When I read about what makes a client relationship work, the one factor I hear mentioned the most is “communication.” I would agree with that. But there has to be more to it than that. I think that’s what Design Army discovered.
What works for you? Do you have an ideal type of client? Did deciding that change your business for the better?