Over the last 24 years, we have worked with clients across a wide variety of industries, sizes, and technical needs. While there is no exact recipe for a successful working relationship, we are big proponents of being able to identify the “right” client for us and focusing on cultivating those partnerships.
Why define the “right” client?
Defining the right client goes back to our core mission statement: “We are here to help and empower people.” To fulfill our mission, it’s important not to spread ourselves too thinly. With this in mind, we distill our potential client base down to those we are exceptionally skilled at helping.
About five years ago, our leadership team participated in an exercise that involved discussing the characteristics of our ideal client. After solidifying our list (more on that below), we went through and graded our clients against it, then parted ways with those that scored the lowest. Letting go of those ill-fitting clients helped alleviate organizational stress and freed us up to focus on better serving the clients with which we wanted to forge long-term partnerships, as well as enabling us to give strategic direction to our sales and marketing team.
I’ve been asked before about how strictly we adhere to this ideal and when it’s OK to make exceptions. To be honest, making exceptions has almost never worked out for us. However, we recognize that we can’t be too selective, as this will prohibit growth. I recommend thinking of your ideal client as the center of a bullseye. As you move further from the center, try to gauge the effect that an off-target client will have on your organization. You might not hit the bullseye exactly, and that can be OK – but if the relationship ends up not working out, it’s important to learn from your mistakes.
What defines the “right” client?
In a nutshell, we aim to work with companies that don’t want to manage their own technology, but we recognize that this broad parameter needs further narrowing. When working to define the perfect fit, we found that we could break this down into four major areas applicable to any business type:
Demographics: The first thing we looked at were the characteristics of the businesses we thought we could best serve, such as geography, user count, and industry type. To us, user count was the most critical, as this number provides a good indication of the amount of technology we would need to maintain. We know that for companies above a certain size, our processes and support offerings might not work optimally.
Relational expectations: Back in 2012, we decided that MyITpros was not a transactional company. Rather, we want to cultivate long-term client relationships and truly become an extension of our client’s business in order to deliver the best service. However, some of our clients only wanted us to do break/fix or project work that was not conducive to our long-term goal. Today, we seek clients whose time frames and expectations of involvement mesh well with ours.
Shared culture or core values: At MyITpros, the way we conduct business is a direct reflection of our core company values. In my opinion, our approach to doing business is just as important as the technical side of things. With this in mind, we seek clients who share our values, meaning they place an emphasis on things like open communication and doing the right thing. We know we are not perfect, and at some point, we may make a mistake that could cause conflict. How we respond in such an instance – and knowing that our client will respond the same way – goes a long way toward determining the viability of a long-term client partnership.
Core skill set compatibility: Ideally, our clients will want to work with us as much as we want to work with them, but an enthusiastic client does not guarantee a healthy relationship. At MyITpros, we seek out clients who truly understand and need our core skill set. If people aren’t looking for the exact skills and services you provide but want to try to shoehorn your offerings to meet their needs, trust me, it won’t work. One of our old clients was a perfect example of this. The company’s internal IT department was swamped with performing daily ongoing support, so we were called in to tackle its tremendous amount of outstanding project work. The company’s VP and I devised a way to provide “ongoing support” that was more in line with our core skill set, but in reality we were primarily focused on projects as opposed to what our services are actually set up to deliver. Shortly down the line, the relationship hit conflict, and we eventually separated. If I went back to our list of what makes the right MyITpros client, that company would not have checked the boxes.
You may have noticed that revenue does not appear on our list of ideal client traits. To me, a company that checks all the boxes has the potential to be a great client even if the dollar amount is smaller. Conversely, a company that can pay us a lot of money may not necessarily be a good client. If it doesn’t fit the four categories above, the stress and lost resource time likely won’t be worth the larger check.
At the end of the day, the specifics of exactly how you define your ideal client aren’t as important as actually taking the time to go through the definition process in the first place. Once you know what your ideal client looks like, you can strategically market and sell to entities that have these attributes, thereby improving your chances of cultivating healthy and lasting business relationships.