Do you know YOUR ideal client? 95% of companies don’t!

If you think that’s an exaggeration, not so according to Murray Smith, successful businessman and author of the New York Times best seller ‘The Answer’. Before you switch off, perhaps thinking “This will only apply to the American market”, why not stick with it because what he was talking about was, I strongly believe, generic, not country- or culture-specific.

In an interview I saw recently the host introduced a budding entrepreneur businesswoman to Murray Smith and asked her what would be the one gem she would like to learn from him. The answer was how to get more clients – no real surprise there, then and Mr Smith opined that there are two things that apply to all businesses:

  1. They all want more clients and more income
  2. They each recognise the belief they’re different and unique

He took the second point first and asked the guest to describe what she did in order to help him decide his strategy for her.

Defining the offer

Without going into detail his incisive questioning enabled him to elicit from her that, over and above being a business coach – which anyone could claim to be – and improving interdepartmental communications in larger companies – which she started out by saying, what she actually did enabled her (business/ corporate) clients to ensure that not only did they have the “right people on the bus” but also that they were on the right seats on the bus. Now that, Mr Murray said is crucial for an organisation’s success and growth.

And that positions her work squarely under the heading of profit centre as opposed to cost centre and already distinguishes her from 99% of business coaches… The host admitted that whilst she’d known her guest for some time only now did she really ‘get’ what she did!

How do you describe what you do?

Who do you do it for? AKA your ideal client…

Now this guy has worked with some big Fortune 500 companies and this is where he dropped the killer clanger – that 95% of them don’t know their ideal client. :-(

To illustrate this he tells the story of an American restaurant company with a failing Canadian franchise. They’ve spent millions of dollars over three years targeting 25 – 40 year old males, trying to improve custom. Mr Smith discovers within minutes that the decision makers (in Canada, anyway) were in fact 35 – 50 year old females… and the story has a happy ending of reversal in fortune :-)

Returning to our budding entrepreneur, Murray Smith next asked her to describe her ideal client, which she happily did, drawing on a current one, using traditional demographics such as company size, industry and location.

A perfectly acceptable approach except that the company’s psychographics were much more important and relevant to her. Murray Smith redefined her ideal client for her roughly as follows:

A solid, successful company, affected by the economy; wants to change; looking for innovative, creative ideas – and will pay…

As she could currently only handle another one or two clients, he said he wouldn’t even consider demographics.

How would you describe YOUR ideal client?

As Murray Smith says – the sales process is unique and different in each case but for our budding entrepreneur it’s pretty simple:

CEOs and executives know other CEOs and executives… She should go to her current client and ask for referrals… 😉

Would the budding entrepreneur have got there on her own?

Not easily and maybe not for years, if at all. Yes she is a business coach but her expertise is self-admittedly not in getting clients! Can just anybody do what he did? No 😉

I’m a firm believer that we all need help with different aspects of our business from time to time, and struggling alone with the likes of the two key issues addressed here just doesn’t make any kind of sense to me…

The video of the interview is Simple Steps to Business Success on

Your comments on this post and/ or the interview, as always much welcomed… :-)

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5 Responses to “Do you know YOUR ideal client? 95% of companies don’t!”

  1. Gabriella says:

    A lot of people are unaware as to who their clients are. They have an idea but have no real confirmation on it. I know of someone who was asked ‘who is your target market’ and he mumbled a response – he had no real idea who and what they were. Sad but true. People and business need to make a point in deciding this. It is very crucial.

  2. It’s interesting that demographics are less important than psychographics. That seems to be the key that unlocks the answers. Thanks for the post.

  3. Alison Wren says:

    Thanks for this – I’ve just been working on this very subject for a new venture and it’s quite tough to do when you don’t have any history. I think it’s something that you can’t just do once and forget – you need to keep coming back to it.

  4. Dan Knowlson says:

    For some reason I’d always been a bit sceptical of the idea of narrowing down your ideal client! But having done so since launching our raw chocolate business last Nov it’s really helped bring focus and clarity to our messages (and still improving all the time).
    I now see that it’s not about excluding people, but about fine tuning your message for best results. And as if by magic people outside your ideal client aren’t excluded at all.
    Great post Linda

  5. Babs says:

    This is one of the first things I ask every client – “who is your ideal customer?”. Many are flummoxed at the very idea of such but having learned this one the hard way over the years, know it is vital for sustained success.
    Great post, Linda – thank you

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