It may sound counter-intuitive, especially if you’re new to running your own business, but all business is not always good business. The biggest mistake most new business owners make is falling into the trap of accepting all work – for the sake of cash flow – rather than the best work.

Best work is the work that comes from your ideal customers. Best work is likely to pay better and be more fulfilling. The secret is getting more ‘best’ work? Working closely with more ideal customers.

Who is your ideal customer?

I have a colleague who says her ideal customer is the one who pays ahead of time and sends her flowers and champagne. The point is this: my colleague loves working with this client, and they love working with her. They are a business match, perfect for each other.

It takes time, effort, clarity and bravery to become clear on your ideal client. Sometimes you may kiss a lot of frogs before finding the ideal prince! But it’s worth the effort. After all, the ability to find a customer, sell your product or service to that customer, and satisfy the customer so they buy from you over and over is why you went into business.

Be clear

The greater clarity you have with regard to your ideal customer, the more focused and effective your marketing efforts will be.

Look at your product or service from their point of view

What needs do you fulfill? What problems do you solve? Your ideal customer is the one who fits your product and service perfectly, is delighted by it, and will rave about it. So don’t look at how great your product is from your perspective, but how great it is from theirs! List all the benefits.

Write your ideal customer profile

Be specific. Don’t think ‘everyone’ is your customer. Write down their age, education, occupation or business. What is his or her income or financial situation? What is his or her situation today in life or work? Where do they live?

Do some research – how do they buy now?

How does your ideal customer buy your product or service? How has your customer bought similar products or services in the past? What is their buying strategy and how do they go about making a buying decision for your product? Once you know that, you will be able to clearly define where you need to be in that purchase process.

Most business owners aren’t clear about their ideal customer. Therefore they waste a lot of time and money trying to sell their product or service to people who aren’t good potential clients.

Clearly defining and focusing in on the ideal customers who can and would most rapidly buy your product or service is essential to your business success.

When marketers refer to the client Loyalty Ladder where do you picture your clients?

Direct marketing, also known as relationship marketing is concerned with establishing a long term relationship with your client and the Loyalty Ladder is a concept worth harnessing.

It’s easy to see that relationship marketing doesn’t just look for “one off” sales. By nurturing and continuing your relationship with your clients you maximise your income potential with the least amount of effort. And doesn’t that just make sense?

This strategy applies whether you have an online business or a bricks and mortar business. And whether you are selling services or products. It’s simply easier to sell to an existing client than to create a new one. At the same time without a constant source of new potential clients there would be no possibility of an ongoing relationship and eventually business would simply dry up.

So both strategies are essential in the marketing mix.

There’s a whole different philosophy required when you understand the power of the loyalty ladder and take into consideration the life-time value of a client. Taking a longer view enables you to create your business around the needs of your clients so you’ll always have something more they can buy from you.

Either more of the same, your next new offering or your higher level offering. The more purchases your client makes the more they move up in the loyalty stakes.

In marketing terms this is described as the Loyalty Ladder and the objective is to move your prospects progressively up the ladder until they become advocates of your brand.

It’s a great analogy because it’s easy to imagine a ladder where the first step is the beginning of your client relationship and the last step on the ladder is the pinnacle. So picture that ladder in respect of your first engagement with a prospective client – on the bottom rung – through to them being your top cheer leader.

With that in mind you can create your marketing strategies to serve and support people at every level and provide opportunities to take that next step with you.

It looks like this.

Rung #1 Prospect – likely future purchaser (getting to know, like and trust you)

Rung #2 Customer – first-time purchaser (willing to try what you offer)

Rung #3 Client – repeat purchaser (want more of the same)

Rung #4 Supporter – tries your new products/services (want more of what you offer)

Rung #5  Advocate – your brand champion (tells others)

It is also worth remembering that not all prospects will move up the ladder one rung at a time as some will jump a couple of rungs but that is not important. What is important is that your ladder is stable and you are there to provide support and serve your clients every step of the way.