Harness the power of your best clients to thrive

We find that maybe five out of 100 customers fit our “best client” criteria. Our goal is to have 80 percent fall into that category, but we can’t just get rid of everyone else. How do we get more great clients?

Thoughts of the day: Knowing how to identify your best customers is the first step on the road to a truly thriving business. Building a portfolio of the best customers is a work in progress. Great clients challenge you to do better. Decide on strategies to pursue to get more great clients.

The best customers seek a good fit. They are learners. They pay attention. They check references. They work with your company on long-term plans. They’re not fooled by providers that underbid and provide sub-par solutions.

What do your most profitable clients have in common? Consider employee and revenue size, industries and resources, level of profitability, goals, types of business, years in business, access to key contacts. Build criteria for the best; assess existing clients and prospects.

Your best customers should get priority. Limit support for customers that don’t measure up. Free up time to pursue prospects with “best client” demographics.

Tell clients how much they matter. Watch them reciprocate. The best clients always do. The duds — target them for eviction.

Get average clients’ attention by talking about results you’re achieving for your top tier. Watch who listens. Put time and effort into those that want to improve.

Each year, weed out some of your worst customers. Suggest they begin to look for alternate solutions. A dose of rejection may make them straighten up and improve. If nothing else they’ll likely respect you for giving them a heads up.

There are lots of ways to get great clients. Here are some suggestions.

Raise your company’s profile by working with top-notch clients. Look for clients doing great work with a reputation for quality and value. Become known by the company you keep.

Seek out companies and individuals that choose to be winners in their field. Help them solve problems. Line up contacts that can contribute to their success. Look out for them by understanding what they care about.

Team up with companies you respect. Learn how they attract great clients by helping them with their marketing and sales efforts.

Seek prospects that are tackling issues your company is passionate about. Discuss shared interests. Build relationships based on common goals and intentions. Watch profits rise as you help each other succeed.

Know what your company is good at. Don’t overpromise or stray too far from your core. Meet or exceed expectations on every commitment. Carefully test new offerings in a way that won’t jeopardize trust with your clients. Let your company’s performance speak volumes about reliability.

Get to know your top contacts inside and out. What do they like to do? Where do they go in their free time? What do they read or listen to? Answer those questions and you’ll know where to look for additional great prospects.

Like-minded people tend to congregate with each other. Expand your network by asking your best clients for referrals. Go with them to networking functions and trade shows.

How do your best customers describe themselves? What are they passionate about? What kinds of questions are they looking to answer when talking to people in your industry? Learn how to describe your business in your customer’s voice, so that other like-minded people will recognize and attach to the descriptions you put out in ads, elevator pitches and on your website.

Looking for a good book? Marketing: A Love Story: How to Matter to Your Customers, by Bernadette Jiwa