I’m a big fan of bossing myself around with post-it notes and right now, a note that reads “A Confused Mind Never Buys” is stuck to my computer screen. It’s a remarkably effective reminder to (try and) be crystal clear in my focus and messaging at all times.

Getting clear has been a work in progress for me. Before I became a business coach for creative professionals, I founded a creative management agency, which I opened in 2006. I was so proud of my roster, which included art directors, copywriters, fashion illustrators and….a fine jewelry designer. You didn’t see that last one coming did you? Neither did anyone else.

Heady with the freedom that came with being my own boss, I figured, why not? After all, I loved her work, I believed in her and I wanted to see her succeed. And while we had some success (she got into Saks, where she sells to this day), ultimately our collaboration diffused my focus and message. A year in, we decided to go our separate ways and all ended well. The experience taught me a valuable lesson: just because I can do something, doesn’t mean I should.

If your goal is to build a successful business, working with clients you love, it’s important that you articulate what makes you unique, what problems you solve and for whom. Do you feel that your marketing message could be clearer? Then you’re in luck because I have a simple, incredibly effective exercise that will help you gain clarity and provide you with the language you need to nail your marketing message. Ready?

You’re going to interview your best clients. Here’s how:

Step 1

Review past projects and grade your clients. Which clients respected your time and process and paid you what you’re worth? Which ones drained your energy, time, and nickel and dimed you into the bargain? Put your A and B clients into one pile and the D, E, and F clients in another.

Step 2

Select 3-4 of your A and B clients and send an email explaining what you’re doing and requesting 20 minutes of their time. It’s really important that you conduct the interview by phone or in person. When responding via email, people tend to edit themselves and say what they think you want to hear. When you talk to someone in person, they are much more elaborative and often repeat certain things again and again. This is a great indicator that it’s important to them and something you should pay attention to.

Now I know what you’re going to say (because all my coaching clients say it!). You don’t want to bother people, right? I’ve done this exercise for my own business and can assure you that your satisfied clients will be more than happy to do it. If it helps, here’s the email I sent to five of my ideal clients. Four responded within the hour saying they’d love to participate.

Hi (name of client),

How are you? I hope you had a lovely holiday weekend! Spring put in an appearance in New York just in the nick of time!

I wanted to ask for your input on something big that I'm working on. (briefly describe/outline here). I would like to interview a few of my ideal clients (of which you're one, naturally), so that I may hone my message. Would you be open to chatting on the phone for 20 minutes or so and answering a few questions. I would SO appreciate your thoughts.

I look forward to hearing from you. Have a lovely day!

Best wishes,

Justine

It goes without saying that if you meet them in person, the coffee or glass of wine is on you!

Step 3

Develop a list of questions that you’d like to ask your ideal clients. Remember, your goal is to define (a) what makes you unique (b) what problems you solve and (c) for whom. Here are a few questions you might ask:

  • Why did you come to me?
  • Why did you continue to work with me?
  • What was your biggest struggle prior to working with me?
  • What challenges do you regularly come up against?
  • What did you get from working with me?
  • What do you need that I don’t currently offer?

Aim for about 10-12 questions in total.

Step 4

Arrange to interview your clients by phone or in person. Have your questions printed out on a sheet of paper with plenty of space to take really good notes. You’ll want to capture as much as possible.

Step 5

Type up your notes while the interview in fresh in our mind and you can add observations, or things you remembered, but weren’t able to capture.

Step 6

Repeat with 3-4 clients

Step 7

Review all of your notes. What common themes did you see? How did your clients describe you? I found that their description of what I offered was far better than my own, so I incorporated their language right into my message.

As if nailing your marketing message wasn’t enough, this exercise provides you with a great opportunity to spend time with your ideal client, learn what’s working and where they have needs that you’re not currently fulfilling. It’s a win-win. So push through any discomfort, set up those interviews and prepare to kiss your D, E and F clients goodbye!

Justine ClayJustine Clay, Pitch Perfect Presentation – Business Coaching for Creative Professionals

Justine Clay has been helping freelance creative professionals build thriving careers for more than 15 years. As an agent for some of New York’s top-creative talent, Justine built a track record of making the perfect match with clients that include Vogue, Bloomingdale’s, Henri Bendel, Coach, Joe Fresh, Target, and West Elm.

Pitch Perfect was launched in 2010 and born of the desire to share her expertise with a wider range of creative professionals and entrepreneurs. Through a series of clear actionable steps, Justine helps freelancers and creative entrepreneurs gain the clarity and confidence they need to identify what makes them unique, create an authentic marketing message and get more clients.