There was once a pizza shop owner who refused to sell beer despite employees showing him the numbers: the return on his investment in a fridge, CO2, and kegs. The restaurant wasn’t in the best location; it would get transients from time to time and finding needles in the trash or bathroom wasn’t unheard of. The owner cited these things when he turned down the requests to sell beer. “It would attract the wrong crowd,” he would say. Unfortunately, he never accepted the idea of pricing out ‘the wrong crowd.’ He failed to realize that you can choose your clients.
Choose your Clients
At first, with pretty much any business, you have to be scrappy. You have to take any business that walks through your door. You have to figure out how to work with difficult clients and customers in an effort to pay your bills and bolster your reputation. But that doesn’t have to last. Eventually you can cover your costs, you can step back, take a breath, analyze your business and your customers, and figure out where you want to steer your company. It is a great place to be in: instead of feeling like you have no choice in matters, that you have to take any and all work, you can step back and start picking your clients.
There are several ways in which you can select your customers:
- Be upfront with people and tell them no
- Market to the clients you want
- Join business groups that are made up of the clients you want
- Price out the clients you know you don’t want
There are plenty of ways to do this kindly, and letting people down softly is necessary if you want to continue doing business. Burning bridges is not at all recommended. You can tell the company that you do not want to do business with that there is a communication issue that would only lead to a lot of frustration further on. You can tell them that you simply do not have the capacity to take them on – the capacity to deal with them (but don’t say that). There are plenty of other ways to let them down easily so that they walk away singing your praises rather than cursing your name.
You can select where you advertise. You can choose, to some extent, who sees your marketing efforts. You can target certain demographics that match up with the types of people and companies that you want to do business with. If you are looking for other businesses and business owners, advertising in business journals is recommended. Find out what your ideal customers read and do and their habits and advertise in the places they are likely to see your advertisements.
Word of mouth referrals are highly prized. People are more willing to do business with someone they know or feel comfortable with. Meeting potential customers face to face is a much better way to secure business than simply throwing a bunch of advertising around and hoping that it will pay off. If you really want to target someone as a potential client, then shaking their hand and getting to know them before even pitching to them has to be the best way.
The pizza restaurant owner may not have wanted to attract unsavory customers, but purposely setting prices above what the unsavory customers can afford is an easy way to keep them out. If you want to bring in more lucrative business, setting your prices higher does two things: it promotes your work as something that should be paid top dollar for and in doing this, reinforces the idea that your business is among the best. If you mow lawns, but you only want to mow the best lawns, you can find out what other landscape services charge and set your prices competitively. Setting your prices low undervalues your business and your services.