I firmly believe that the way to grow a business is to focus on Ideal Clients. In The Pumpkin Plan, Mike Michalowicz offers clear direction on how to find your best clients and weed out the other clients so you can focus your energy on exceeding their expectations and attracting more clients. In Revenue Growth Engine, I call this building the Ideal Client Experience.
The analogy behind the title, The Pumpkin Plan, is simple: if you want to grow prize-winning pumpkins you must get rid of the small pumpkins so all of the energy from the vine can go to growing the big pumpkins.
My first encounter with Mike’s writing was in his book, Profit First. This was a lifesaver for my mindset as a business owner. The book was unconventional and practical. The Pumpkin plan offers that same level of unconventional thinking and practical application. At the end of every chapter, you’ll find applications to specific businesses. I guarantee you will get ideas from this book that will help you focus on your Ideal Client.
I highly recommend every business owner, sales leader, and marketing professional read the whole book. To whet your appetite, here are some of my favorite takeaways.
Find Your Sweet Spot
Every business has a sweet spot. Mike defines this spot in a Venn diagram where three things intersect:
- Top Clients–the Ideal Clients you love to work with, spend lots of money, trust you, pay their bills on time, and give references generously.
- Unique Offering–Your Area of Innovation (AOI) is the place where your business uniquely shines.
- Systematization–the parts of your business that have defined processes.
Every company has a sweet spot. It’s the place where you can uniquely and predictably get results for ideal clients. In the book, Mike walks you through how to identify your sweet spot.
Three Types of Clients
This is where the book starts becoming uncomfortable for most business owners. Mike says that there are three types of clients ranked in order of importance:
- Good Clients
- Non-Existent Clients
- Bad Clients
He argues that bad clients are worse than no clients at all. These clients suck away energy, resources, and passion in exchange for low amounts of revenue, lots of handholding, excessive complaining, and low loyalty. Mike says we should assess all of our clients and get rid of the bad ones. To help, he offers four strategies to gracefully fire bad clients.
Part of defining whether a client is good or bad is based on what Mike calls the “immutable laws.” These are company values on steroids. As an example,, he shares two of his top immutable laws: “give to give and don’t be a dick.” If a client violates these laws, no matter how big they are, they need to go.
Then, you can use the energy, time, and money this frees up to focus on serving your Good Clients. Mike says, “If you could bring one client to a desert island, who would it be?” He then helps you identify these clients.
Not all clients are created equally. It’s the Ideal Clients that deserve your focus. They are the path to growth, happiness, and sustained success. Focus on them.
The Customer Isn’t Always Right
What? That’s not what I’ve been told my entire business career. Mike reframes the statement: “The RIGHT customer is always right”. In other words, you need to pay very close attention to what your Ideal Clients are saying. I love this.
What we were taught on the playground doesn’t transfer to business. To drive exponential revenue growth, we must play favorites. Who are our favorites? By now, I suspect you’re catching on to the answer: your Ideal Clients.
To be clear, Mike is not saying to ignore your average clients. But he does advocate for developing a different approach for top clients. “Push them to the front of the line. Drop everything for them. Interrupt meetings to deal with their crises. Dream up new and better ways to serve them. Give them first dibs on new products and services. Accommodate their special requests.” Above all, work on finding ways to help them grow their businesses.
With Ideal Clients, Mike says we should always “UPOD–Under Promise, Over Deliver.” We need to become obsessed with what these ideal clients want. This is the key to growing big pumpkins.
You may be thinking, “What about my average clients–won’t this type of focus ignore them?” Mike brilliantly asserts that the opposite is true. “The improvements you make for your best clients will inevitably help the other guys too.” After all, many of your average clients want to become like your best clients.
How do you determine what your Ideal Clients really want? Ask! Mike calls this the wish list. He recommends that we go talk with our Ideal Clients and ask about their business:
“One of the single most effective strategies I use as part of my own Pumpkin Plan is something I call the ‘Wish List.’ I interview my top clients to find out what they wish they could change about my industry, what they wish I could do for them… what they wish someone could solve for them… Then I play fairy godfather and fulfill every possible wish.”
The key here is good questions about their business. When you talk about yourself, talk at the level of your industry, not your business. In these conversations, you will be handed the keys to explosive growth.
One Pound Heavier Wins the Prize
To win a pumpkin competition your pumpkin only needs to be one pound heavier than your closest competitor. Mike says that the key to explosive growth is “competing reasonably well in every area your competition competes in and then blowing them away in one category.” In the book, he helps you define that category.
The Pumpkin Plan is a brilliant book based on a powerful analogy that every business leader should read. True to form, Mike Michaolowicz offers pointed and practical advice that will help businesses grow larger and healthier at the same time. I highly endorse this book.
Originally Published on Revenue Growth Engine.