Your “model” buyer, client, or customer is someone whom you target because she or he has several characteristics. I will explain each of these below.
This is part 1 of a 7-part series.
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1. An Ideal Customer…
arrives to appointments on time
This is a person who respects your time and arrives to appointments without making excuses, or cancelling at the last second.
I really like the Languages of Appreciation by Gary Chapman. We all have different ways of expressing our gratitude to others, and we generally provide appreciation in the same way that we prefer to be shown appreciation. Sometimes, we may forget that others would prefer to receive value in a different way.
Because my Language of Appreciation is Quality Time, I tend to think more about spending time with people rather than giving Gifts, or doing Acts of Service, or giving Words of Affirmation, or Physical Touch.
When I think of an Ideal Customer, I think of someone who respects my time and wants to make the most of our appointment. You can use this concept as you consider what an Ideal Customer looks like to you.
2. an Ideal Customer…
is upfront about their symptoms and concerns
Many of my clients are licensed medical professionals who own a practice independently. They have extensive knowledge about their specialization, but they aren’t often as familiar with the business side.
It’s great when your customer can tell you exactly what’s wrong and can clearly communicate how they would like your help in solving the problem. Or at least, they come to you with an open mind about how to get relief using your expertise and experience.
You may work in an industry other than healthcare, but this is still applicable. You want to attract customers who are very clear about why they are coming to you, and they can express their need in a way that you can understand: their symptoms, challenge, pain points (as we call it in the marketing world)—problems that causes them to want relief.
If a customer is not clear about this, or if they hide their symptoms, it will not be a very trusting relationship. Accepting a customer who won’t share exactly what’s wrong will keep them from fully benefiting from what you can provide.
3. an Ideal Customer…
respects your policies and procedures
You have set up rules as a business owner, whether you know it or not. (And whether you like rules or not). Some of my customers are not eager to set up strict guidelines for their staff and customers, but rules are very important. We call them policies and procedures.
Policies are the broader ways of defining what needs to be done in your business and aligning those with strategic goals.
Procedures are specific steps we need to take to accomplish the goals, as they align with policies.
These also referred to as P&Ps.
Whether you are aware of them or not, your business already has rules for how it operates. When you write them down and makes sure they are clear, your Ideal Customers will respond by doing things the way you have set them up.
For example, let’s say you want to make sure appointments happen on time. This could come from your core value of Respect or Compassion or Understanding. The policy could be called On-Time Appointments, and the procedure could define how appointments are set up, how communication happens, what happens if an emergency comes up, and what the consequences are if either the customer or the service provider do not arrive on time. The policy and procedure make it clear how everything will be handled.
If a customer does not follow this policy—maybe they decide that their time is more valuable than yours and ghost you on an appointment, or come late, or cancel with no warning, or complain about paying a cancellation fee—then this person is not a good fit for your philosophy. The rules you set in your company are instructions for how customers are guaranteed something in return for something they are expected to do.
An Ideal Customer will agree with and be happy to comply with your rules. It will make sense that your P&Ps are there for a reason, and that the outcome is directly related to how closely they follow your guidance in providing value to them.
It’s also a good idea to be clear with customers about what your P&Ps are, but also be open to adjusting them. Communicate what you want to tell them, but don’t impede communication by creating unnecessary conflict by pushing away great customers just because you’re unwilling to adjust how your service or product is provided to them.
Learning how to adjust rules in a company involves a growing process, but it is important to have rules so everyone knows what to expect.
4. an Ideal Customer…
pays you without complaining
Someone who wants your service or product, and who asks for your expertise in order to relieve their pain should be happy to pay you. They should recognize that your ability to solve their problem has a high value.
This starts with YOU communicating your value to THEM. Before you sign a contract or send a bill or receive any payment, you need to have a straightforward discussion about how much total value you will provide.
Value goes beyond just the numbers. There are so many other things that can benefit your customer:
- Quality of life
- Peace of mind
- Relief from discomfort
- Fixing a pestering issue
- Knowing we have security
- Feeling fulfilment
These are things that don’t have a dollar amount. So the total valuation from investing in your services should be much, much higher (I recommend at least double, but aim for 5x to 10x) what they will pay you.
When someone fights you about the amount you charge and disagree with how much they are willing to pay, and they don’t believe it is of much value, then they will fight the exchange of payment. They will resist finishing the transaction.
I talk about Transaction Avoidance Syndrome, which is an outcome of fear in a business owner, which causes them to be nervous about receiving payments.
Read more about it in these posts:
But this can also happen in reverse, where a customer is not interested in paying because they are unconvinced of the value they are receiving. Or the customer’s experience during the purchase process is uncomfortable:
- The payment process is delayed
- The payment process is confusing
- A problem was not resolved to their satisfaction
- They were never billed for services
When this happens, a customer’s perception of the total value they received is reduced. So they don’t believe they should pay the full amount that was originally quoted.
All of these potentially toxic situations are great discussions to have, even if they are painful: talking to a dissatisfied customer, or identifying why customers refuse to pay, or why invoices are delayed and need to be chalked up to “bad debt” after 3 months.
By facing these difficult topics, you as a business owner can adjust for the future and avoid making the same mistakes.
A customer who is Ideal should believe that your price is reasonable, they should be thrilled to pay you because they recognize how much value they’re getting, and they should not fight the payment process. Conversations about transactions should be built into your sales process—ideally, before the service is even done. Customers should be so convinced of the value that they are willing to pay in advance of receiving the value.
5. an Ideal Customer…
responds well to services or treatment
What you offer should enhance the experience of the people you serve. Their outcome should solve a condition they wouldn’t otherwise be able to fix. Once they have purchased and received the scope of your work, they should leave the buying experience with an improved condition… and they should be fully aware of it.
For example, a chiropractor might set up an initial visit to evaluate the patient’s alignment. So they will diagnose the problem and schedule a session to provide treatment and fix the problem. Their patient should feel that a change is happening, and they should respond to the treatment.
If nothing is changing, then the practitioner should review with the patient whether an alternate therapy or service is needed. In order to satisfy the patient’s need, she or he needs to know that improvement has happened and also be aware that it is due to the services.
6. an Ideal Customer…
is a pleasure to serve
You should enjoy being around your customers. They should be fun to help. Something that sets apart the business owners who achieve their long-term goals is a passion to see a change happen for others. This passion will drive you to continue pushing yourself to new levels of excellence. You will want to keep providing help to your patients.
When you enjoy serving your customers, and you find it exciting to wake up and watch others progress through treatment or improvement, this is an indicator you’re serving Ideal Customers.
But if you wake up and you think, “Ugh, I have to see those people again. And I have to keep doing this for twenty more years!” That’s probably a sign that there’s a disparity between your passion and the people who you’re serving.
Maybe you have a mental or emotional barrier, or you’re stuck in a professional rut. Or perhaps you’ve been serving the wrong types of customers. So that feeling of discouragement and dissatisfaction, and unhappiness could be due to the lack of response from the people who are coming to you.
Ideal customers should excite you and make you want to serve more people like them. In turn, that positive energy will attract more Ideal Customers to your business.
7. an Ideal Customer…
agrees with your philosophy and beliefs.
The final aspect of serving an Ideal Customer is that they align with the way you think.
Creating rules (policies and procedures) is just one aspect of establishing a business that is successful. The other aspect is that you set goals and know exactly what you believe, how you see the world, and how you want to make a difference. Your philosophies will not be changed by outside forces. You are going to stay true to what you believe.
Now, sometimes our beliefs change by being around people who teach you new things, experiences that will push you outside your comfort zone. Old beliefs may not have been fully thought through. When we make decisions as children, they may be based on misunderstandings or flawed and biased ideas. Many core beliefs are flawed. We may put our hope in things that may be disingenuous. We may blindly trust people that we later learn are fraudulent and abusive. I’ve experienced all of this myself.
So sometimes we need to question what our core beliefs are. Since I have the INTP personality type, I am most comfortable when asking difficult questions:
- Are my core beliefs still accurate?
- Do I see the world the same way I did 10 years ago?
Chances are, you have changed a lot in the last few years.
We tend to communicate our fundamental views and philosophies subconsciously to everyone around us. And we also attract others around us who share those same beliefs, even if we don’t realize it.
Leaders who go through a transition or “aha moment” may realize that they need to significantly shift how their business operates. They may realize that customers they’ve been serving no longer align with how the owner now sees the world. So they have to make a difficult choice:
- Do they serve the current customers with the new way of thinking, or do they explain the change?
Some customer will decide they don’t agree with the new direction. They may not understand the passion and philosophy.
You may lose customers (and staff) once you make a major shift and when you focus on your passion, belief, and philosophies. But losing customers who are not Ideal is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s better to focus your efforts on serving people who agree with your fundamental values, because this will allow you to provide them with even better outcomes and higher value.
In the next post, I’ll share some free tools that can help you find and attract buyers.
If you are interested in hearing how you can reverse a toxic workplace, find out more here.
Grace LaConte is a business consultant, writer, workplace equity strategist, and the founder of LaConte Consulting. Her risk management tools are used around the globe, and she has successfully reversed toxic work environments for clients in the healthcare and non-profit fields. Grace specializes in lactation law compliance & policy development, reducing staff turnover after maternity leave, and creating a participatory work culture.