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Have a clear vision of your target clientele and audience

In this month’s edition of In Touch, I’d like to focus on my third principle for success in business: ‘Having a clear vision of your target clientele and audience’. By this I mean the extent to which you have a clear picture of your ideal customer. I think you’d be surprised at the number of businesses I’ve come across over the years who aren’t sure what their ideal customer looks like.

If you are an established business, I recommend that you consider who is / are your ideal client(s) and then take a look at your customer base as a whole to see how it matches up. If you are about to set up a new business or enterprise, make sure you take the time to envisage your perfect client.

Never forget that whilst customers are free to choose your company from what’s available in the marketplace, you are also at liberty to choose your customers. When you’re setting up in business, it may be tempting to work with whoever wants to do business with you. You may feel you can’t afford to pick and choose when you start to trade. But if that client doesn’t fit your criteria for whatever reason at the start of the relationship, then they’re unlikely to fit further down the line – and unlikely to advance your business. As my old boss used to say, “Good business is where all parties gain.”

As Chairman of Brunsdon Financial, I have developed a set of ‘good customer’ criteria that has almost always worked for us. For us, a good customer will:

  • Clearly communicate their needs – it’s very important to know what you are expected to do

  • Allow a reasonable amount of time for the work to be done – quality work takes time

  • Pay a fair price for the work required – it’s important to be paid properly for a good job

  • Pay in a timely fashion – consistently paying late will, in time, sour a relationship

  • Have high integrity – they will be honest and reliable

  • Want an ongoing relationship – repeat business is often the lowest cost to secure

  • Refer you to other prospective customers

  • Give credit where credit is due – they will appreciate you, your services and your products and give fair and constructive feedback

Of course, the criteria you set will very much depend on the type of business that you run. We are providing a service to customers rather than a tangible product. A large proportion of our business is undertaken in a business-to-business as opposed to consumer market. Clients invest a significant amount of their budget with us. All of these factors underpin our definition of a good client. If you are providing healthcare services to the elderly or perhaps a product to the retail market, your definition of a perfect client will differ significantly. My point is that it’s important to spend time considering these criteria – and then to keep them under review.

There is an oft-quoted principle in business that it costs five times as much to attract a new customer than it does to keep an existing one. So, it goes without saying that when you have attracted the right customers for your business, you invest the time to keep them by delivering excellent customer service. This includes keeping in regular touch and ensuring they feel valued.

By now, you won’t be surprised to hear that I’ve developed a list of basic principles to achieve a high level of customer satisfaction:

  • Always be on time – whether this is when arriving for a meeting (including online appointments) or sending a follow-up email

  • Keep your promises – do exactly what you say you will do, or – better still – do more than you promised

  • Always finish what you start. Half a job is as bad, if not worse, than no job at all

  • Be grateful. A please and thank you costs nothing. Not saying it could cost you dearly.

A final note on working with larger enterprises. You’ll know that a feature of these bigger businesses is that key personnel changes are common. You may find that those with whom you have regularly dealt have moved on. When this happens, make sure you introduce yourself to the newbies as soon as possible. After all, they may have their own agenda with regard to suppliers and you won’t want to be side-lined.

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