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Ten Ways You Know You Have the ‘Wrong’ Customer

February 28, 2013

Right vs Wrong Person Choose Best in Crowd of People

This month’s top-ten-marketing rules topic is part of a two blog series about customers: This one is on ‘Ten Ways You Know You Have the Wrong Customer’ and next month’s blog will be on ‘Ten Ways to Enlist the Right Customers’.

Whether a company is struggling to grow and retain customers or struggling with having the resources to service them, they may be suffering from the same symptom: having too many of the wrong kind of customers. ‘Can there be such a thing as a ‘wrong’ customer?’ you ask? In my opinion, that’s a resounding yes. If it costs more to serve them in the short term and in the long term, if they use more resources than other customers, if your team groans when they come or call are all signs of having the wrong customer. The top ten ways you know you have the wrong customer are listed below.

They Are High-Maintenance

  1. Customers who are really demanding of your time and unappreciative of your expertise will tax you in the end. You know who they are. You know who can be trained out of this mode. You know how it weighs on your team and company. And you know that it takes much more time and money to serve them than others. Is it time to fire them or move them on to another solution? Did they once serve the purpose of raising the bar for your product team, but are now more in-the-way than providing value?
  2. High-maintenance customers can give you insights about your revenue models and the value you’re providing. They may give you insights about marketing and industry opportunities if you pay attention. So there’s an up-side to having high-maintenance customers, but not on their current terms. How would you reframe your offerings to serve them without annoying your team and breaking the company bank?

They Are In a Dying Market Opportunity

3. Sometimes new customers or long-term customers aren’t worth having because they are in the wrong market or industry. If you see the trends going against getting more customers in this sector, perhaps you should invest time and resources in closing other types of customers, as it better serve your marketing needs, your product road map and your revenue goals in the short term and in the long run.

4. Long-term customers who are in a waning industry might be a good partner. Depending on what you do and how you do it, you could help them shift their business and offerings to address the new market forces and trends and/or work in collaboration on new projects.

They Are Not In Your Sweet Spot

5. Sometimes we bend over backwards to accommodate customers and take her customers who don’t fit our ideal profile. I say have clear ideals of your top tier customer types, know the reasons why they are most coveted, and reward your team for delivering clients who fit that sweet spot. You could also strategize on current customers not in your sweet spot and look at how to transition them into other types of customers or partners, seeking that win-win.

6. With that said, categorizing customers *not* in your sweet spot and recognizing what they think of your offerings and what they are doing with your products and services might be a great opportunity to expand your communications, your strategy and your revenues.

They Are High-Volume, Low-Margin Customers

7. High volume, lots of them. Low margin, you make so little money. If your business is providing a commodity, you need to find a greater way to offer value, rather than doing it increasing faster and cheaper. What are the industry trends and how do you pivot to a higher-margin business, involving more customization and service? The problem might not be the customer. It is the business itself.

There Is No Partner Opportunity Beyond Client-Vendor

8. If your best customers with the deepest relationships with you are still in a client-vendor relationship, without ever talking about doing something better and deeper together, then ask yourself why-not? Is there an opportunity to do something more than what you’ve done? Are you trends facilitating a new way of offering services and products? What are collaboration options? Where are the synergies in the value chain and what can you do about it?

They Do Not Understand or Appreciate Your Offerings

9. If you hear your customers describing your offerings to a third party and they don’t get it right, then something is very wrong. They are engaging you and your company without understanding why, so the misperceptions must be corrected.

10. Their misunderstanding might be a business partnership opportunity or a market expansion opportunity for you, so they may not necessarily be the wrong customer.

Do you have any ‘wrong’ customers? Can they be converted into the ‘right’ customers? Are they pointing out things about your business that you didn’t know? Do you like what they are telling you about your business? And most important, whether you have zero wrong customers or hundreds of them, WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?

Read next month’s blog about ten ways to recruit the ‘right’ customers. Your thoughts are welcome. E-mail us at