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  • The Red Velvet Rope Policy

    [How do you find the right customers? How do you filter out the nutcases? Author Michael Port walks through the process of creating your own ‘red velvet rope policy’:]

    Imagine that a friend has invited you to accompany her to an invitation-only special event. You arrive and approach the door, surprised to find a red velvet rope stretched between two shiny brass poles. A nicely dressed man asks your name, checking his invitation list. Finding your name there, he flashes a wide grin and drops one end of the rope, allowing you to pass through and enter the party. You feel like a star.

    Do you have your own red velvet rope policy that allows in only the most ideal clients, the ones who energize and inspire you? If you don’t, you will shortly. Why?

    First, because when you work with clients you love, you’ll truly enjoy the work you’re doing; you’ll love every minute of it. And when you love every minute of the work you do, you’ll do your best work, which is essential to book yourself solid.

    Second, because you are your clients. They are an expression and an extension of you. When I began my business I would work with anyone who had a pulse and a checkbook. Then I began to consider what it would mean to choose my clients. What it would mean to work only with clients that were ideal for me. And thank goodness I did. Now I live by what I call the red velvet rope policy of ideal clients. It increases my productivity and my happiness, it allows me to do my best work, and I have more clients and referrals than I can handle by myself. And so will you.

    For maximum joy, prosperity, and abundance, think about the person you are when you are performing optimally, when you are with all the people who inspire and energize you. Now think about all of the frustration, tension, and anxiety you feel when you work with clients who are less than ideal—not so good, right?

    Wouldn’t it be great to spend every day working with clients who are ideal for you, clients whom you can hardly believe you get paid to work with? This ideal is completely possible once you identify who you want to work with and determine with certainty that you will settle for nothing less. Once you do that, it’s just a matter of knowing which of your existing clients qualify and how to acquire more just like them.

    Dump Your Dud Clients

    I can just hear your shocked protestations and exclamations. “I need to get more clients not dump them!” I’m just referring to the dud clients—not all of your clients. It sounds harsh, but think about it. Your dud clients are those you dread interacting with, who drain the life out of you, bore you to tears, frustrate you, or worse, instill in you the desire to do them—or yourself—bodily harm, despite your loving nature.

    I’m well aware of the many reasons you think you can’t dump your dud clients, and I know this can seem really scary early on, but hang in there with me. Why have clients, or anyone for that matter, in your life who zap your energy and leave you feeling empty? In the first year of being in business on my own, I cut 10 clients in one week. It wasn’t easy. It required a major leap of faith, but the emotional and financial rewards were astonishing. Within three months, I had replaced all 10 and added 6 more. Not only did I increase my revenue, I felt more peaceful and calm than I ever had before, and I enjoyed my clients and my work more.

    When I asked myself the question, “Would I rather spend my days working with incredibly amazing, exciting, super cool, awesome people who are both clients and friends, or spend one more agonizing, excruciating minute working with barely tolerable clients who suck the life out me?” I had no choice. I knew the temporary financial loss would be worth the payoff.

    There’s nothing wrong with your dud clients, of course. They’re just not right for you. Clients who are not ideal for you could be ideal for someone else. So keep in mind that you don’t need to fire clients; you just need to help them find a better fit. You can be tactful, diplomatic, and loving. You can even attempt, when appropriate, to refer them to a colleague who might be a better fit. Whenever possible, keep it simple. Try, “I’m not the best person to serve you.” Or “I don’t think we’d be a good fit.”

    Creating Your Red Velvet Rope Policy

    The benefits of working with ideal clients are many and meaningful:

    • You’ll have clean energy to do your best work
    • You’ll feel invigorated and inspired
    • You’ll connect with clients on a deeper level
    • You’ll feel successful and confident
    • You’ll know your work matters and is changing lives
    • The magic of you will come to life

    My ideal clients have these qualities:

    • Bright (full of light and easily excitable)
    • Resilient (keep coming back)
    • Courageous (face their fears)
    • Think big (their projects benefit large groups of people)
    • Value-oriented (they gain value from relationships with me and others)
    • Naturally collaborative (they contribute to and focus on their solutions)
    • Rapid responders (talk today, done tomorrow)
    • Positive (naturally optimistic)

    Your list might look completely different. Maybe you only want to work with certain types of clients. Maybe reliability or long-term goals are important to you. Maybe your top priority is how often a client works with you or how many projects they do with you. The economic status of a client may be one factor, but remember—it’s only one of many. In fact, it’s often a primary consideration for many service professionals who wind up working with clients who are less than ideal. So take heed—the economic status of a potential client should be only one of many considerations. Notice that my list considers the quality of my ideal clients first—who they are rather than what they have or the circumstances they’re in.

    Written Exercise: Define your ideal client. What type of people do you love being around? What do they like to do? What do they talk about? With whom do they associate? What ethical standards do they follow? How do they learn? How do they contribute to society? Are they smiling, outgoing, creative? What kind of environment do you want to create in your life? And who will get past the Red Velvet Rope Policy that protects you? List the qualities, values, or personal characteristics you’d like your ideal clients to possess.

    Written Exercise: Now let’s look at your current client base. Whom do you love interacting with the most? Who do you look forward to seeing? Who are the clients who don’t feel like work to you? Who is it you sometimes just can’t believe you get paid to work with? Write down the names of clients, or people you’ve worked with, whom you love to be around.

    Written Exercise: Get a clear picture of these people in your head. Write down the top five reasons that you love working with them. What about working with them turns you on?

    Now, go find more of them. Ok, not that easy. Yeah, I know. That’s what I wrote Book Yourself Solid. It’s a great place to start and, come to think of it, finish. Because it might just be the last marketing book you need.

    A Perpetual Process

    Pruning your client list is a perpetual process because all relationships naturally cycle. The positive and dynamic relationships you have now with your ideal clients may at some point reach a plateau, and the time may come to go your separate ways. You’ll get more comfortable with the process over time. It’s one that has so many rewards that it’s well worth the effort.

    The great Tom Peters may have said it best: “This is your life. You are your clients. It is fair, sensible, and imperative to make these judgments. To dodge doing so shows a lack of integrity.”

    I’ll go one step further and say that doing so is one of the best and smartest business and life decisions you can make. It’s crucial to your success and your happiness. Prune regularly and before you know it, you’ll be booked solid with clients you love working with.

    About the Michael Port: Called “an uncommonly honest author” by The Boston Globe and a “marketing guru” by The Wall Street Journal, Michael Port is a New York Times Bestselling author of four books including Book Yourself Solid, Beyond Booked Solid, The Contrarian Effect and The Think Big Manifesto. Michael can be seen regularly on Network and Cable TV and receives the highest overall speaker ratings at conferences around the world. Why? Because his mission is to rally you to think bigger about who you are and what you offer the world. Get free chapters of his books and learn more at www.michaelport.com.

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    1. Love this message, it’s vitally important for our own success and the success of our clients. Great job Michael, u da man :-)

      – Travis

    2. Hi Michael-
      Wow! Not only do you share what people should do and why they should do it — you actually provide some useful steps to getting started. I actually wrote about something similar yesterday to my subscribers– all about being ruthless in your business.

      Sometimes just because you can do something does not mean you should. I wrote about ruthlessly protecting your time and mental space for the projects and clients that are in alignment with your values and goals. And finding a way to say no to the others while still maintaining that relationship and/or your reputation.

      I’ll have to agree with Travis — you da man.

      -Felicia Slattery

    3. Michael you know I love the Book Yourself Solid book and I find the idea of the red velvet rope policy very empowering.

      I know from my own experience that it is hugely liberating to fire a troublesome client as you take back control from an energy and spirit sucking vampire.

    4. Well put, Michael!

      Printing this out to do the written exercises this afternoon!


    5. Hi Michael,
      Thanks so much for sharing this reminder. I’m just getting ready to do a bit of client pruning myself again, and this is just the nudge I needed. Though I actually love doing this because it truly does open up more room in your world for new and better clients.

      To me, holding on to old clients that are no longer a good fit while waiting for better ones to come along is like staying in a bad relationship waiting for a new and better boy or girlfriend to come along. It just doesn’t happen until you let go of the old one.


    6. Great article, too bad it’s just so hard to say goodbye…to money, clients, and work.

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