by Clare Appleyard, founder of Katannuta Diamonds
Often, when we start out in business, we try to be everything to everybody. If somebody asks who your ideal client is, “Everybody!” is your enthusiastic response. And then, reality sets in. You realize that not everybody is your ideal client, and that’s okay. No business, be it a large conglomerate or an SME, will be able to serve everybody’s needs and wants.
When we started Katannuta Diamonds in 2007, our very first mistake was not to clearly define our ideal client. We took online business listings on various generic diamond websites. We fielded enquiries from clients who were expecting us to beat prices from large franchise jewellery stores, the type who import goods en masse from Asia. Finally, a marketing friend said to us, “Are you really looking for customers who are looking for cheap diamonds?”
The answer hit us like a ton of bricks. No!
Since those early days, we’ve managed to refine the definition of our ideal client and we’re comfortable with the fact that some clients aren’t a great fit for us. Equally, we’re aware that this works both ways and we may not be the best fit for them, either. Sometimes though, you’ll have one sneak through the cracks. Perhaps they come disguised as your ideal client. Perhaps it’s a referral from a good friend or client who you trust. Perhaps, just perhaps, you go against your better instincts and let your guard down for a moment.
Late last year, I went ignored my instincts and started working with a client after our initial conversations had raised multiple red flags in my head. The process just wasn’t flowing as seamlessly as it normally does. We weren’t communicating on the same level, the client didn’t really have any idea what she wanted, and she kept changing her requirements. At one stage I said, “I don’t think I’m the right person to help you. This is not working well and I don’t want you to end up with a ring you’re not 100% satisfied with”. She assured me that she did want us to make her ring, and urged me to continue.
So, I did!
Even after she’d asked if we could “just trim the stone” (say what?), I continued.
Even after I’d wasted time and energy coaxing, communicating, explaining, I continued. Even after she’d paid her deposit and we’d lost money on a forex transfer, I continued. The last straw came one morning after she’d decided she wanted a totally different ring, with totally different gems (and, of course, a totally different price tag). I finally came to my senses.
“Send me your bank details please; I’m giving you a refund”, I said. “What do you mean?”, she answered. “I can’t work like this. I’m cancelling the order and issuing a refund.” And just like that, I’d fired a client. Like the clouds lifting after a thunderstorm, the weight lifted off my shoulders. As I took stock of the situation, I realized how much time, effort and energy I’d plowed into trying to make the situation work.
It was never going to work. Every fibre of my being had warned me that this was not a project we wanted; it wasn’t going to be a good match. Yet, I ignored those instincts and wasted time and resources that could have been redirected towards other clients.
There is no shame in firing a client that is not a fit for you or your business. Your business is your time, your energy, your soul, your passion. Don’t waste it on clients that don’t appreciate it. Love, nurture, appreciate and reward those clients who are a perfect fit for you. They are the key to your future success.
Clare Appleyard is the co-founder of Katannuta Diamonds, a bespoke jewellery manufacture company based in Johannesburg, South Africa. Formed in 2007, Katannuta Diamonds has established itself as one of South Africa’s leading independent jewellers, with a strong reputation for excellent service, quality workmanship and competitive prices. Graduating from UCT with a Master’s degree in geology, Clare gained valuable diamond experience working for global giant De Beers, before expanding and developing her interest, knowledge and skills into the world of polished diamonds and gemstones. Passionate about diamonds, gems and consumer education, Clare is building a strong, proudly South African brand and is committed to helping fellow female entrepreneurs do the same.