Genuine business partnerships are built on genuine relationships and genuine relationships are built on a deep understanding of a client’s business problems.
"Whoa there Paul!" I hear you say.
"I have enough problems of my own to worry about. Why would I want to take on my clients problems too?"
I understand where you are coming from. We all have our own load to bear.
Why would you go seeking more?
You'll probably not believe this, but you'll make more money from each client and have less client 'churn'.
Here's the research that backs this up.
For years advertising companys have draped beautiful women over red sports cars to get our attention.
Then they got smart and decided to hook up a bunch of consumers to EEG machines (the ones that measure brain wave activity) to see what REALLY gets their attention.
They had 3 groups of images:
1. The usual sexy women draped over fast cars; luxurious homes and the like.
2. A group of pleasant scenes like waterfalls, sandy beaches and familys playing and finally . . .
3. A selection of horrible photos like crying children in a war zone, car accidents and angry fights between people. All problem pictures.
Which photos do you think recorded the most brain activity?
Yep. The problem ones.
Because the human brain has an automatic reaction to problems. It scrambles to find out an answer to fix the problem.
It goes berzerk with problems.
The brain goes goes buz buz buz.
Why do you read my reports?
The same principle applies as to why you open and read many of these reports I send you.
You'll notice most of my email 'subject lines' are a question.
"Why are your customers going over to your competitor?"
See the problem I raise in your mind. Losing customers to your competition is serious. It's a problem for you. That's why so many folk open my emails.
Then I've been told by one client that
'You drag me kicking and screaming, reading through to the end of each report'
How do I do that?
By asking questioins - relevant questions that address the problems I know you are facing day by day.
Smart marketers take the time to find out what their customers most common problems are and then focus on them.
Remember the plumbers who advertised on their trucks "We repair what your husband fixed"
They got smart and realised that men try to fix their plumbing problems and mess it up. Their wives have the problem. They have to put up with half done jobs.
They made a lot of money from knowing how to get clients and how to keep clients.
How well do you understand your customer’s problems?
You also need to continually add value or your customers will go elsewhere. Don’t start with your competencies – start with the client’s problem.
What are their fears? their challenges? their headaches?
Build a colour picture in your mind of what it feels like for them – then look for the best way for them to solve their problems and become that solution.
It’s a never ending challenge … you have to have the right culture/mindset as well as the process to keep on the journey. It’s a journey of constantly ensuring a good ‘fit’ – of understanding what a client needs and what you and your business can offer.
The context of this fit is based on values – shared values/philosophies etc. These are the building blocks that make client relationships sustainable.
Without shared values/philosophies, few client relationships last.
This goes back to finding the right clients in the first place. Understand their business before you pitch for the work and don’t pitch if you don’t want it.
Find and work with companies that have similar values, where you share a similar philosophy and culture to yours.
It is also important to gain each other’s trust to build an open and honest relationship.
Trust is the glue that binds. That's how to keep clients.
Ask more questions, talk less, and listen more.
If a client’s values or future direction change (perhaps due to people changes) and is no longer in line with your values, the relationship may also need to change, or die.
(Tom Cruise stared in the movie Jerry Maguire - see last Blog entry/ Report 'When Less is More - Part 1")
Jerry Maguire left a copy of his mission statement in each person’s mailbox before work and he got fired because of it. He was honest but to the detriment of his job. He experienced short term pain perhaps for long term gain (but we don’t know – there was never a Jerry Maguire sequel).
It’s hard to part ways, but sometimes there is a use-by date in a relationship. Jerry knew his time had come.
We understand a company’s direction will change, and we try to move with our clients, but values will never change. The key here, is to be honest and open with your clients.
It may be counterintuitive but it is imperative to work with like-minded businesses.
We look for businesses that align with our beliefs:
- Integrity (honesty, genuinely wanting what is best for their business, doing what you say you’re going to do, being honest about what you can and can’t do)
- Passion (sincerely interested and give a damn)
- Accountability (getting results).
Not all sales revenue is good revenue. The opportunity cost of some revenue is greater than the actual profit you generate from it. Be honest – just say the business isn’t right, isn’t in line with your values and own direction and refer them to a third party where the ‘fit’ might be better.
It’s a small world and it’s continually surprising how a client will pop up somewhere else and remember the way you uniquely dealt with them. Always be honest and do the right thing by clients and by people in general and good will come your way.
Till next time,
© Paul Johnson 2013 Missing Piece Marketing