“We choose our joys and sorrows long before we experience them.” —Khalil Gibran

Sometimes serving our customers feels more like a drain than the satisfaction we’d rather have. We might be able to turn that around… read on for some ideas on that.

We all fall into the trap of taking customers as they come. Sometimes customers appear that are clearly not a good fit, so obvious that we really can’t say yes. Others don’t choose us because we just don’t fit for their needs, budget, or inclinations at the time. But aside from those two scenarios, we mostly don’t spend a lot of time and energy choosing our customers. Why is that? And what can we do about it?

If you’ve gone through any extensive marketing prep, you’ve thought about, and even documented, who your ideal customer is. Maybe you call that an avatar or a persona. That idealized customer represents who would most be attracted to your product or service, most persuaded by your offer: on both a problem-solving level as well as an emotional or aspirational level. All your marketing, and maybe your new product or service development, focuses on meeting their various needs. And you might have one of these idealized customer descriptions for each major category product or service you offer.

One note about idealized customer descriptions before I move on to inverting this process: idealization frequently leaves reality behind. We need to remember, you and I, that the best way to capture what our customers want and need is to listen to real customers or prospects. That is, in fact, the ONLY way to understand. Now, if you’ve been in business a long time, chances are you understand a lot of this through the conversations you’ve had over the years with your customers. That’s great. Still a good idea to check in with the current reality, rather than counting on the idealized version.

How can we turn this around? Let’s start by thinking about the entire customer interaction as a relationship you and they are building.

Ideally, customers would like to find someone they can trust and buy from multiple times – that saves them time, energy, and creates a situation where they feel like they can predict the results. Think about this yourself as a consumer – you’d rather spend less time doing a bunch of research finding a new business than relying on the good experience from one you already know.

On the other side of this equation sits your business. Marketing ROI increases dramatically when you have repeat customers and referrals. Period. This needs to be your number one aim of all marketing so that you’re not throwing money away constantly counting on new customers.

This relationship unintentionally favors the customer. They set the stage for the entire relationship as we currently handle this. That’s because we, as business owners, defer to taking the customers as they show up. Feels bad to us to decline someone’s business.

But how about if we put some hurdles in place? Or set some boundaries?

Think about it: how much do you love serving customers that ask tons of questions and don’t buy. Or complain endlessly about your service or your product. Or want to negotiate on absolutely everything. Or never have something good to say about any of the work you do. That and more take a huge toll on your business: both time and energy. And really, most of those customers aren’t ever going to be worth it.

Here are some ideas for setting the situation up so that you’re creating a mutually beneficial win and not just an exchange of financial value at the whim of the customer (these entirely depend on your type of business, be creative):

  1. Setup of a free, short consultation first – 15 minutes – and be very focused in how you’re going to learn the key indicators of whether this will be a fit for you.
  2. Ask for a questionnaire to be completed to determine fit.
  3. Post a sign indicating you’re looking for a good relationship with customers – and perhaps 3 hallmarks of that: what you’ll do, what you’d like them to do, what it looks like together. And perhaps at the bottom, the agreement to not work together if there isn’t a match.
  4. Engage in a small project first, very small, to get an understanding of how this feels to you.

I’m sure there are more ideas – let me know what you come up with! I’m happy to brainstorm with you.

In all cases, you and I both need to take care of ourselves and cut things off pleasantly if and when we realize it just isn’t a fit. A referral out to another business, another shop, someplace you think they will get their needs met – and let them know you think they’d be happier with so-and-so. Or maybe it’s just goodbye because you see that this just isn’t a good fit.

I guarantee that if your customer set meets more of the needs of your business both financially and emotionally, you’ll have a lot more energy and enthusiasm for going the extra mile to be successful.

“I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn’t arrived yet. I have just one day, today, and I’m going to be happy in it.” —Groucho Marx

P.S  We have a project currently going on to test out a new process to help businesses get a good fit with customer, offer, and the strengths of your business. This is free right now. We’d love if you take a look and sign up to give this a try. Then let us know how it went. Thank you! Learn more at our Fit-Finding Session page.

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