The #2 Threat to Self-employed and Small Businesses

Having written about the single most costly pitfall several weeks ago, today I got - yet another - good look at #2 : believing that any customer is a good customer.

On the contrary, knowing your best customers is a goldmine for a small business. Best customers are your most profitable: they cost least to acquire and to satisfy, and they connect you with more best customers. Targeting them, mapping the segment, and discovering how to communicate with them, is a direct route to a thriving enterprise.

When the chemistry is right between provider and customer, everything is easier: they're most likely to get what they want, enjoy their experience, return for more, and spread the word to others.

When the chemistry is not right – when business and customer don't enjoy a good fit – you're likely to wear yourself out efforting to please people who are not going to be happy with you.

Certainly best Customers will benefit from one or more results that you’re good at delivering, and that you enjoy providing. Sometimes customers know what they want before they meet you, sometimes not. (No one was looking for an iPhone.) Sometimes discovering what will serve them best is part of the benefit you provide.

Mood is an increasingly important part of the match between a business and its best customers. Mood is a natural differentiator and a key part of customer experience. (Consider your favorite places to do business. What is the mood of those places?)

There are many ways prospects can pursue a desired result, including, of course, via your competitors. Any customer will find it natural to operate in a certain way: a set of behaviors, moods, and mindsets feel natural to them, as they do to you. If their prevalent mood and mindset matches yours – and fits the promise and the experience you intend for customers - you have the best chance of a good relationship.

And the sooner you find out whether you’ve got a good match, the better for both of you.

For example, the people who groom my standard poodle call their business, Hair of the Dog. As soon as I heard that name, I knew they were the right ones for me (as opposed to Pets Galore, North West Pets, Joe's Pet Service…). Sure enough, I like their mood, the pace at which they move, the way they track customer preferences, and the way they handle animals. They are inconveniently located for me, but I never question making the trip (driving across town twice in one day, says this woman who hates driving…) There are several groomers within walking distance of my house; I’ve never tried them. Nor do know how much any of them charge. What I know is that my elderly dog is relaxed when I pick her up, and happy to say a leisurely goodbye to the groomer rather than trying to hide behind my legs or bolt out the door.

And every time someone says, “What a beautiful dog”, I gladly take the opportunity to support their business.

To begin employing the power of mood with your best customers, dive in here:
• What mood feels most natural to you?
• What traits attract you to people?
• What is the prevalent mood of your favorite people?
• What is the mood you like to work in?

Take the liberty to identify who you really enjoy doing business with. Chances are, it’s mutual. Note who drags you down, and stop working with them, rather than struggling to please them. One of my clients finally terminated a difficult client last year - giving up a $3 million account - and her business has since taken off. She’s got vibrant new projects, and her margins are among the best in the industry.

Rather than disciplining yourself to serve everyone, focus on serving those who will enjoy it most. Benefit and pleasure have a way of going together.

Once having identified your best customers, explore how you can do even more for them. Pay attention to how they speak, and learn to speak their language. And ask yourself: is there more than one segment in the group?

The clients and colleagues I fit best with operate in a mood of learning. They're curious and thoughtful. Though action-oriented, they value reflection. They appreciate powerful questions that spark fresh thinking about business environments, what they offer and how they deliver, mistakes they may have made…They want to see where they're blind. They have a lot in common. However, clients and colleagues are 2 different segments – and I serve them in different ways.

They’re all best customers, and by understanding each segment, I can deepen my value to both.

Who are your best customers? What more would you like to do for them? Focus on that, and avoid the costly, common mistake of believing that any customer is a good customer.

Have best customer examples you'd like to share?

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