In the high-stakes adventure of entrepreneurship, the search for your ideal clients and employees can become a thrilling quest. As the captain of your ship, you’ll navigate a vast sea of opportunities. But here’s the catch – to reel in your ideal fish, you’ve got to know where to cast your line. In my experience, it’s critical to uncover the secrets of fishing in the perfect spots to hook the right clients and employees for your business success.
Where do you find big fish?
You need to know where to fish to find your ideal client. In other words, where do they congregate, what do they read, and what are their interests? If you want to catch tuna, you have to go to the ocean, not your local creek.
Let’s say that your ideal clients are CEOs of mid-market companies that need your consulting services. Where can you find them? I suggest they may be found at higher-level industry conferences and trade shows. If this is the right fishing hole for you, don’t just show up. Lay the groundwork before the event and apply to become a speaker or invest in a tradeshow booth.
In addition to high-level conferences, where else can you meet CEOs?
- Look for CEO roundtables and forums. None in your area? Consider starting one.
- Get involved with non-profits where CEOs serve on the board, attend their galas and events, and get to know the leadership.
- Fellow alumni may be running their own businesses.
- Research business or social clubs that cater to business leaders.
- Use LinkedIn to connect with CEOs in your industry and engage with them through comments, shares, and direct messages.
What about smaller fish?
If your ideal clients are small business owners, start at your local chamber of commerce or small business association. These groups are easy to find and fairly inexpensive to join.
In addition, explore other fishing holes where you might catch small business owners, which may include:
- Start-up incubators that host demo days, pitch events, and workshops
- Entrepreneur groups for startups or business accelerators
- Renting space at a co-working facility such as WeWork or Regus
- Attending or exhibiting at local business events or fairs
- Joining small business networking and referral groups, such as BNI
- Similar small business opportunities online, including social media groups and forums
Whether your ideal client is a big or little fish, the key is to do your research so you don’t waste time or money on your quest to develop more ideal clients.
Do you have the right bait?
Regardless of your ideal client (or desired fish), you need the right bait to attract them. Using the two examples above, it should be clear that these audiences are completely different. After all, you can’t use corn kernels to catch pike. Trout, maybe, but not pike.
Seriously, think about the differences as you create marketing plans that will help you get in front of the right audience. It’s critical to set yourself apart from the competition. CEOs may resonate with a higher-end content strategy such as white papers, books, or even a branded podcast. Smaller businesses may be attracted to blogs, social media posts, and email marketing.
As you continue exploring all options, you may even discover that your ideal fishing hole is in a completely different industry.
What about employees?
Knowing where to find your ideal client goes hand-in-hand with finding your ideal employees. Without the right people in the right seats who live by your core values and culture, you won’t be able to deliver to your ideal client. And worse, you may only attract less-than-ideal clients. I’ll say it again for emphasis: Ideal employees must live by the company’s core values and culture. If you do not have your company’s core values defined, it’s time to do so.
So, how do you fish for ideal employees?
Start by including in every job description your clearly defined values and culture, principles, beliefs, and behaviors that define your organization. If teamwork and innovation are crucial, make that explicit and include it in every job description and related job posting. You should also include all required technical qualifications and experience.
The next step is to find potential ideal employees through an interview process structured to get both technical and behavioral information from candidates. I advise clients to use tools that can measure how a candidate will adapt to the company’s core values and how they will fit into the organization’s culture.
Additional ideas include:
- Bonuses for employees who exhibit core values. Using the example above, tell candidates that they can earn extra money by exhibiting teamwork or inventing a new process.
- Designate employees who embody your company’s culture as “cultural ambassadors” to meet with candidates, provide insights into the day-to-day culture, and share personal experiences.
- Consider offering candidates a trial period to assess compatibility with your culture before making a permanent hiring decision.
- Organize cultural fit events where candidates can interact with current employees in a casual setting to assess compatibility.
In my experience, it is not that difficult to find people who can do the work. However, it is more challenging to find those who can do the job. Doing the job means fitting into the company’s culture, adhering to its core values, and rowing in the same direction as the rest of the team.
And, because I talked a lot about fishing — I try to live by this core value:
“Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.”
Contributed to EO by Steve Ferman, an EO New Jersey member, serial entrepreneur, and founder of 4 Pillar Coach. With over 40 years of experience working in the technology realm, Steve loves the thrill of starting and growing a company — he started and sold six companies of his own. As a Certified Scaling Up Coach, he works with leaders to help them scale operations through confident decision-making and effective operational systems.