Today we are talking about quality clients vs. quantity of clients. I actually first began to think about this idea of as a kid. (Because I was a weirdo and apparently liked to ponder business even as an 8-year-old.) I remember talking with my dad once during a car ride about music and about who was selling the most records at that time. I remember saying, "Well, if they want to sell more records, why don’t they just lower the price?" I mean... eventually they would make the same amount of money or possibly more, right?
Clearly my pricing strategy at the age of 8 needed a bit of work. It was a good theory for a kid, because, sure, if you want to sell more records, go ahead and lower the price, but that certainly doesn’t mean that you’re going to make more money. So what’s the goal here? To sell more? Or to make more? Sometimes you can certainly do both but, with service-based businesses, you definitely don’t want to fall into the trap of choosing quantity over quality when it
comes to clients.
Yet I see so many business owners doing JUST that. Why might that be? Well, in this sort of natural life cycle of a creative or online business, most business owners start without a clearly defined target audience and sometimes they also start without a lot of confidence in what they are selling. I mean, we were all probably super excited the day we launched our businesses, but that excitement is often quickly replaced with fear and the “what if’s,” right? What if no one wants what I’m offering? What if no one buys from me? What if I can’t make enough? Well, then surely I’m going to go out of business in 6 months, and be a complete failure and then what? It’s amazing how quickly fear can lead us to completely spiral out of control, am I right?
This is totally normal. Most people are scared of the new and the unknown. But the response then is often to try and appeal to EVERYONE, and try to sell to EVERYONE, and try to take whatever you can get as far as clients and money because at this stage in business it makes sense to think that any money is better than no money. So what happens next? You find yourself competing on price and undercutting the market (which is a whole other issue that we’ll get into some other time) and you find yourself trying to work off the business model of quantity rather than quality.
I say all of this because I was absolutely guilty of this mentality myself in my first few years in business. As you’ve heard before, I did spend some time creating a business plan and doing a lot of market research on the wedding industry in Nashville and I actually never really undercut the market when it came to price, I just charged on the lower end of what was typical for my market to start out, but I made one large error in my planning and my math. I created a business
model based on doing 30-40 weddings a year on my own. I wish I could see your face right now because if you know anything about the wedding industry and wedding planning specifically, that’s just total insanity. To be fair, when I made my business plan I had only done a few weddings for family and friends, so I didn’t really have enough experience yet to know how completely insane that was but, hey, if I wanted to make the money that I needed to make, that’s what had to happen.
So my first full year in business I did about 11 weddings, which was pretty good for being brand new. Keep in mind... with the life cycle of weddings, you usually book clients about a year before you actually execute their event. And then by the second year, I did about 25 weddings. And the 3rd year I had 35 weddings, and I already had about 20 on the books for the following year while I was still planning those 35. So I was managing somewhere around 50 clients at one time. I’m gonna guess that you know how that turned out. Not well. I was insanely burned out. I mean, when you think about it, I was working almost every weekend of the year and my staff was working almost every weekend.
Because I was juggling so many things, I was losing track of information, I could barely remember who was who and where which wedding was, and what was happening when. It’s a good thing I take good notes because otherwise who knows what would have happened. Because I was so burned out, I wasn’t showing up as my best self or in the best way for my clients. I was always tired, I was always overwhelmed, and that meant I wasn’t giving them my best energy or my best brain-power.
Because I was competitive with my pricing and because I was taking literally anyone who would pay me, the clients I had didn’t always respect me or my boundaries or my processes. Since they were getting me “for a deal,” they felt like they were in charge and I was the hired help. And technically, I was hired by them, but they didn’t understand that I was the one running this show and that what they hired me for was my expertise and my knowledge and NOT just to manage vendors for them or schedule venue tours or set things up for them on their wedding day.
When you are working so hard and so many hours just to keep up with the clients you currently have, you don’t leave a lot of room to work on your business to grow it. I would put out the occasional blog post, but not with much consistency. I rarely had time to network. I should have been spending so much more time working to get new clients that were a better FIT and working to better serve THOSE clients rather than exhausting myself trying to manage 50 weddings at once.
So how do we change the game? How do we make sure that we are always focusing on quality rather than quantity of clients or customers? How do we successfully work with fewer clients but make more money? We are going to talk about three ways to help you do just that. But before we do, let’s get real clear on what a QUALITY client looks like.
These are clients that book you for YOU and not because you were the most affordable option. They book you because they adore YOU. They are excited to work with you, they respect your boundaries and processes, they have confidence in your abilities, and they TRUST that you are the best possible person to solve the problem they have.
You have to be willing to get a little uncomfortable if you want to scale and grow your business with more quality clients. You have to be okay with not appealing to everyone and not working with everyone. I understand how tough this is because we think that by appealing to as many people as possible, we will book more clients or sell more products. But I’m sure you’ve heard this saying before (and it’s totally true): “If you appeal to everyone, you appeal to no one."
When you don’t stand for something and when you aren’t trying to appeal to a very specific and targeted client, you don’t give people a specific reason to book YOU. Sure, they will book if you are the cheapest option, but those aren’t the clients for you. Get used to saying NO and stop trying to appeal to the masses because when you spend time working with clients that aren’t the best fit and that aren’t QUALITY clients, that means less time to work with clients that are the RIGHT fit and that will pay you what you ask for.
When you have clear and defined processes when working with clients, this leads to a better experience for them and a better experience for you. And the happier your client is about their experience in working with you, the more likely they will rave about you and refer to others. And more quality referrals means more quality clients.
Now, what do I mean by well-defined process? This means that YOU get to decide how to run your business. You get to set the parameters on everything from how you will communicate, what your hours are, and most importantly, the steps the client will take on their journey with you. Many new business owners especially go the opposite direction with this one, they tend to have no defined processes and instead let the client dictate how the working relationship goes. You need to have a solid roadmap of how you will deliver the best possible service and clear parameters and boundaries that will allow you to do your best work. When you do, your client wins every time, which leads to a happier client and more quality referrals.
I mean, you knew I had to throw that one in somewhere because you can’t make more money with fewer sales unless you raise your prices. But, once again, if you’re struggling with this and you start feeling that fear that if you raise your price, you won’t get enough clients, think about this: do you really want crappy clients forever? At some point, you’re going to have to raise your price to work with more clients that are a better fit, and the sooner you do this, the faster you can scale and get to that level where you are working with the absolute best clients and you’re giving them the best experience possible.
And a more important concept to consider, when you raise your price you will attract higher-quality people anyway. When you move beyond the price shoppers and you start booking clients because they need to have YOU and not the most affordable option, you start attracting those quality clients that are the right fit for you.
I hope this has given you the confidence to start focusing on quality clients rather than quantity because I KNOW you want to get to that level where you are working with fewer clients (but those that are the right fit for you) and making more money.