Category Archives: CLIENT RETENTION

Outsourcing: Knowledge Attracts Knowledge

Professionals know what’s next

Professionals who employ their depth of knowledge to service clients, appreciate genuine expertise in others.

In delivering consistently high-quality services, professionals often have to outsource some or all of the work.

The challenge lies in locating complimentary services and products sold by professionals who also possess deep commitment to honing their expertise.

Tradeshows and conventions are terrific environments for discovering outstanding skills, products, and expertise without the hollow ring of “showing off” that marketing and advertising content can introduce.

For example, the annual IDS—Interior Design Show—is a professional-on-professional trade show that also invites end users to enjoy the mix of innovation and sustainability. If you’d like to observe professional communication in action, this is a great place to start.

Ask IDS Exhibitor Michael Pourvakil of Weavers Art about his business creating “the world’s most beautiful rugs” and it’s not long before he is extolling the value of professional interior designers.

Pourvakil explained, “The best products and best services are shown to advantage by interior designer expertise.”

The value of Weavers Art products and services is embodied in the “rugaholics”—Pourvakil and his staff—who curate the extensive and continually changing, internationally-sourced inventory.

They know that their expertise is amplified by the expertise of interior designers. At Weavers Art, they understand that this dictates their job is doing all they can to ensure working with Weavers Art is the best decision each designer makes.

Pourvakil stressed they do not sell on price since handmade rugs do not come down in price in a world where labor costs are increasing. The focus is peace of mind for all concerned which makes clear, accurate communication essential in every stage from design and creation to installation of the finished custom rug.

  • Does the process of servicing your clients involve the exacting delivery of products or service by other professionals? If so, how do you identify genuine talent and commitment when outsourcing? Or is price/cost the main focus?
  • How do you ensure you understand the specific value—from your point of view and your clients’—of outsourced professional expertise?
  • What steps do you take to guarantee respect for expertise—therefore, communication—works both ways and always benefits your clients?

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Make Faces Top Priority Not Screens

face-to-face not screen

What does face-to-face reveal?

How many face-to-face conversations do you have each day? Each week?

Before our current obsession with screens, business questions like these would not be necessary.

Face-to-face meetings were where significant decisions were made, relationships cemented, and deals done. Big business stills revolves around face-to-face meetings, but small business owners and professionals, swept up in technology’s apparent access have shifted business to screens.

Are most of your 1-on-1s with people you know well—friends, family, co-workers?

Much as you love them, does it make good business sense that the majority of your face-to-face time goes to those whose trust you have already earned, in meetings that do not generate revenue?

How do you engage new clients?

Email and phone contact play important roles in connecting with target prospects for many professionals. For you, are face-to-face meetings—either initial or to close a deal—essential to transition target prospects to client status?

Earning trust is what you’re doing when prospects willingly become clients. The skills and time involved in earning trust through email or over the phone can be considerably more challenging, than earning trust face-to-face.

Everyone is too busy for meetings, you say.

Yes, but I say, target prospects have interests that they prefer to pursue in person. Knowing how they spend this hands-on time is part of learning how to engage your target market.

For instance, if your service focus is B2B:

  • Do you know if many target prospects would favor business events introducing new products or systems?
  • Would they prefer professional-development conferences or out-reach campaigns promoted by professional organizations?
  • Perhaps, their line of work would lead them to favor restaurant openings…family charitable events…sports in any format…or meetings about shared interests in anything from WordPress or Buffer to wine tastings or photography.

I’m not suggesting you become a business predator, tracking target prospects down in their off-time and pouncing on them.

However, to effectively develop and deliver products and service that attract and engage your preferred target group, you must understand them. Not as statistics and marketing projections, but as individuals and as contributing members of groups, organizations, and communities that matter to them.

You love what you do and believe in your ability to contribute benefits to target clients. Take that deep commitment and share a some of it with the individuals you are intent on serving.

Each week, get out there. Meet target prospects face-to-face, so you can flesh-out the profiles your research frames. Enjoy yourself in the process. These experiences will assist you with naturally and confidently arranging the face-to-face opportunities that drive your business and client success.

Face-to-Face Question: Your online venture may be designed without face-to-face client contact, but would your prospects be receptive to a get-together that would simultaneously give your client base and your revenues a big boost?

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The Ideal Length Of Everything

Ideal length of everything

Who determines length?

It’s not about the length you want to write or how short you tweet, but what your ideal target client believes is an ideal length—enough, but not too much.

Journalists and copywriters are trained to write length “to count”—to fill the exact space available in print context, like column inches or above the fold in newspapers. Online lengths are measured in bytes and bandwidth. Digitally, “above the fold” continues to set limits, but it now means before the need to scroll. Publishers limit nonfiction authors “to count” in tens of thousands of words, especially when creating a print book which has size and weigh limitations for a lot of practical reasons. Yet these decisions may be flawed.

Don’t think about the length—number of words, number of lines, number of pages, amount of scrolling required—when you write or send messages to engage your target prospects and clients. Instead, carefully consider time—theirs.

Time is the precious and limiting resource for all of us and no less for your targets.

Make sure you consider length by determining exactly how much of their time your communication will use up. How long will it take prospects and clients to read, watch, or listen to content you’ve created, or had created, to promote you and your offerings? Be sure that you aren’t wasting their valued commodity:

  • Wasting time, because you are not on point, that is, clearly sharing valuable knowledge that targets can easily use to their own benefit.
  • Wasting time, because you’re not reaching them when it’s convenient for them to receive your information and ideas and to act.
  • Wasting time, because the result is not more revenue, more work, and more trust for you and your business or practice, but possibly less of all three.

Search the net and you’ll find lists of the ideal length for almost any communication product or service. Averages and generalities are ball-park figures. Unless these lengths were generated by or for your specific target, they may distract you from your target’s ideals.

Start by deciding how much time target prospects and clients might invest in a specific written, audio, and/or video message because they value your expertise. Remember, miss the point and deliver little targets consider relevant, and hard-won trust is eroded regardless of the length.

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Social Media As Defined By Your Target

target WHO

Who’s your target WHO?

The social media that drove your business and defined your target through start-up, may not be the social media that fosters equally amazing future growth.
That’s a reality to consider before you assume it’s full steam ahead with the social media platform you built the business around. Or before something happens to the platform—it’s snapped up by a giant, algorithms are changed, or your defined target market is swept on to the next new thing.

You may be comfortable moving forward along the same social media path that has gotten you this far, but prolonged status quo rarely works in any aspect of business. For instance, the skills and knowledge that enabled you to grow your businesses through start up, are not the abilities and capabilities that facilitate mature business growth.

The choice of which social media to build services and products around should probably not have been yours in the first place. Ideally, you began by identifying the target or preferred client group or groups that would would place the highest value on what you offer, whether it is a product, software, skill training, or any other B2B or B2C product or service. Target social media preferences and usage patterns dictated yours and defined your social media.

(If you were first drawn to a new or emerging platform and then to key groups using it, you’ll still find, over time, user tastes and needs shift and changes to the platform may not favor your business.)

Which of the two classic client service patterns represents your high priority target clients?

1. “Temporary” Clients/Niche Specific:
Your product or service is valued at a specific stage, for an identifiable niche, or for short-term use. Your business is designed to continually cultivate new “waves” of clients at that same high-usage stage. Acquiring new clients is high priority. For instance, clients may only need your products or services during start-up mode for businesses or during university years for individuals. These clients remain loyal during this time and then their need or interest in the product or service ends and they move on.

2. “Permanent” Clients/Across Niches:
Your product or service is valued over each client’s lifetime or for long-term use. Your business is designed to “permanently” retain and maintain existing clients over years or decades, if not forever. Retaining existing clients is high priority. For instance, your business takes clients through a lifetime or all the growth stages of a business. Clients remain loyal “forever.”

The social media used by “temporary” client types may be different from that which attracts “permanent” client types. At least, how they use and engage will differ even within the same platform. The difference may also lie in which combinations of social media and technology targets use.

Would your prime target client group be considered “temporary” or “permanent?”
How does their social media usage reflect this pattern?
What’s next for your clients?

Defining your target client includes knowing how to anticipate their social media needs.

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Clients Demand: Pay Attention To Earn TRUST

Pay attention duck legs unseen

Pay attention: What’s below the water with clients?

To engage and hold the attention of a prospect or client, professionals must first PAY ATTENTION.

The media and marketing are committed to distraction, interruption, and redirection to achieve their goals, not your client’s. The more information, phone time, and social media noise distracting a prospect or client, the less of their attention there is to apply to the client problem you expect to solve. Ignore this attention-diverting context, and you won’t be prepared for success with clients who are distracted from making decisions and commitments.

To ramp up your “attention paying” and attention receiving:

1. Tailor to Earn Trust: Your approach, delivery, and service design may have worked before smartphones took over. Now, changes may be necessary to counterbalance the level of information overload your client is operating under or coping with each day. For instance, you may prefer one phone call or meeting to cover everything that you need said, concluding with the client signing on-the-dotted-line and buying your product or service. What’s the client’s preference? Today, many clients need more time and different methods of information delivery to become confident enough to buy. Others may want to take themselves through the sales process online with opportunity to search out details, alternatives, and reviews as they go. What learning tools do your target clients prefer: video, audio, experiential?

2. Concentrate to Earn Trust: It’s not only paying attention to your client that matters, but demonstrating that you’re concentrating. Reduce your level of distraction to elevate concentration. Put down your phone. Eye contact matters. Ask for details; listen constructively to client answers by taking notes; think about the points they make; analyze what’s missing; ask for details to clarify needs and gaps that your product or service is designed to fill. Every time the client has to repeat something to you or remind you that their earlier answer dictates their response to subsequent questions, you’re not earning trust and you may be losing accumulated trust.

3. Prepare to Earn Trust: Take-away content in print, audio, video, digital, or email form may give the prospect or client confidence in your sincerity. During a meeting, give them time alone to review the details and decisions involved. This focused attention may be all they need to sign up. Prepare a client-centric sales or consulting process that incorporates follow up, product/service customizing, client satisfaction, and above-average results for the client. This may mean tweeking your pre-smartphone sales or consulting system or completely overhauling your existing process so it’s smartphone-friendly.

The smartphone changed everything. How have you changed the way you do business to accommodate this communication revolution?

More: An example of how distraction and multitasking can undermine client decision making during a common buying process…”Multitasking vs A Real Estate Frame of Mind

Pay attention: What’s below the water with clients?

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Trust Earning: Do You Deserve Client Trust?

Risk aversion stops many good things from happening when it is supposed to stop bad things. Trust is the antidote to risk aversion.

Professionals must communicate their trustworthiness to earn trust and build lasting relationships with prospects and clients.

Natural fear of taking action or making a decision is meant to preserve our health, property, way of life, and sanity, but it can do the opposite. As far as prospects and clients are concerned, their trust will be earned by professionals who show consistent, genuine interest in the wellbeing of the prospect or client. Unless this client concern is visible in every facet of the work carried out by the professional for and with clients, trust may not be achieved and the relationship will remain superficial.

Clients’ interests should be transparently and prominently placed above the professionals’ interests. This commitment materializes as services that are relevant to target client needs and as delivery methods that match the professional’s process and organizational support.

For instance, whether a client filters the world through their smartphone or prefers emails interspersed with phone or face-to-face meetings, they’ll be receptive to placing trust in professionals who respect client communication preferences. Professionals who commit to client needs and goals discover many ways to demonstrate their trustworthiness.

Trust is also earned by professionals who deliver on promises and responsibilities without prompting or excuses. If it’s not clear to clients that they are in sync with the professional, has the professional genuinely earned their trust?

Perception is the reality in earning client loyalty. The client’s definition of trust sets the standard for professionals to meet and exceed in everything from communication to service delivery:

  • Should trusting include the client questioning the professional, or is unquestioning acceptance demanded by the professional?
  • Is the professional’s reaction defensive or offensive if their knowledge or skill is challenged?
  • Does the client understand exactly what you, the professional, expect from them and from yourself as the relationship progresses?
  • From the start, clients deserve to understand what “trust” will mean to both of you, and to outcomes. Clients should trust themselves to be sure about this.

Will you share this post with your prospects and clients because you want to open up the lines of communication and earn trust?

© Source: What’s Your Point? PJ Wade The Catalyst

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How Wanting Social Media ‘Likes’ Can Undermine Personal Service

Behaviorists and best-selling authors Joseph Grenny and David Maxfield of VitalSmarts surveyed 1623 people and discovered that obsession with posting photos and checking phones corresponds with lower enjoyment.

For professionals, “lower enjoyment” extrapolates to lowered personal service. Your clients may be shutting you out or down when they keep an eye on the screen, but are you doing the same thing to them by keeping an eye on your screen for social media updates and texts instead of giving clients your full attention?

The VitalSmarts survey “Society’s New Addiction: Getting a ‘Like’ over Having a Life” confirmed that social media isn’t only distracting, it’s dictating how we interact in person. Mashable.com and Entrepreneur.com featured the survey in articles that reviewed results like the 91% surveyed have seen tourists miss out on an important moment by trying to capture it on social media. (Maxfield’s own social media trophy-hunting behavior at his 60th birthday triggered the study.) You’ve been aware of this distraction trend and the fact it continues on the rise. What are you doing to take advantage of your knowledge and experience for your clients and your business?

My point is that distraction over superficial online responses should not take priority over giving your full, face-to-face attention to the client you’re with. Aren’t you curious why they believed a visit to you, not a text or phone call, was worth their time and effort?

1. If you can’t successfully juggle client relationships and social media, shouldn’t you reevaluate priorities, improve time management strategies, or hire an assistant? What are you intent on achieving with social media and your clients?
2. Curiosity about your clients feeds success with client service and satisfaction. If social media is burning up curiosity that should go to clients, what replacement value is social media contributing to you and your practice?

If you can’t give the client your full attention, why have a face-to-face meeting?

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10 TIPS for Complex Decisions Made Simple

triminii  Professionals, including advisors, executives, and entrepreneurs, are decisive by nature and training, so it’s not surprising that many often think they are great decision-makers.

Some professionals even believe that making decisions quickly is a sign of decisiveness, which it isn’t necessarily. Commonly, after a few years on the job, most professionals feel they have learned all there is about the decision-making process. They believe it’s just content in the form of product specifications, office procedures, and client “hot topics” that change, not decision making.

The more you understand about the PROCESS OF DECIDING relative to your target market and business, Continue reading

LEAN Customer-Centric Thinking

CUSTOMER-CENTRIC LEAN Manufacturing: Excerpts from a conversation with Association for Manufacturing Excellence CEO Paul Kuchuris

PJW: What is LEAN Manufacturing?

AME/Kuchuris: LEAN Manufacturing is basically processes that address waste in the process. This is waste from the stand point of material waste, as well as the stand point of time, from the standpoint of money and effort. So, LEAN will go through a process of saying… Continue reading

Ice Breakers: Communication Illusions or Fast-Trackers?

Speakers often start group sessions with “ice breakers” that get participants talking to each other about personal topics they would otherwise not discuss with a stranger.

Facilitators kick off meetings by asking attendees for self-introductions which include personal tidbits.

Sales people search for common ground as a focus for a friendly chat before getting down to business.

In all cases, the goal is to “break the ice” and quickly earn trust to expedite effective communication.
Whether you are intent on bringing strangers together quickly to form a common-purpose group, on learning exactly what colleagues care about, or on closing a sale with a new client, how you “break the ice” can determine whether you end up with genuine reactions or later-reversed acceptance that leaves you feeling blind-sided.

Problems can arise when you latch on to an icebreaker that you feel comfortable using, but Continue reading