Posted Thursday, February 10, 2005
What is one of the greatest ways to add value to your business? Nope, it's not giving away free merchandise, offering special discounts, or even creating a preferred customer club. One of the most valuable commodities that you can provide your customers is INFORMATION.
WHAT'S THE PROBLEM?
Think about it. In this society, we are faced with an overwhelming sense of information OVERLOAD. There is so much "junk" out there cluttering up the landscape that it can be hard to find the one bit of data that is really useful to you. How many times have you gone onto the internet or searched through the database at your local library for one very specific piece of information -- only to come up with hundreds or thousands of documents that are completely unrelated to the topic at hand? All of this informational garbage has become known as DATA SMOG, and it clutters up our heads as much as atmospheric smog clogs up our air.
WHAT'S THE SOLUTION?
As a business owner, this is where you can really be of service to your clients. It doesn't matter if you sell life insurance or organize people's offices or prepare wills -- you can be a valuable RESOURCE to your clients. Just listen the next time that you are talking with one of your customers -- you will recognize a lot of comments that indicate a NEED. When you hear things like, "I'm having a problem with…" or "I wish I could find a good…" or "I really could use some help with…" you are hearing an opportunity to help someone out.
WHY SHOULD I GET INVOLVED?
So what difference does it make if my client needs legal help or is looking for a good place to buy a used filing cabinet? That's not my business! Well, maybe not -- but you will immediately gain CREDIBILITY in your client's eyes. You are no longer seen as a mercenary business owner who is only interested in making the next sale. You are now a generous, caring person who goes out of his or her way to make sure all of your client's needs are taken care of. You have developed a rapport with your customers, and they will reward you with their LOYALTY -- as well as referrals to other potential clients. And it takes very little time or effort to locate a resource for your clients, as you will see a little later on.
GET TO KNOW YOUR CLIENTS
It's much easier to serve as a resource to your clients if you get to know them PERSONALLY. Ask about how their families are doing, what's happening in their businesses, and what new projects they've gotten involved in since the last time you spoke. The more you get your clients to open up, the more likely they are to mention a need that you can help them solve. And it's amazing how easy it is to get people to talk about THEMSELVES if you just ask -- it's most people's favorite subject!
You might be thinking to yourself, "There's no way I can remember all of these 'needs' that each of my clients has!" And you are probably right -- unless you use some sort of a TRACKING SYSTEM for keeping notes about your customers. I always take a pad of paper with me to appointments for recording these "resource-related" to-do's. That way, when I get back to my office, I can respond quickly to my client's requests. Try to get into the habit of setting aside just a few minutes each day to take care of your "resource duties" -- just like you would do with making phone calls or returning e-mails or any other MARKETING activity. Because that's what this kind of customer care is -- marketing both you and your business.
EARCH THE WEB
I find that, as a fairly computer-savvy individual, I have a talent that can benefit my less technically-inclined clients a great deal -- I know how and where to look for things on the INTERNET. When one of my clients mentions needing administrative help or a personal coach or even a good place to buy shelving, I can find an online resource for them quickly and easily. Rather than telling my customers, "I'm sure you can find this on the web," I send them an e-mail with LINKS to the appropriate sites. This not only helps my clients find the products and services they need, but I come out of it looking like a real hero.
DO YOU ACTUALLY IMPLEMENT CLIENT SUGGESTIONS?
It doesn’t do any good to ask for a client’s feedback if it’s just going to get pitched into a file or left in your e-mail in-box. You actually have to move that idea into some form of ACTION -- clarify (or even change) your policies, implement a new follow-up program, offer specially-priced sale packages, make an addition to your marketing materials -- whatever it takes to keep your customer happy. And when you do follow-through with a bit of client feedback, be sure to send that customer a letter. Tell them how much you appreciated their opinions, and point out how you have put their suggestions into action. You will always come across as a hero.
CLIP AND SEND
I love flipping through a catalog, magazine, or newspaper and coming across something that I know a client of mine can use. I don't go out of my way to subscribe to tons of extra PERIODICALS -- I just keep an eye out for interesting subjects in my everyday reading. But if you have clients who always seem to need help in a specific area -- finances or technology or parenting -- you might consider getting a few additional SUBSCRIPTIONS (and count it as a business expense!) I've sent clients articles on everything from caring for elderly parents to creating a business plan, and I'm always clipping pages from catalogs that have new and interesting organizing products that meet a particular client's needs. It takes only a few minutes to tear a page out and pop it into an envelope, but the impression you make lasts forever!
Finally, one of the easiest ways to serve as a resource for your clients is through NETWORKING. As you network, you will meet people in other fields who might be of use to your clients down the road. Remember, you never know what kinds of products and services your clients might require -- and the more people you get to know outside of your own industry, the more likely you are to say, "Hey, I know someone who does that!" when a client mentions a need. Nothing feels better than successfully connecting two people who can be of service to each other -- and in the process, you create two loyal sources of REFERRALS for your own business.
About the Author
Ramona Creel is a Professional Organizer and the founder of OnlineOrganizing.com -- a web-based one-stop shop offering everything that you need to get organized at home or at work. At OnlineOrganizing.com, you may get a referral to an organizer near you, shop for the latest organizing products, get tons of free tips, and even learn how to become a professional organizer or build your existing organizing business. And if you would like to read more articles about organizing your life or building your business, get a free subscription to the "Get Organized" and "Organized For A Living" newsletters. Please visit (http://www.OnlineOrganizing.com) or contact Ramona directly at email@example.com for more information.