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Saying no to new clients is one of the most important things you need to do to grow a healthy business. There’s a lot written about creating a profile for your ‘ideal customer’. We think it’s as important to truly understand, and have the discipline to avoid, the ‘wrong customer’ for your growing business. ~ Bryony Thomas, Author | Watertight Marketing

One of the core concepts in the Watertight Marketing book is about ensuring that you ensure that you’re not draining your commercial and personal energy on ‘The Wrong Kind of Work’. It’s the area that I come back to with businesses of all sizes again, and again. 

Using the PP Matrix, which is a model that has evolved from the original concept of balancing Passion & Profit in the first edition of the book, you can define what this means for you. My view is that the customers that you bring into your business are like food you put into your body. It has to be the right stuff, otherwise it is essentially damaging. You need to fill your business with healthy work, that is work that sits in balance between lighting your soul, and filling your cophers.

Create four customer avatars…

Creating a profile of your ideal customer is common marketing practice. But, we think you need to go futher. It can be as powerful to build up a clear picture of the wrong customer too. It is just as important to have a profile and a process for those you wish to filter as for those you wish to funnel.

We guide people to create four customer avatars, in the following groups:

  • Focus Customers group, those you love that also make a decent profit.
  • Maybe Yes group, those you love that don’t make such good profit.
  • Maybe No group, those that don’t light your fire, but do make money.
  • No group, those you don’t enjoy working with and don’t make money.

The sorts of things to ask that will help you build this up include:

  • Does this sort of work make you proud?
  • Does this work stimulate you intellectually?
  • Do you and your team enjoy spending time with the sorts of people this brings into your business?
  • Would this work help you attract really good team members?
  • Does this kind of work use the skills you are truly best at?
  • Does the way in which they wish to engage suit your infrastructure?
  • Can you provide the level of service you wish to within what they are willing to pay?

In doing this exercise, clients will often start to put previous or existing clients into the various categories. A retrospective look at those instances where the relationships didn’t really work can help you to work this out. What were the ‘red flags’ that looking back gave you an inkling that this wasn’t right. They were usually there. By bringing these into focus, you’ll be more alert to them next time.

For example, if we meet an MD who wants us ‘to take marketing off her plate’ – we know that this is not someone we’ll enjoy working with. This is a mindset issue, and we can pick it up through language clues. Equally, if we have a micro business owner who is not technically savvy enough to work their way through our Webschool resources and engage in online communities, we simply cannot afford to help them. This is an infrastructure and resourcing issue, and we can pick this up through technical profiling.

Just say no…

Once you’e built up this picture, we would strongly advise sticking to it and being disciplined about not taking on work that won’t energise your business. I completely understand that there are times when businesses feel commercially compelled to take on work that isn’t exactly ideal. But, except in the most drastic of circumstances, I would counsel anyone to think long and hard about doing this. It will eat resources that might be better used finding the good stuff… rather than being exhausted by doing work that’s not right.

© Watertight Marketing Ltd


For more on ‘The Right Kind of Work, check out these posts:

Bryony Thomas

Bryony Thomas

Author & Founder, Watertight Marketing

Bryony Thomas is the creator of the multi-award winning  Watertight Marketing methodology, captured in her best-selling book of the same name. She is one of the UK's foremost marketing thinkers, featured by the likes of Forbes, The Guardian, Business Insider and many more, and in-demand speaker for business conferences, in-house sales days and high-level Board strategy days.

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