Right Fit Clients. And Right Fit Readers?

Coming from a corporate background without any study in how to run a business, I’m learning a lot of basic things the hard way.

Here’s one truth I was reflecting on again as I interacted with new contacts during the time period around NRB: Not every client is a right fit for me.

Some of you are wondering why this obvious truth even needs to be stated.

But I didn’t always know this. In fact, when I first started working on my own, I was so delighted that anyone wanted to work with me I was willing to try anything and everything as long as it was something to do with PR and trying to get publicity for people, causes, and businesses.

However, it didn’t take me long to figure out that I was spending sometimes twice as many unpaid hours doing the research to learn enough about the cause or the industry to do the work than I was being paid. And the outcomes were not always all that great either. Eventually I figured out in business as in life, I could not be everything to everyone. This is not a new concept, but I think it has to be relearned by many enthusiastic new business owners who are anxious to build a business and an income.

When I started work on my own, I wasn’t sure I wanted to continue to focus on Christian publishing projects and other authors, or small business or all of it. However, from the beginning, some of the work was with authors, and as I proceeded, more and more of my work became focused in that direction.

But even there I was still shooting too widely.

I still remember the conversation I had with the publisher who sent me a lot of work back then when I told him I could no longer work on secular books. His company had a Christian publishing imprint (or brand) and also a secular one. Nothing wrong with publishing general market books, but the secular books were taking way too much time for me to research media outlets, and I wasn’t getting very far. The clients were not particularly happy, and neither was I.

So, I narrowed my focus to work with Christian books only. It seemed so counterintuitive when I spoke about it, but in the reality of doing the work, it became obvious that this was the right decision. Then sometime after that, I figured out that not all Christian books were a right fit for me either, so I stopped working with fiction. Fiction is its own specialty area of book promotion, and generally less of the work involves working with Christian media. But what I truly love is working with Christian media and the ideas and concepts that become the stimulating conversation that is an interview.

And there’s still more to the fine tuning of finding the right-fit client.

Each shift narrower also seemed to deepen my work, business relationships, and satisfaction with serving clients.

Along the way, I started understanding what the business teachers meant about narrowing your focus more and more until you find your probably very small niche.   

I’m still narrowing my focus but now have an idea who my “ideal client” is. I love hitting that sweet spot of using my best skills to help move an author forward in their journey.

I know for years I didn’t understand that term and probably thought it was kind of silly.

It’s not.

I have been focusing on that Ideal client idea for a while now, but I like the term “right-fit client” even better.  I suspect my business coach is the one who shared the term with me, and I know she’s the one who has helped me gain some clarity and become comfortable embracing the idea of recognizing what I do best isn’t a fit for everyone.

A new realization for me is that the sculpting of who that “right-fit” client is not a one-and-done task. It’s ongoing.

OK so what is this all about for you if you are an author?

First of all, some authors have a version of that arms wide open approach. Someone I recently heard speak mentioned it again, saying, for many authors, when you ask them who their book is for, they say, “everyone.” And they genuinely believe it. But if you intend to promote your book, you need some direction and some priority categories to craft messages for. And honestly, chances are excellent that you know the most likely audience for the book, even though “everyone” may benefit.

Furthermore, I believe most people instinctively even if unconsciously know who their book will help the most. You don’t need to worry that it doesn’t fit everyone, and you don’t need to try to make the book fit everyone.

This counterintuitive version of ‘less is more” kind of thing is something about which I am still thinking. In addition to the obvious projects that aren’t a fit, I’m discovering in myself that sometimes I know a person is not a right fit even if I consciously believe I should be seeking the work. It’s all a continuing learning process.

And so, the post-NRB follow up continues, two weeks past the close of the show. But many of us still have more to do, not only following up on contacts but also processing new ideas and impressions.

As well as expanded and nuanced understandings of who our personal “right-fit” client is.

Originally sent as an email to the Buoyancy community on March 8, 2024.
Joni Sullivan Baker
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