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June 4, 2020 09:54

How to find your Ideal Consulting Client?

Best Approach To Search And Find Best Freelance Customers

I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody - Bill Cosby, TV celebrity

But who is my ideal consulting client?

Your ideal customer is the one to whom you bring the greatest value. And since you bring high value to people, you will be rewarded accordingly with high paycheck. Simple mathematical logic. But let’s pose a moment on this. I’m sure you’re starting to sense the importance of this last sentence: we’re not looking for the richest prospect on the market, nor the largest company in the world to work with, but the entity with the most difficult and painful situation to solve. If you want to maximize your results, you cannot simply engage as many leads as possible and allocate your time equally among them. Instead, you’re going to concentrate on customers who have the highest probability of being negatively impacted by the absence of your solution.

The lady who rents one of my apartments recently experienced a situation some of us have maybe already faced. Already in a hurry for an important meeting she couldn’t miss, she was finishing getting ready. Assembling all his belongings before leaving the condo, she finally slams the door behind her, goes down the stairs to the parking, and engines her car. After a few seconds, she realizes that she forgot the professional file she completed the evening before and she’s on the verge to present. She stops the car, runs up the stairs, and there…found the door shut with the keys inside.

In your opinion, who’s the best client of the locksmith? The owner who comes to make a copy of the keys, or the lessee who can’t wait and paid 350€ to be sure to be on time at the office? You get it, You probably also noticed that a number of factors have influenced the lady to buy to this specific locksmith. We’re going to come back to this.

So our final formula is now:



But how can I find my ideal consulting client?

The practical exercise to this hurdle is found in what marketing specialists name MARKET SEGMENTATION and TARGETING.

SEGMENTATION involves breaking a market into segments, small portions of the market which gather entities with the same profile based upon different criteria. In this first step, your « laser mind » will mentally cut the market, and you’ll make a note in front of you (or open an Excel file) to perform the following exercise.

Write the following corporate factors on the horizontal axis :

  • identity :
    • sector of activity/industry
    • company size (FTEs)
    • location (yes, the locksmith was the closest of the apartement),
    • values, mission and culture (innovation,…) 
  • operations :
    • equipment,
    • current or past solution for the identified issue,
    • purchasing policy,
    • identified buyer (level and position within the company, personal objectives)
  • strategy :
    • in-house capacities or propensity to subcontract  (Make or Buy decision)
    • development, M&A…
  • finance :
    • turn-over,
    • current financial health
    • investment.

And then note all the company names that come to your mind on the ordinate. They’re players facing similar tricky experiences you can diagnose and for which you bring the same desired benefits.

  • People of interest for my services :
    • seniority
    • department/business unit
    • job title


What is this person’s education and career background?

What are this person’s job responsibilities?

What are the performance issues that concern this person?


Start with the closest companies, and then enlarge the geographical circle. At the beginning of consulting activity, I strongly recommend you to avoid mentioning any international structure. Like Airbnb company success story, a business scales when it applies an eccentric strategy, moving away from the center little by little. Don’t try to go too fast and too far at the beginning, and prefer to focus on regional and national actors.

As far as I’m concerned, I’ve started to offer services outside Belgium only after 4 years of consulting activity, and I still focus on customers relatively close to my offices, like Switzerland or France. My market is composed only with biotechnology companies which faced commercial and marketing difficulties in term of strategy or execution. Working with french speaking companies ensure me to always be on the same page since French is my native language.


But amongst all the names and all these segments you’ve written down, on which entities do you need to focus on?

Which clients do you need to target first in this jungle?


TARGETING  is the act of selecting one or more market segments to best serve your consulting strategy. On the contrary to mass marketing, we’re going to develop a ONE SEGMENT/ONE OFFER approach. Don’t forget that the power of a laser comes from the concentration of all beams in one single spot, and this is exactly what we want to achieve here.

You’re now drawing a graphic like the one below, with the Severity Level in ordinate, which indicates the relative impact of the issue on your customer organization, and on the abscissa its Propension To Buy. All your segments are going now to be placed on this display depending on their respective level for the two different factors.


For instance, a small entity whose revenues depend on only one product is going to be severely affected in case of a loss of market share. As the company has probably not enough cash flow in reserve, the CEO may think of the execution of a termination plan of employment in a short-term view.  On the contrary, a service company whose portfolio is structured around 10 major key accounts, is going to be less stressed facing the same scenario.

Regarding the likelihood that a prospective customer will make a buying decision, a variety of data inputs the fact the customer could go into such a direction or not: corporate strategy, proximity, past purchase history, availability of competitive options, and of course…treasury.

We’re now encountering the cold hard truth about consulting business: you need to spend time and effort on a service people are willing to pay for and can afford to buy. I know it seems really harsh and direct but don’t spend time on something people don’t even consider or don’t have enough money for.

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