Building a business is tough. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Often times the toughest part though isn’t getting enough business to pay the bills but rather getting the right kind of business. The kind where you can share your gifts for the good of your clients and take steps toward reaching long-term growth goals: that’s a mutually beneficial business relationship.
When we started building Shout Out we wanted to help everyone. And we still do WANT to, to an extent. At the time we would take on any business that fit into our expertise. Any project that included services listed on our website – no matter how small or how unrealistic the timeline. We were taking smaller brush strokes for the chance to paint a big picture someday – adding funds to our account so we could pay our small team, invest in tools and live to market another day.
But too much time in that zone can hurt more than help. Client partnerships that don’t fit can make accomplishing anything at all more tough than it should be. It takes three hours to complete something that should take one. It takes rebuilding trust at every decision. It takes more update meetings than necessary. It lacks proper communication. It includes two different paradigms on what a successful outcome looks like and those paradigms get in the way of each other. Projects that don’t fit, whether due to budget or timeline or available resources, can negatively impact other projects that do fit. It can risk your other, good client relationships.
Getting caught in the habit of taking on projects and clients that you know aren’t right for your business, just because the pulse of cash flow would be nice, is no good for either party. When you “take the money and run” you never stay put long enough to build something lasting, something that pays dividends to you or your client.
To help you better understand how to get more healthy client partnerships create a profile of characteristics:
Define Your Niche
Where do you play at your best? If applicable, is there an industry or geographic area you see the best results from your efforts? These can help you create ideal client profiles and play into specific marketing campaigns.
Determine Your Top 3-5 New Business Sources
Look at your current clients and pinpoint your best matches. This doesn’t mean the ones you joke the most with on conference calls – though that is important – these are the clients that utilize your expertise in the best way. These are the partnerships where you both contribute effectively to the success of the other party.
Where do most of those great relationships come from? Are they all client referrals? From your website via organic search? From your business development executives?
If it’s possible to pinpoint that main source of great relationships it’s worth putting extra effort into that channel to prove or disprove the theory that more great business will flow from that faucet.
Understand Your Profitability Status
Within your current products/services where are your biggest opportunities to increase profitability? Is there a need to work on extensions of those products or services and if so how do you work that into your marketing so that you attract folks with those needs? Are there areas of your business that become a burden on projects? A service that drains resources or maybe isn’t in your true area of expertise where you could partner with a third-party in order to be better for your clients and yourself?
Of course, defining the right client partnerships works both ways. People and companies in search of a product or service should also jot down characteristics of what they’re looking for. If cost is important it should be on the list, clearly defined with a clear “why” but it shouldn’t be the only box to check.
Photo credit: Kevin Dooley
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