Using the 80-20 Rule to Attract Your Ideal Client

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attracting your ideal client

I can’t even remember when I first heard of the Pareto Principle – you know, the one that says that 80% of the effects comes from 20% of the causes. For example, we wear 20% of our clothes 80% of the time, and we spend 80% of our time with 20% of our acquaintances. In business, it’s said that 80% of your sales comes from 20% of your clients.

I once heard Dr. Tony Alessandra share this strategy for keeping clients and attracting new ones:

It seems obvious, but how many of us actually do that?

He went on to recommend that you develop a plan to make it happen. The first step of the plan he outlined is to identify which clients are actively recommending you to others. Next, figure out what it is you do differently for those clients, and then start doing that for your other clients.

How to Identify Your Perfect Client

When you haven’t yet had many clients, identifying your top 20% can be quite a challenge. In the early days of running my business, the question “who is your ideal client?” always threw me for a loop. In my mind I was thinking “anyone who is willing to pay me” and I’m sure that’s pretty typical for people who are just starting out. I later completed the following exercise as part of an online coaching program based on the Law of Attraction.

To identify our ideal customers, we wrote down the characteristics we wanted them to have, e.g. “financially able to invest in his or her business.”

Because we often have a clearer idea of what we don’t want, we also wrote down the characteristics we did not want them to have, e.g. “doesn’t follow through with plans.” The negative characteristics were then turned into positive ones, so “doesn’t keep appointments” on the “don’t want” side of the page became “keeps appointments” on the “do want” side, and then they were crossed out, to allow us to focus on what we wanted and enable us to attract that into our lives.

Within a month of completing the program, I was contacted by someone who not only had all of the attributes I identified during the above exercise, but whose ongoing requirements brought my income to the level I was aiming for, and who remains a valued client to this day. Maybe that client would have come along even if I hadn’t done the exercise, but this experience confirmed to me that the Law of Attraction really does work.

If you’re having trouble identifying your ideal client, try the above exercise.

How to Attract Your Ideal Client

Once you have a clear picture of your perfect client, you’ll find it much easier to attract that type of person to your business. As you prepare your website content and blog posts, write as though you were speaking directly to your ideal client and they’ll hear your message loud and clear.

This post was originally published on From the Desk of Janet Barclay in 2008 and has been updated for Your Organizing Business.

Image © scanrail / DepositPhotos

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A former professional organizer, I now eliminate stress for my clients by hosting, monitoring, and maintaining their WordPress sites so they don’t have to worry about security, downtime or performance issues. When I’m away from my desk, I enjoy reading, photography, watching movies, and cooking.

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  1. Avatar Jacki Hollywood Brown on April 14, 2008 at 12:57 pm

    THANK YOU very much for this post. It’s good to know that there are resources out there for learning. Your blog is one of those resources I count on!

  2. Avatar Marcia Francois on April 18, 2008 at 10:12 am

    That’s a great idea – I think I’ll make some notes right now

  3. Avatar Seana Turner on October 21, 2015 at 11:12 am

    Isn’t it amazing how powerful this little principle is, in so many settings? Knowing who want to attract is critical for designing your marketing campaign. For new business owners, this can take a bit of time, so be patient with yourself. But taking the time to think this through is well worth the effort!

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on October 21, 2015 at 12:00 pm

      It really is, and it’s fun to see how many ways we can apply it.

      I agree with you that it’s hard for new business owners to grasp that targeted marketing is much more effective than trying to broadcast their message to anyone and everyone. They’re often afraid that they’ll miss out on opportunities if they focus on a specific market, but it doesn’t usually happen that way. I’m often contacted by people who aren’t professional organizers, and in most cases, I’m happy to work with them.

  4. Avatar Audrey Cupo on October 21, 2015 at 11:13 am

    I am clear about who I want to work with and who I do not but I love creating a pro and con list on one page. It’s kind of like keeping score when you are evaluating potential clients. I make it a point to work only with those that want to work with me and who will benefit most from my experience and skills. Thank you, Janet.

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on October 21, 2015 at 12:27 pm

      One of the perks that comes with experience is learning to recognize when a potential client isn’t a good fit for you. You have to be able to trust your intuition!

  5. Avatar Autumn Leopold on October 21, 2015 at 3:28 pm

    This is such an important step that many new service providers miss. They just throw it all out there and wait for something to happen instead of taking the time to define who they should be throwing it too! 🙂 Excellent post!

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on October 21, 2015 at 4:14 pm

      That’s a great way of putting it! 🙂

  6. Avatar April R. on October 21, 2015 at 5:28 pm

    Thank you so much for this post! I have been struggling with identifying an ideal client, but had not thought to list what I didn’t want and reverse it. Brilliant!!

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on October 22, 2015 at 6:51 am

      I think you’ll find it very enlightening – please let me know how you make out!

  7. Avatar Andi Willis on October 21, 2015 at 7:13 pm

    I’ve had several clients that have just clicked on several levels. Trying to find new clients like them has become a priority. Thanks for the reminder!

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on October 22, 2015 at 6:56 am

      I’ve repeated the exercise from time to time, and the things my top clients have in common are very surprising – not things I would consider important, but maybe they are!

  8. Avatar Sabrina Quairoli on October 24, 2015 at 11:57 am

    I agree. We must first determine our ideal client. This helps us have a clearer vision of what we are looking for in a client. And, as a result, be able to help that client more effectively. Thanks for re-sharing this content. This is such an important reminder for small business owners.

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on October 24, 2015 at 1:33 pm

      Precisely! The more we understand our clients, the better we can serve them, so it only makes sense to look for new clients who are similar to those we seemed to have clicked the most with.

  9. Hazel Thornton Hazel Thornton on October 24, 2015 at 12:36 pm

    I’ve always loved the 80/20 Rule and Ideal Client concept (which is much more specific than “target market”). A suggestion related to finding MORE Ideal Clients based on your top 20% is to spend more effort on soliciting REPEAT business from your top 20%, rather than worrying about your 80% who just hired you once or didn’t spend much.

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on October 24, 2015 at 1:30 pm

      Great suggestion, Hazel! According to Forrester Research, it costs five times more to find a new customer than to retain a current one.

      And also a good point about the difference between “target market” (which is really broad, e.g. “busy moms”) and “ideal client” (which is much more specific, e.g. “busy moms who hold executive positions, earn $100+K per year, and live in XXX community”).

  10. Avatar Sarah Soboleski on October 24, 2015 at 4:07 pm

    I’m with April on this one. So smart to create a don’t want client list to tease out the positives you do want to attract! With only being in my third year of business, I’m still figuring this out myself, but getting closer!

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on October 25, 2015 at 6:29 am

      It really does help to clarify things, doesn’t it?

  11. Avatar Jill Robson on October 24, 2015 at 5:25 pm

    I struggled with this for a long time, finding my target market until they found me. Sometimes we have to try a few different things when we first start to get a feel for what really makes us energized to work.

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on October 25, 2015 at 6:27 am

      That’s so true, Jill! I don’t know many people who end up doing exactly what they imagined when they first started out.

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