The Art of Repelling Customers

I am an avid people pleaser. It's not in my nature to want to piss people off, spark controversy, turn people away, or make them not want to work with me.

But, the longer I'm in business for myself, the more I realise that I am not going to be able to please every customer, or provide exceptional value to them.

There are a small percentage of customers that make unreasonable demands or don't respect your time or professional opinion. They are the squeaky wheel and they always manage to steal away a disproportionate amount of your attention. And there are others that always want a lower price because they don't really value the work you're doing for them.

While you’re pandering to these non-ideal customers, you’ve eaten into what time and emotional bandwidth you have to spend finding and attracting customers that do value you. It's disheartening and frustrating, but here's the thing— it's not their fault. It's yours.

It’s a bitter pill to swallow, I know, but it’s time to take responsibility for your part in attracting these non-ideal customers. You don’t have to say ‘yes’ to every project. You always have a choice. Many business owners get caught in the trap of waiting on customers to come to them, so when one does, they’re desperate enough to say ‘yes’ to any project, at any cost. 

I can't imagine any business owner Googling this topic. Most want more customers, not fewer. But you don't need more customers. You need more of the right customers. So, it’s time to work on repelling the wrong people, so you can make some more room your ideal customers. Here are 4 steps to help you—

1. Stand for something

Like attracts like. We want to be liked and to be around people that like the same things we do. That's why getting likes on facebook or Instagram gives us warm fuzzies.

When our brands don't take a stand for anything, or lack originality or personality, we make it hard for the right customers to relate to us, find a connection and say 'me too'. On the flip side, we might end up attracting customers who don't share our values and aren't the right fit.

Decide what you stand for, what you do, who you serve and how you do it, to the exclusion of everything else. When you know these things, you can build points of connection with the right customers who also share these attributes or values and turn off those who don’t.

2. Get to know your ideal customer

It took us a while and many missteps, but every project brings us closer to understanding who our best customers are and who we just can't deliver much value to.

A lot of marketing professionals talk about creating persona profiles or avatars, but I find that a lot of these simply list out surface level attributes— things you could find in a LinkedIn profile. Instead, I believe the most valuable persona profiles relay intimate facts —things you might know about your closest friends or family members. Where do they shop? Where do they spend weekends? Who do they follow on Instagram? What are their biggest challenges and desires?         

All of these little facts will help you to understand what types of content you need to produce, where you should be promoting your offerings and the types of companies who are already serving your ideal customers. These little information nuggets will form the basis of a marketing strategy that is focused on attracting your ideal customers.

3. Set expectations

We’re not running around telling customers they can’t work with us, but we do like to set expectations about how we work. We also like to drop hints along the way that let people know when we can’t help them.

For example, visit our web design page, and you’ll see that we don’t work on existing websites. Instead, we build custom websites from scratch. There are a lot of web designers that will update existing websites, but we’re not the right fit for those projects.

If there are certain services you don’t offer or can’t help with, don’t be afraid to say it. If you can only help people with a specific budget, tell them upfront. You’re saving everyone's valuable time by being transparent and setting expectations.

4. Let go of what doesn't offer value

If your customers are constantly haggling over prices, chances are you're not doing enough to communicate the value you offer them. What do they really want from you? Are you saving them time, money or helping them to fulfill their desires? Stop selling your products and services and start selling the end value. If the work you're doing doesn't offer a lot of value to your customers compared to its cost, maybe it's time to re-think that offering or figure out a way you can deliver more value to them.

This not an airtight solution and the non-ideal customers will sometimes leak through, but being aware of the right customers for you will help you to spot them before you sign on the dotted line. The next time you are having a hard time with a customer, instead of feeling helpless and frustrated, start thinking about how you can do a better job at setting expectations and refining your ideal customer profile for the future. Decide what you stand for, what you do, who you serve and how you do it, and stick to it, no matter how hard it is to say ‘no’. 

More from this series
This post is part of the
Join thousands of others

Receive weekly branding & marketing web design tips straight to your inbox!

Become a BC Insider

Download Now
Learn More
Share Post

Written by

Lisa D'Andrea

As our brand strategist and website copywriter, Lisa loves helping people clarify their message so that people listen.


How to Identify & Attract Your Ideal Customers