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Are You Leveraging “Success Paths” to Attract Ideal Clients?

Susan Gold

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As business owners, we’re always thinking about where our next clients are going to come from. If we’re smart (which, of course, we are), we’re thinking about not just our current or past clients, but especially our very best clients—the ones we particularly liked working with, could most clearly add value to, and were profitable. 

Why? Because the best path to growth is finding more of them and making them clients as efficiently as possible. Think of it as putting them in the copy machine and creating dozens more, over and over, with just a few presses of a button. If only…

While understanding who our best clients have been is a great place to start, the real task at hand is to figure out how to get more of them.

To do that, we need to analyze where they come from and why they decided to work with us. Then we can build a “success path” to locate more of our Ideal Clients. This is the “light bulb moment” that happens when I talk to my clients about their best clients—making and understanding the connections that reproduces prior successes is the path to repeatable growth.

Putting the Pieces Together

What do we mean by an “Ideal Client”? One that worked well with you, had a good outcome from your engagement, and then went off to successfully achieve their goals.

On your side, they were one you enjoyed working with and met your profitability expectations.

So, how do you find more of them? That starts with uncovering how you found your previous Ideal Clients. Were they referred to you? If so, how? Did they come through your marketing efforts? Which ones? Let’s dive in a bit deeper, starting with referral sources.

Referral Sources

Are you receiving referrals that provide some of your best clients? If so, make sure you know who that referral source is and why they are making that introduction to you. Are they:

  • A key strategic partner who understands your work, the impact you have on your clients, and the trigger points that identify the right need for your solution?
  • A professional that works with your same targeted Ideal Client, either “before, during or after” you typically do (so it’s natural that they would refer you)?
  • A collaborator who brings you in as a natural extension of their services and part of the full solution for the client?
  • A great networker who has taken the time to learn who you can help and what to listen for to trigger the right introductions?

In all of these cases, it’s still important to figure out – from their perspective – why they are connecting you with the right people. There is a reason and it’s not always what you think, so it’s worth the exploration to gain clarity.

Once you’re clear on their motivations (i.e., their perception of your value-add), it’s much easier to replicate.

Paving the Success Path

One referral source is good.  Lots of referral sources are better! And just like replicating your Ideal Clients, you’ll want to take steps to replicate your successful referral partners.

Probably the most valuable thing you can do is to identify which networking organization(s) your best referral partners belong to.

It’s also very important to track those sources, because as good as it is to have that referral partner, you’ll also want to know which groups tend to have the right network that is relevant to your business development efforts. You may consider joining if it looks like a good fit for your targeting.

That said, if you already belong to a group and you are not getting results after about six months, you won’t want to waste your limited time in “the wrong room.”

Know Where You Are and What You’ve Got

It’s critical to track who is referring prospects to you and where they’re from.  I know, I know – as a business owner, who has time for all that? I do. You should, too.

While it feels like an administrative pain in the behind, not staying organized about how your leads are coming to you (and eventually the results) makes it nearly impossible to repeat the process to find more.  

Assuming you are using some sort of CRM (customer relationship management) software (or at the absolute least, a spreadsheet), add “Introduced by” and “Organization Source” fields. Start with your most recent clients (last three to six months) and enter this information. As you do this you’ll start to see patterns emerge—and that will inform how and where you move forward.

It’s also useful to create a running list of your clients, including:

  • What they purchased from you.
  • The revenue amount.
  • Who introduced you and the organization they belong to.

Reviewing that list and ranking them on revenue size, profitability, and fit factors (learn more about this in my prior post or use my PDF to create these client rankings), then we look for patterns in the names and organizations of the highest ranking clients that have come in.

By looking at the referral sources for those clients, there’s an opportunity to look for more of the good ones and to address the low ranking ones by re-educating those sources on your Ideal Client profile.

What’s Your Marketing Doing for you?

If you’re already spending money to attract your Ideal Clients, how is that working?

Maybe you’ve done a presentation or two, run or participated in a webinar, spent money on digital advertising. Regardless of how much or little you’ve expended to date, you need to know which marketing channels are effective at bringing in prospects—and more importantly, prospects that turn into clients.

Sometimes you know exactly which promotional activity resulted in a prospect making an inquiry about you, but more often it’s several touchpoints in the prospect experience journey that results in a new client.

Looking at this at a deeper level will help to uncover a success path by optimizing the most effective marketing channels for your particular offerings.

As with your referral partners, it’s very important to track when and how your connections interact with you. Again, a CRM connected with your website landing pages for promotions, tracking registrations, and attendees for your webinars or presentations are key to staying on top of your prospect pipeline.

Stay in the Know

How are connections engaging? Are they just reading your site? Are they downloading your offers (PDFs of checklists, articles, and other tools demonstrating your expertise)? Are they checking out your LinkedIn pages?

If you don’t know, you’re missing the chance to influence a conversion from prospect to client.

Knowing who is downloading, attending, experiencing, and reacting to your marketing is just as important – not just by name, but by role or title.

As you consider your Ideal Clients, looking at the differences in engagement gives you more information to better target messaging to that specific role.

Keep in mind that there is not a wall between referred prospects and those which have come in through direct marketing efforts. In fact, a major indicator of interest is active engagement on your website or looking at your content. This is a positive sign you should be tracking closely.

Why do all this? Because you have limited marketing funds and you want to spend them wisely and efficiently. You can’t manage what you can’t track or measure!

Tracking the Path

Speaking of tracking, often when you start working with a new client you dive right in and lose that special moment of the “WHY” they decided to hire your company. Asking at the end of the client engagement is too late! Even if they are happy clients, the end result is usually a client testimonial that is too general and doesn’t provide enough context of the “before” state, compared to the current, “after” state.

Capturing the problems – the pain the client is facing up front in the engagement – lets you gather the emotion and stress that comes with being in a “problem state.”

Record the exact words they use in the discovery or consult call when they are articulating their issues before you start solving them. This gives you the key messages that you will want to replicate, especially the ones that are used by prospects that become your highest-valued clients.

*Pro tip* Capturing those pain points in discovery notes and including them in your CRM in a field called “WHY HIRE US” or something similar will make it much easier to build out your messaging framework.

So What Have You Learned?

You have work to do. Not only do you need to be organized and systematic about how you go about prospecting, but you need to find what sources, referral and/or marketing are generating the most promising (and ultimately more productive) prospects. Then you can be intentional about nurturing and replicating those.

You also know that you need to really look hard at not only what common characteristics define your Ideal Client, but you need to capture the reasons why they engaged with you in the first place, i.e., what problems you are relieving for them.

Lastly, you need to keep track of all this in order to find trends, patterns, successes, and things we want to stop spending money on as you work to sustain and grow your businesses… and of course, have fun in the process!

To help you in your journey you can download the Ideal Client PDF here. For more on messaging and marketing, be sure to follow me on LinkedIn.

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