Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Interesting staff are good for business

I was talking last night to Roger, a very talented man who designs those high-end terraces and roof gardens for those people in Manhattan who have very much more money than we can imagine.

He not only designs them, but his team installs and maintains them. So he is responsible for a team that has to carry sacks of dirt and trees past the Monets and Picassos and over the $500,000 rugs that fill his clients' apartments - without leaving a trace.

Roger himself is a fascinating and charming person, a former actor and theater designer. And his team is made up of kindred spirits: actors and designers and writers and photographers - all exquisitely good at what they are doing, and all interesting people in their own right.

And that is what makes a huge difference, Roger told me. When the competition comes to do the terrace the clients feel they have to get out of the way - their guys are strong competent workers - and that is all. But when Roger's people are there, the clients love to talk to them. They can talk about art and theater, politics and music. Clients love this and they look forward to their gardeners' visits.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Ask yourself 12 important questions

1. What is the single thing that I do that solves my clients problems?

2. What is the business goal I have set for this coming year?

3. What are the obstacles preventing me from achieving this goal?

4. How do my clients see us relative to our competition?

5. Do I have as much repeat business as I should have?

6. How many new clients do I plan to get in the coming year?

7. How much time each week do I spend reaching out to potential clients?

8. Are my team members working well together?

9. What are my competitors doing?

10.What is the next big opportunity for my business?

11.What changes are taking place in the way my clients work?

12.Are there any glitches in the way our operations are functioning?

13.Am I having fun yet?

Okay so that is thirteen questions - you get to pick which one not to answer.

Monday, June 16, 2008

The kindness of strangers

I am increasingly being asked to introduce people on LinkedIn. And not just people I know, but people I know who know the people that my friends want to know. So I am just a link in the chain.

I am not sure how I feel about this chainlinking. I suppose that this is the point of these networks. What do you think? If you got this third or fourth hand introduction would it make you take notice? Does it mean anything?

I must say that I have asked some questions on LinkedIn and got some quite useful answers from complete strangers. It feels as if they must be connected to me in some way - but they aren't, are they? I am grateful for their responses and they have helped me out.

I guess that we are moving into a phase where we will all be able to say "whoever you are, I've always depended on the kindness of strangers"

So why don't you join me on LinkedIn and see if we can meet some of these kind strangers?

You're still selling - even when you're working

I have had conversations with two different clients in the last week who were bemoaning the fact that when they get a big job they focus completely on it and are not out selling.

But they are missing the beauty of the opportunity. The client that already gives you work is very very likely to give you another job. She is the lowest hanging fruit. So everything you do when you are working on her job should be working towards securing her future business.

Yes of course your immediate task is to do an awesome piece of work for her. But your larger task can be considered as "turning this job into the next one and the next one". You don't have to hard sell. Just show her you are excited about her job, ask her about her hopes and dreams for her career, tell her about other interesting stuff you are excited about - all this is selling and you have a captive receptive audience

And there can often be an even bigger opportunity than that. In the case of one client - a film director who was shooting a commercial - he told me that everyone who worked at the ad agency had showed up on the shoot. All 15 of them. Better and better I said. Every one of them can become a client in the future. They will all probably move on to new agencies. What a magnificent sales opportunity - don't miss it.

First Drafts - getting started

Do you find it hard to get started when you have to write a proposal or a presentation - or a newsletter like this one. I know I do. I put it off and let it fester in my mind - and actually starting to put down words becomes the hardest part.

The best tip I have - the one that got me started this morning, is one that I took from Anne Lamotts wonderful book Bird by Bird: "All good writers write shitty first drafts. This is how they end up with good second drafts and terrific third drafts." The shitty first draft, she says, is "the child's draft where you let it pour out and let it romp all over the place knowing that no-one is going to see it and you can shape it later."

I commend the SFD to you as a brilliant way to get started when you have to write.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

When clients are unhappy

This is a customer relationship story that should prompt some thoughts about your own
clients and those odd times when they think you might have done them wrong.

I had a rather nasty experience this month with a high-pressure car dealership. The manufacturer had done a superb branding job on a greatlittle car that would make us feel young and carefree and last a long long time.

But by the time I left the dealership I felt battered and abused and convinced that the car I had bought would fall to pieces and sure that I had somehow been duped.

This was all thanks to a salesperson who reminded me a lot of Jerry Lundegaard in Fargo - and not in a good way - and a finance manager who made my wife think of Gitmo. There is more - but I will spare you.

I have since been contacted by three different survey takers from the dealer and from the manufacturer, asking me to rate my experience. Believe me I told them. But nothing has been done - no attempt to calm me or to make amends. Though I did get an automated phone call wishing me a happy birthday. A recorded greeting - please!

So they have the part right about finding out what their customers think - though three separate surveys seems like overkill. But what are they doing with the information?

They were smart enough to ask me how many people I had told of my bad experience. The response box was not big enough to say that I had already Twittered about it to goodness only knows how many people.

We've all had a client or two who got the wrong end of the stick. More and more their rants are being passed on - and at the speed and breadth of social networks.

So what should we do when a client is unhappy? I suggest tackling it head on with that client - and quickly. You should have a point of view ready so you don't get caught flat-footed. You don't have much time to fool around any more and the damage a disgruntled client can do can spread far wide and fast.