71: Getting the Right Clients On Board
I’m writing this post on what will probably be my last jet flight out of the Lynchburg airport. To kick off 2011 on an efficient foot, Delta will be withdrawing its regional jet service from Atlanta, leaving Region 2000 citizens with the choice of US Airways prop service to Charlotte, private jet charter, or a long drive to a Virginia or North Carolina city with an interstate exit.
Even with 80% average occupancy on it’s 2010 flights, Delta hasn’t turned a profit here since 2008, when it operated at 62% average occupancy.† In an effort to offer Delta a package that would keep flights connecting ATL and LYH, Lynchburg city officials brought in airline industry consultant Mike Boyd. Boyd told them the problem was not how many passengers were on the planes but what type of passengers were on the plane.†† In a small city with multiple college campuses, our jets fill early with lower fares, instead of higher-margin last minute purchases typically purchased by business travelers. (Boyd suggests that Delta embargo availability of a number of seats until the last two weeks before departure to regain the higher-margin fares.)††
I can’t fault Delta. As I track productivity and profitability for biplane, I excuse myself from specific accounts, refer work to competitors or peers, and selectively change pricing structures.
Not all clients are created equal, even if they can keep you equally busy. Most of us want high-margin, headache-free work; the challenge is how to attract that work.
Part of that is branding—answering the questions, “What public personae are we projecting? And what kind of business does that attract?” You will have an uphill battle attracting premium clients with subpar marketing or high volume liquidators with a mom-and-pop feel to your collateral.
Part of that is taking the time to measure efficiency, review profitability, and quantify intangible aspects of your work. You might be surprised where you’re most efficiently generating revenue. Then there’s the question I asked during a recent consultation: “How much do you need the money that comes with that headache?”
Part of that is a brave self-control to shew away a bird in the hand to make room for one or two in the bush. A good, indirect way to sift prospects is changing your price points and/or terms of transaction. Sometimes, I just explain to now-former clients or prospects that biplane is not a good fit for them. It’s better to have a difficult conversation on the front end of a poor fit than on the post-game evaluation. (I’ve learned that one the hard way.)
So, where’s your sweet spot? For some it’s in high risk/reward problem solving; for others it’s in predictable efficiency.
And with whom are you working when you’re in your wheel house? It might be a demographic group, a personality type, or infrastructure.
From where do these good fits come to you? Answering this question will give you a good start on where you can go to find more clients like them.
Successful, popular brands—name plates like Apple & BOSE, CNN & FoxNews, MINI & Jeep—don’t appeal to the blank masses. They implement specific brand strategies to duplicate their happy customers. Do you?
[footer]†Bryan Gentry, “Delta to discontinue service from Lynchburg airport,” October 27, 2010, Lynchburg News & Advance
††Bryan Gentry, “Consultant: Lynchburg airport could keep Delta,” November 12, 2010 Lynchburg News & Advance[/footer]
I’m really glad God doesn’t take just the easier cases, those with wills more pliable than mine. I’m thankful his invitation isn’t segmented to a specific people group.
The hard part for me is extending that patient, unbiased, consistent grace to others. So often, I prefer to associate with those who agree with my theology, those whose journeys are closest to my own, those whose needs fit into my available time and resource windows—the people who I’d look forward to having on my street in heaven.
But, as Andy Stanley wrote, “Grace is inviting to the unrighteous and threatening to the self-righteous.” When ugly feelings brew inside me over certain people, I am convicted by this litmus test and have to ask myself if I’m starting to take credit for any transformation Christ has accomplished in me.
[footer]Stock image used by permission through purchase from iStockPhoto.com ©2010.[/footer]