Last week I was helping a group of consultants start the process of winning their own new clients. Many of the consultants, similar to most accountants and lawyers, had a mental block with the word selling and the ‘ra-ra’ element of starting to market themselves. (The ‘ra-ra’ is their words not mine). After all, most professionals would much prefer that their deeds and results do the talking for them. Unfortunately, life isn’t like that!

One of the best ways of removing this mental block is to remember that you are not selling, you are creating the right conditions for clients to buy. Before you can do this, you need to understand what you clients want to buy, and the process they go through to actually buy someone like you. This article explores the 9 ways you can find out what they are looking for.

Before you can actively start to grow your profile in order to attract the right type of clients, you need to put yourself in your client’s shoes and understand what is going on in their world. It can be very tempting to skip this step and just assume you know what they want, need and are interested in. However, as Phil, an accountant with a growing specialisation in independent retail businesses found out, there is a rich source of priceless insight when you take the time to talk with clients and prospects to get their view of the world.

Different ways to do your market research

Here are 9 different ways you can get to know your target client:

  1. Reading the trade-related press, blogs and articles
  2. Following companies and individuals from your niche market on social media; e.g LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google+
  3. Attending relevant industry events, such as conferences and seminars
  4. Interviewing people who work within the industry, particularly your existing clients
  5. Running focus groups for people within the industry or customers/clients of your niche market
  6. Sending out a survey or questionnaire
  7. Reading online forums
  8. Reading the websites, blogs, reports and white papers provided by your competitors
  9. Signing up for newsletters from your competitors and niche market.

How to get agreement for a client interview

One of the most valuable, and probably the most daunting way is to do a series of research interviews. Here are some tried and tested tips to get agreement to these interviews:

  • Don’t make it about you and what you need. Your reason for doing them is to understand them and their business in more depth so you and your firm can better tailor your services to them.
  • Don’t ask for too much. Most people will say yes to a 15-minute or even 30-minute phone call. Go with the availability in their diary, not when you have time to talk.
  • Send the questions in advance and keep them short and opened ended.
  • Don’t give any hint of wanting to sell to them. Make this absolutely clear from the outset.

How often to do client research interviews?

Research interviews are not something that you do once. They become more powerful if you one or two of them every single month. The insight they bring you will help you polish and hone your marketing, in particular the content they want to read, watch and listen to. It is not unusual to flush out some more client work as a result of doing the interview.

In summary

The deeper you understand your ideal client, the easier it becomes to attract and win them.