I’m going to cut right through the B.S. The quickest way to build a brand? Start excluding people.
Yes, you still need a purpose, brand values, and a good story that people can connect with. You still need to do your homework. But excluding customers is actually a great way to help you identify those elements of your brand.
What kinds of customers don’t fit your brand image? Stop wasting your time with them!
Be honest with yourself. Don’t you get sick and tired of dealing with these customers anyway? While they’re beating you up on pricing, you’re clenching your fists under your desk. When they’re calling you every day to ask where their product is or why you haven’t started on their project yet, you’re reminding yourself to take deep breaths.
Why do you think that is? Why is your patience with some customers particularly thin?
Because you shouldn’t be working with them.
Personally, when I stopped wasting time on the wrong clients, my entire business and quality of life changed. My cost of doing business plummeted, and I ended up making a larger profit margin because I wasn’t wasting so much time on clients who just didn’t fit my business model.
I know what you’re thinking: “I can’t afford to turn away any business. Being able to pick and choose clients is a luxury of the rich.”
But here’s the thing: to truly honor your brand, you must be exclusive. No company can successfully market to everyone on the planet. And without a working brand, your business is nothing.
This might be the one time you can actually have your cake and eat it too—if you’re willing to accept it.
Who to exclude
Ok, here’s a quick exercise to help get you started. Write down 3-5 of your current customers you would love to stop working with (or 3-5 past customers you wish you would have passed on).
Now, think about what these customers have in common. Here are some possibilities:
- They don’t fit your business model.
- They undervalue your product or service, and are always trying to haggle you to get a lower price.
- They are needier than the Kardashians. They require excessive amounts of special attention and training.
- They are just straight-up difficult to work with. Maybe they don’t respect you as a professional or your work styles conflict.
- They insist on wasting your time with unnecessary meetings, phone calls, and endless rehashing of ideas and next steps.
Now, ask yourself: would my business, employees, and quality of life be better off without these customers?
Creating a brand through exclusion
So, you’ve identified some customers you don’t want to work with. In other words, you’ve just taken the first step toward building your brand.
Next, you need to articulate that message to the world. It’s not enough to just start turning down ungodly amounts of clients—you have to actually tell people why your brand excludes whoever it excludes. If you’re able to define this exclusion properly, it will give your clients a good feel for your company culture, lifestyle, standards, and philosophy—aka your company values—and give them the opportunity to figure out whether they’re a good fit for you, before you even open your mouth.
Make it clear what your requirements are for your clients and what a potential client must understand and accept before working with you. Your goal is to turn away any potential clients that are bad fits, while building a solid foundation for the clients who are most appropriate for your brand.
Do you have the guts to build a brand?
Most businesses will ignore my words and consider all this bad business. I mean, come on, turning away clients to make more money? I must be stupid.
Can you be successful taking on every customer who comes your way? Sure, but have fun working with all the misfit clients who will destroy your brand before it ever has a chance to do anything positive for your business.
If, however, you have the guts and understand the importance of building a brand, then exclusion can take your business to a whole new level. With every ill-fitting potential client you turn away, you’ll be that much closer to building the empire you always dreamed of.