Why clients aren’t buying what you’re selling (and what to do about it)

Have you ever wondered how certain businesses or brands just seem to have their finger on the pulse, perfectly anticipating what their clients want and need?

What gives? What secret do they know that you don’t?

They know the secret to building a thriving, relevant business is understanding who their target customers are, and building a message, product, and experience to meet their unique needs. More specifically, they know what problems their ideal clients think they have, and they know what problems their clients actually have. They tailor their messaging to the former, and their services the latter.

Sell them what they want, give them what they need.

If that just blew your mind, but you’re intrigued enough to keep reading, let’s put that into context.

Let’s say you’re a designer. Your natural assumption is your ideal clients have a design problem, right?


They have a positioning, messaging, and marketing problem, and design is one of the ways in which they can solve that problem. But unless they see why design services will help them reach their goal or solve their problem, they won’t see the value in the work no matter how gorgeous and lush your body of work is.

Featured Image for: Why clients aren’t buying what you’re selling (and what to do about it)

So, what’s a designer to do? Do a 180, and make everything you say, write, and do about the client and their problems rather than about the design or you, and your process.

[Tweet “Make everything you say, write and do about your client — not yourself.”]

If you do this, it’s my promise that you’ll find, engage, and retain more clients who value what you do and are willing to invest in your services.

Here’s what you need to know:

1) Who you are uniquely equipped to help (your ideal clients or customers)
These are people you understand, like to work with, and are perfectly equipped to help. If you don’t know who your ideal client is, or your current description is too broad, attracting and converting the clients you want will be near impossible. Take this step seriously!

2) What your prospective clients think their biggest problem is
This is what keeps them up at night and is the puzzle they just can’t seem to solve. Examples might include not being a leader in their field or category, no longer being relevant, needing to attract new, younger customers but fearful about alienating the ones they have, not having the right product mix, etc. etc.

3) What the real problems are
As I mentioned, the real problem is probably not the one that’s keeping the client up at night. Examples of the real problem might include:

  • They don’t know who they’re targeting (trying to be all things to all people)
  • They don’t have a stand-out product or service
  • Their messaging is weak and/or inconsistent
  • They don’t have a compelling and consistent brand identity, image, and voice across all platforms
  • They don’t have a strategy to engage new prospects and turning those prospects into clients or customers
  • They don’t have the systems in place to ensure they deliver on their strategy
  • Executive, marketing, and creative departments are not aligned and working towards the same outcome

4) How you are uniquely equipped to provide a solution
Chances are, you’re not equipped to solve all their problems. But you are the perfect person to solve one or two of them. Figure out what they are and just sell those.

[Tweet “Find out how you can help your client, and target those problems.”]

Now that you’re clear, or getting there (I realize this isn’t a 2-minute exercise!), it’s time for the grand finale…….

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5) Match your messaging to your ideal clients’ challenges or aspirations
Now it’s time to look at your messaging with a constructively critical eye. Does it make you sound like a generalist? Do you have a message at all? The good news is wherever your messaging falls on the spectrum it can be improved.

Here’s the great news. You can easily craft a message that has prospective clients picking up the phone to discuss working with you. Here’s the before and after message for one of my lovely clients:


I have spent over 20 years crafting Fortune-500 style visual strategies. I have applied these strategies in a variety of healthcare, wellness, scientific, and research organizations.

I work as a team with my clients to ensure their voice is heard and to reach their target audience while delivering fresh, results-driven design.


We help healthcare, research, and advocacy organizations educate, build awareness, and raise money so they can make a bigger impact through their work.

Through the development of a fresh, emotionally resonant brand identity and design, we translate our client’s objectives, purpose, and mission into compelling marketing materials that are easy to understand and for the end user to take action on.

If you looking to stand out, build awareness around your organization, specific program or service, I’d love to chat. Please schedule a free 30-minute consultation with me where we will talk about your goals, you can ask questions, and we’ll talk about solutions.

I’m looking forward to helping you make a greater impact in the world.

The second one’s a lot better, right?

There are lots of things people will tell you are the silver-bullets to building a successful creative business, but what it all comes back to is connecting with your ideal clients and giving them what they need.

Which of the 5 steps do you need the most help with and why? I’d love to read your comments below!

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Millo Articles by Justine Clay

Justine Clay is a speaker and business coach for creative entrepreneurs and freelancers. Through a series of clear, actionable steps, Justine will teach you how to identify what makes you stand out from the crowd, create a marketing message that resonates with your ideal clients, and build a successful and fulfilling creative business or career. Sign up for Justine’s free guide: How to Find High-Quality Clients and Get Paid What You’re Worth and start making monumental changes in your creative business or career today.
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  1. Nicholas Godwin says:

    Thanks Justine. I enjoyed how you identified that mismatch between what customers expect/desire and the real problem they have. And then how you resolved the dissonance between the two realities is nothing short of epic.

    Great piece.

  2. Nicholas Godwin says:

    Thanks Justine. I enjoyed how to identified that mismatch between what customers are looking to get and the real problem they have . And then how you resolved the dissonance between the two realities.

    Great piece.

    1. justine clay says:

      thanks Nicholas, I appreciate your sharing exactly what resonated with you. I’m happy you enjoyed the article!

  3. Mark Armstrong says:

    Wonderful. You sure caught my attention with this:

    “Let’s say you’re a designer. Your natural assumption is your ideal clients have a design problem, right?


    They have a positioning, messaging, and marketing problem, and design is one of the ways in which they can solve that problem.”

    You’ve given me much to think about. Thanks for a great post, Justine.

    1. justine clay says:

      I’m so happy to hear that, thank you for the comment Mark!

  4. Good article.

    1. justine clay says:

      Thank you Derek! I’d love to hear what resonated with you.

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