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Frustrated Because You Keep Getting the Wrong Clients? Five Possible Causes

by Marcia Yudkin

Once upon a time there was a shopkeeper who sold bicycles. However, everyone who stepped into the store or called on the phone was looking for kayaks. As you can imagine, he felt frustrated. He couldn't figure out why this kept happening.

You're probably thinking that there had to be some reason why people kept approaching this shop expecting to buy kayaks instead of bicycles. Perhaps a kayak shop used to be in that location. Perhaps a Yellow Pages ad mistakenly referenced his shop as selling kayaks.

I agree with you that there probably was a logical explanation for the bicycle/kayak misfire. There probably are good (though hidden) reasons when something like this is happening for you, as well. Here are some of the dynamics I've observed affecting my clients and colleagues when unsuitable customers keep showing up and appropriate ones remain nowhere in sight, or they come by and don't seem to "get it."

1. You vs. them. It's easy to forget that you have a different psychological and motivational profile from those in your target market. For example, an adventurous friend of mine leads packaged tours to spiritual sites in South America and Asia that he had discovered on his own. Until I pointed this out, he never realized that those signing up for his tours would inevitably be less adventurous than he just by the fact that they were going with a group.

Accordingly, it was important for his marketing to discuss how well they'd be taken care of on his trips instead of making it seem like they'd be marching off into the great unknown.

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2. Old habits. Many times you grow out of an earlier emphasis and neglect to update your language and imagery for your new focus. This happened with a consultant I know who started off serving low-budget startups and then shifted her aim at mid-sized, more established businesses. "Why is it that online, all I get are freebie seekers and yet through my local networking I am easily getting million-dollar companies as clients?" she once asked me in frustration. (She would have preferred not to do the networking.)

When I looked at her home page, I saw that, like the bicycle shop owner, she was getting leads from the wrong people because she was talking about marketing methods that cost little or nothing. She eliminated the word "low-cost" from her entire web site and stated on the top of her home page that she consulted with owners of businesses with $2 million or up in annual sales. Her problem was solved.

3. A vicious circle. Someone I know has been working for years to build her coaching practice, keeping her fees far lower than her credentials deserve. While listening to her teleseminars, I was struck by how often she aimed at creating rapport with her listeners by recognizing that they are "struggling." That's exactly why she mainly gets clients who can't afford higher fees.

Those who are doing well don't respond to such a pitch. It probably seems simply a fact to her that "people are struggling today." However, her attitude and word choices help create, then reinforce her perception. A different attitude and word choices would attract a different clientele.

4. Resentment of reality. Some highly ethical business owners lament the mentality of typical clients, feeling that they often want the wrong things, have ridiculous expectations or fall too easily for their competitors' scams. These entrepreneurs feel hog-tied, unable to voice their true thinking to customers, not believing that any honest messages would work. Here you have two viable options: Either accept the way most people actually think as your starting point or go after the few who think differently and get them excited about your high-minded approach.

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5. Following the crowd. Many companies and individuals mimic the marketing they see from others in their field, without giving thought to whether or not that fits their offerings and talents. For instance, one chiropractor used imagery of a spine in his logo, despite the fact that he actually spent more time running a wellness practice than "cracking backs." Likewise, someone who had just graduated from a life coaching training program billed herself as a "life coach," like her classmates, even though this phrase didn't capture the fact that she wanted to help parents of troubled teenagers.

Don't beat yourself up if you have one of the above blind spots. Ask for help in diagnosing the reason kayak seekers keep showing up at your door when you are selling bicycles - or no one is coming at all. Change the circumstances causing the mismatch and enjoy greater prosperity and satisfaction.

Copyright 2014 Marcia Yudkin.  All rights reserved.

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