We choose our customers just as much as they choose us
We all have our favourite customers, it’s only natural. Some we like for personal reasons – they stick the kettle on and break open the biscuit barrel the minute we arrive. Some give us the kind of work we love, and trust our skills and advice. Some are more profitable for our business.
But how many of us have really worked out what kinds of customers we want in the future, and how to get them? I was a decorator for 14 years, and it took me time to learn and get the kind of work I really enjoyed, and also brought in a decent income. Sometimes it’s not easy to work out what we really want to do, and how to get there. So here are a few pointers to help.
List your best customers
A marketing analyst told me a few years ago to make a list of my best clients: who they were, the types of jobs, how profitable those jobs were per hour, how good the clients were at paying, how much repeat business I got from them, and how much I enjoyed each job.
I went back over nearly two years of contracts and made a list. It showed up jobs I’d underpriced or priced well, I gave a rough score out of ten based on how much I’d enjoyed each job.
I worked out that my ideal spread of work was a split between long-term upgrades of old, large properties, and short-term quick turnarounds of rentals and commercial jobs. That split worked well for me financially and in terms of job satisfaction. It’s an illuminating exercise to do yourself. Make a list of your past customers and break down who were the best ones and why. That ‘why’ is really important.
What work do you want to do?
In my last article in The Decorator, I suggested you think about where you want to be in 10 years time. It’s useful to break that down into shorter time spans. Work out what kind of work you want this year, whether it’s more hand-painted kitchens, exteriors, papering, spraying, schools, factories…
Where do you want to work?
Once you’ve worked out what kinds of clients and types of jobs you want to do, work out where those jobs are? If it’s commercial or industrial, where is that work near you? If it’s domestic, what neighbourhoods would be ideal to target?
How to get the customers you want
Now you know the why, what and where. The next bit is most important – how do you get the kinds of customers you want?
My first tip is to switch it around – think like your ideal customer. What are they looking for in a decorator? I can guarantee it’s not just ‘a good job at a decent price’. There will be a load of other factors: whether they know, like and trust you as a person, whether they’ve been recommended to you, whether you can show you’ve done the kind of work they need doing, and whether they like your whole ‘brand’.
By ‘brand’ I don’t mean a logo. A brand is what people think of you when you’re not in the room. Does your brand say ‘tidy, reliable, courteous, on time, a good communicator, skilled, quality, good value’? Everything in your business is your brand – your website, your social media, how you dress, how you communicate with people, how your vehicle looks, how your equipment looks.
If your ‘brand’ image doesn’t align with what your ideal customer is looking for, then maybe you need to change your brand, or perhaps your ideal client isn’t who you thought it was.
For example, I deliberately wrote detailed blogs on aspects of decorating old properties – things like restoring cast iron lattice windows. I went into so much detail that potential customers knew I was skilled, thorough and conscientious, and I got lots of work from it.
How you turn up, both online and in person, can have a big impact on what a potential customer thinks about you, and how likely they are to hire you.
The work starts now
There will always be dozens of ways you can improve your business to get more of the customers you want. So now it’s in your hands – make a list of who you want to be working for in six months time, make a list of what they’re looking for in a decorating firm, and make a list of what you need to change to get those customers.