How do you keep customers or clients for life? I’m talking about the life of either your business or theirs? How do you keep them from leaving your service in favor of a lower-cost competitor? With all the competition out there, is there really such a thing as standing out in a crowded market anymore?
These are all great questions.
As the owner of a service-based business myself, I know what today’s competition is like from firsthand experience. I’m in the trenches every day, just like you are. It’s not just becoming successful – it’s staying that way that counts.
Why Do People Do Business with You?
When you’re just getting started, it’s easy to get bogged down with things like web design, copywriting, etc. All sorts of things can slow your momentum down to a crawl. I could write a long list of things here and you’d probably be able to identify with most of them. Even if you’ve been doing this for several years, it’s easy to start second guessing things and lose your momentum.
Do you wonder if you’re doing what you need to be doing to stand out in the crowd? Is your design polished enough? Does the content on your site create anticipation and influence your prospects to buy?
Being in the web development industry, I never 100% happy with all the elements on my site. I was always questioning whether it was good or even good-enough!
Design can be tough because everyone has different tastes. For example, how often do you see someone wearing a certain shirt and you tell yourself, “I just have to get one of those?” Not too often, right? That goes for a lot of things. Tastes and styles can vary greatly from one person to next.
Over time, I learned that my clients really didn’t scrutinize my website’s design very. And they just skimmed through the words. My own websites were more or less similar to all the other sites out there in the same niche. When it came right down to it, all they really cared about was whether or not I could build what they wanted.
People Want to Do Business with People they LIKE
I’m sure you’ve heard about the know-like-trust principle of you’ve ever read any marketing or sales books before? People like to do business with those who fit into those three categories. Just liking someone is usually good enough to get started.
When you meet or see someone for the first time, they push arrow on our “Like Meters” off the zero. It stops somewhere on the dial between 1-10.
I like getting to know people. After a few years in business, I started wondering what my clients liked about doing business with me, so I asked them. Many of them told me I was, “Good at explaining technical things in terms they could understand.” I heard that over and over again.
Also, they liked me personally and mentioned that I smile a lot and usually always seem happy.
In other words, it was just as much about me as it was anything else. Sure, the job needed to get done correctly. That’s a given. Referrals help a lot but think about the referrals that have come your way in the past.
Your friends may like them. Your business associates may like them, too. But that’s not good enough, is it? You have to talk to them for yourself, and you have to like them, too. If you don’t, it’s no deal. Isn’t that true?
Everyone Must Prove Themselves
In school, you don’t move on to the next grade unless you pass some tests. Think about it, even if you haven’t been in school for years, you’ve been “taking tests” your entire life.
People test you all the time. If you don’t return phone calls or emails, you’ve failed their test. Even if the other person wasn’t consciously testing your responsiveness, you’ve failed to meet their expectations. The problem is, expectations can be different from person to person.
Something that’s not a big deal to one person IS to another.
Trust builds over time, but it can be lost in a heartbeat.
The last experience you’ve had with a business, a brand, or an individual has a way of pushing all the previous experiences into the background.
So, whether we’re talking about companies, businesses, or individuals, everyone must prove themselves. When there’s a lot of competition, and there is, you can see why it’s so important to be at your very best all the time.
What’s Important to Your Clients?
Did you ever ask your clients what’s important to them? Two themes always seem to come up when I talk about what kind of people they prefer doing business with.
- Good Customer Service
This isn’t as common as it used to be. A good example of this may be your experience at a restaurant. Most people have a favorite restaurant or a favorite place to go for a certain type of food. The question is – how consistent are they as far as quality goes? If you get one so-so meal out of five, it may not bother you too much, but you’re still a little bit disappointed.
I’ve had a few bad experiences at my favorite restaurants, too, as I’m sure you have.
In the restaurant business, there’s a saying that you’re only as good as the last meal you serve.
I like pizza. There are a few local restaurants that make better pizza than the competition in town. That said, sometimes the food’s not so great there, either. Maybe they didn’t cook it enough? Or, maybe they put too much sauce or too much cheese on it?
Afterward, you’re not exactly looking forward to going back there again.
What if you applied the “you’re only as good as your last meal” concept to your own business? Are you consistent? Or, are things sliding?
Good Customer Service
Inevitably, something goes wrong. Something breaks. Something doesn’t get done correctly or on time, etc. My parents bought a new washing machine last year. It had a few issues and needed to have a few components replaced.
The customer service was terrible. They may have been quick to deliver the product and take their payment, but they weren’t very quick when it to resolving problems and making things right. The machine stopped working. It was filled with clothes.
It wouldn’t spin, drain the water, or do anything. The customer service person half-heartedly said it will be about three days before they could get a service person out to take a look at the machine. That was their response, only two days after the purchase was made.
It would have been better if Whirlpool (the company) sent a replacement machine out the next day. Their response to that was, “That’s not the way we do it.”
I’m sure you have your own stories. That’s why creating a positive experience for your clients is so important.
Meeting Expectations and Beyond
Every now and then, you’ll find a contractor or do business with someone who exceeds your expectations. One of my clients goes out of her way to train her staff. She invests more time and effort into training her employees than I’ve ever seen anyone else do.
The result? Her business has been rated as one of the best in her niche in the United States for the last decade.
There are a lot of ways to provide clients with a better, above average experience. Give it some thought and see what you can come up with.
Changing with the Times
Change is something I talk and write a lot about. People hate change, for the most part. I force myself to face it and look for whatever positive elements I can find. In other words, I make the choice to never see the glass as being half empty.
Change affects everything and everyone. Think of it like a wave. It’s better to ride a wave than it is to get hit by it.
What’s important to your clients right now may be little more than an afterthought two years from now. I hate to say that as much as you probably hate to hear it, but it’s true. Think about it from a customer’s or client’s perspective.
Do some businesses leave you with the impression that they’re not keeping up with the times? Do certain businesses seem “dated” to you?
Even if it’s just adding the equivalent of a fresh coat of paint, keeping up with the times is important. People invest in new and improved. While the cutting edge may not be important to everyone, you don’t want to fall too far behind the change curve.
The challenges your clients faced in the past will eventually be replaced by new challenges. Are you still the right person they need in their corner to face today’s challenges? If you want to have clients for life, that’s exactly the type of person you need to become. You can do it, too. You just have to be willing to let go of the past and live 100% in the present.
Doing a Business “Reboot”
Today, you may look at your presence in the marketplace and think, “This just isn’t working the way it needs to be working.” I remember looking at the tools and services I was promoting back in 2007 with the realization that what got me to that point wasn’t going to get me much further.
The foundation was good, but the house built upon it needed some improvements and updating.
My business was nine years old back in 2007. So, I went ahead and did what I call “a business reboot.” I got back to the basics, determined what was working and what wasn’t. I looked at everything – from A to Z. Over the course of the next year, I changed a lot of things and then had my own grand re-opening in my market.
Sometimes, you can’t sell or market something successfully – not because you’re a bad marketer, but because the market doesn’t want it. Don’t waste years trying to sell something the market doesn’t want from you. I tried and guess what? It doesn’t work.
I know it sounds personal if I say, “They may want it, but they may not want to buy it from you.” So, let me include myself in that statement. They may want it, but they may not want to buy it from me.” Recently, a famous restaurant chain in the USA known for their pancakes decided they’re going to start focusing on marketing and selling hamburgers.
I like a good hamburger. That said, I have no intention of buying hamburgers from them. Why? There are plenty of places that I can already think of that have good hamburgers where I live. For whatever reason, the thought of going there wasn’t (isn’t) very enticing.
The point I want to make is, you may choose the market – but the market has to choose you back. If it doesn’t, there’s really no need to psychoanalyze it. Sometimes a product or service just isn’t profitable, and you have to drop it in favor of something else.
Clients for Life
Right now, I can think of a handful of services that I pay for each and every month. All things being equal, I’m a client for life. When it comes to services, making a switch isn’t always the easiest or most convenient thing to do. Look at it from a client’s perspective. Then apply that perspective to your own business.
In the simplest terms, we can sum it up with two questions, “Is what I’m getting worth what I’m paying?” and “Are my expectations being met?”
I’m focusing on service-based businesses, but the same thing applies if you’re selling products.
Is it worth it? I’m sure that’s a question you’ve asked yourself on more than just a few occasions. If you’ve ever struggled financially, that question is practically second nature to you.
Your mission now, should you choose to accept it, is to “make it worth it,” and “meet expectations.” That means you have to stay on top of what you’re offering, what you’re charging, and what you’re delivering. Perceived value, in the eyes of a client, can change as quickly as their bottom line changes.
With that in mind, purpose to be the last service they’d ever consider jettisoning if their ship starts taking on water. If a client needs to lighten their financial load, do what it takes to position yourself to be one of the last vendor’s standing. Hopefully, it never comes to that. But if it does, you can have a business that will truly stand the test of time.
Thanks for reading, and feel free to share your thoughts below.
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