Advice from business leaders and industry experts
Growth Principals | 12 July 2022
As a business owner, you know what a great client is and how much they mean to your business.
Sustainable growth – not to mention the sheer enjoyment of great clients or customers – can be a measurable outcome of good client practices.
Revenue, profit, brand equity and ‘social referability’ – how likely it is that your business is recommended to someone else – are qualities that can be achieved through observing and upholding some simple principles and practices.
In this article, we use the term ‘clients’ to mean anyone you do business with. Depending on your business, this could be your customers, individual clients, other businesses, and so on.
Every business has its own focus, but everyone can benefit from this approach.
As you start in business, any client is a good client. Over time, you will likely find that some clients are not profitable or valuable to your business (we’ll return to this idea later in the article).
A client scorecard will help you review your relationship with your clients and help you understand what type of clients are best for your business.
You determine these qualities, and every business will be different. By this, I mean what aspects add value – for example, a client who will praise your business and refer potential clients to you provides value to your business. Conversely, some clients may seem unwilling or unaware of your commitment to fulfilling their needs and expectations no matter what you do.
Now take a second look at your list. Ask yourself:
Attracting and converting the right customers can influence the ongoing success of your business long after the initial sale.
With the insights you’ve gained through this exercise, try building an avatar – a mock profile – of the ‘perfect client’ and perhaps ‘the difficult client’. What characteristics would they have?
As a result, your optimal clients will stand out, helping you understand the types of clients you don’t want to target or cannot service.
Every business would (more or less) be able to say what their clients or customers value. After all, as business owners, we interact with them every day.
But over time, and particularly under pressure, we can become a little assumptive and take things for granted.
Clients will generally not give this value too much thought – until it’s missing.
As consumers, we are constantly on our customer journey as our everyday wants and needs are fulfilled. What makes up your sense of value to a prospect and then to a client? Where do you focus your attention? And how does it define your loyalty and preferences?
Importantly, how does your product or service offer match the wants, needs and expectations of your clients?
A quick, easy way is to step back from your business and reflect on:
Identifying what makes up our value to clients can be a little daunting. However, you are already providing products or services to them, so they are perfect for enabling you to identify opportunities to provide better ‘value’.
At the right time and in the proper manner, reach out to your clients.
Ask them sincerely and curiously and then – this is the important bit – listen. Being prepared to hold a conversation, driven by a commitment for their benefit, through empathy and what truly matters – will usually be quite constructive and informative.
Some ways to go about this conversation could include:
Done well and consistently, this simple investment can ensure you’re always providing value for your clients and can transform a good business into a great company.
We live in a world that, like it or not, values or even demands ‘easy’. Access to nearly anything is a reach away on your mobile phone. Our shopping trends, established for so long, are now entrenched in a digital world.
Influence has fundamentally shifted from the provider to the buyer.
Our opportunity is to ensure that every step of the way for prospective clients is simple, engaging and fulfilling.
Is your business ‘easy’ to access? For many businesses, the internet has meant a website, social platforms and other forms of media are prominent and accessible. However, experience now tells us that it’s a little more.
Universally, we want to be acknowledged. Face to face, this can simply be a warm and genuine greeting. Digital media can also be styled so that the context, content, and invitation are clear and straightforward.
To make sure your business is ‘easy’ to access:
From this exercise, create a Prospect to Customer Journey Map. The map will be vastly different for each business: professional services to retail products, offline and online. However, the learning and opportunity are the same – confirmation of ‘easy’ paths or opportunities to remove wasteful steps, frustrations or other aspects that are blockers and may cause prospects to be lost.
It’s universal that our first encounters are memorable.
When starting a new relationship, even one between a client and business, there’s a lot at stake. We are mentally and often emotionally engaged in the choice, so the first impression stays in our memory longer.
As a result, a great first experience will validate or confirm the choice your client made.
What can make for a great first customer experience?
Reflect on the last time you left an interaction with a new firm or business that made it memorable, personal and value-adding? What made the difference to you?
And finally – are your points of first encounter memorable or forgettable? This could be your website, social media, sales team or shopfront. After all, we only get one first chance to embed a positive attitude.
A business practice that will pay dividends across the life of your business is (depending, of course, on the type of product or service) to conduct a regular internal assessment of client value. This may be something you do annually or more regularly.
It simply provides you as the business owner a chance to identify where you stand with your clients and identify opportunities to strengthen those relationships or decide it’s time for a change.
Have a look at the client scorecard you created as part of Tip 1. Think about:
Once you have reviewed your clients, think about how you have responded to their (assumed) loyalty. Often it may be a card at Christmas or another calendar event.
Consider how your most important clients or customers are acknowledged. What steps can you take to renew and strengthen your business relationship?
It cannot be overemphasised that reaching out and saying a simple thank you to your clients is a gift to both parties – particularly those in a business-to-business relationship. In the day-to-day of business, it can be an inspiring and valuable expression of commitment.
Finally, the thorny issue of clients that, well, you may have learnt to live with, even though they’re not helpful for your business. Or maybe living with them seems easier than letting them go. They may be unprofitable, challenging to deal with or simply not the right fit for your future.
There is no formula for working this out, but the client scorecard exercise can help guide your thinking.
However, honest, direct communication that does not diminish or reflect personally is an excellent place to start. Quite often, both parties have changed.
Be clear and confident in the commitment to being of the best service to each other. At times, new arrangements can be defined and committed to.
On other occasions, it may just be the right decision to go your separate ways.
The future of your business will, in part, be driven by your clients and how you invest in their attraction, onboarding and creating memorable first encounters.
Once you have established that relationship with your clients, reviewing it regularly – including reviewing your own business’s value to them – is an important step in renewing your partnership.
By investing time in your client processes, you can grow your business into the future.