Ask Fleximize: Potential Clients

Ask Fleximize: Potential Clients

The three burning questions on the lips of business owners

By Daniel Kidd

How can we educate potential clients about needs our business can solve?

To educate potential clients about the problems your business can solve, you first need to know what’s relevant to your potential clients. Wherever you place information about your business, if it’s not addressing the genuine needs, desires and priorities of potential clients, it won’t be effective.

This also means making your message clear. It needs to state a real need or problem, offer your business as the ideal solution, and explain what you can offer that no-one else can.

Put yourself in the shoes of a potential client, and think about what problems they’ll experience and where they’ll look for advice and information. For example, think about what they’ll type into Google, then use targeted ads and SEO content to capture those searches. Remember that you want to educate potential clients, not just advertise to them. So make your content useful, novel, entertaining and thought provoking.

Think about the media and trade publications your potential clients are likely to read. Submit articles or quotes relevant to the needs your business can solve. Think about the industry conferences or trade fairs that your potential clients may attend. Book yourself a booth, engage with attendees and volunteer to give a talk or lead a Q&A session.

Utilise your existing client base. Ask them to write reviews or testimonials, and encourage them to share their positive experience of your business with their peer network.

Finally, make sure that when potential clients are interested, it’s easy for them to get further information. Make sure you’ve got clear product descriptions and an informed member of staff waiting for their call. Also consider using instructional videos, FAQs or a live chat facility on your website.

What new initiatives will help build trust with potential clients?

Establishing trust with potential clients is essential to winning their custom. There are a number of initiatives you can take to help to build this trust.

In many industries, the most effective tools are testimonials and reviews from previous clients. Potential clients are more likely to trust you if someone just like them has used your services and is recommending you. Encourage endorsements, comments and reviews from clients, publish them online or in your brochure and quote them in your publicity.

Professional qualifications for you and your staff, or accreditation of your business, can also be important in establishing trust. Similarly, industry or consumer awards can be influential, especially if they recognise your expertise and good service. The more recognised the awarding body or institution and the more prestigious the award, the better. Again, maximise their effect by including them on your publicity, your letterhead and your business cards.

Look for opportunities to get referenced in respected, mainstream media. For example, if there’s a news story relating to your industry, offer newspapers a quote or opinion on the matter. This can be much more effective than advertising or self-published material, as it carries the implication that the news organisation trusts and values your opinion.

If there are incidents of bad behaviour or foul play within your industry, publicly distance yourself from them. Taking a stand against unfair dealing can help to establish you as being on the side of clients.

Finally, offer useful advice and information to potential clients. Don’t make it a sales pitch, but a genuine no-cost attempt to improve the clients’ knowledge and understanding.

How can I promote my company in ways that reach potential clients?

The first step in reaching new clients is to carefully define who you’re targeting. Trying to appeal to all potential clients at once will leave you with an unfocused, ineffective marketing strategy. You need to think about the profile of your ideal client, who they are, what they want and where you’ll find them. This will help you to target all your promotional activities in a much more effective way.

Establish your brand identity, your message and your appeal. Study the competition and try to identify what’s unusual or unique about what your business is offering. Potential clients are more likely to be interested in your message if you’re offering something new that they haven’t seen elsewhere.

You should also make sure that any potential clients who do approach your business receive a positive and professional first impression. This includes your logo, your office, your stationery and even your voicemail system.

The channels you should use to promote your company will depend on the nature of your business and your target audience, but for pretty much any business these days it should begin with an online presence. A clear, well designed website is a must. Register your website with search engines and also set up free listings in online directories such as Thomson Local, Yell, Google Local and Bing Places.

Set up your business profile on social media, including Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Search for groups and conversations that are relevant to your industry, products or services, and join in. In these channels, focus on participation and engagement, not advertising or spam.

Write a blog about yourself, your business and your products. Make it interesting, relevant and useful to potential clients. Consider getting help with copywriting and SEO.

Have a strategy for traditional advertising too. You could try placing adverts in print and broadcast media. Offer free quotations or special introductory offers. When you have something new or interesting to say about your business, send out press releases to newspapers, magazines, broadcasters and online press services.

You can reach and impress potential new clients by establishing yourself as an expert in your field. Submit articles to newspapers or magazines, or write a guest blog for an established website. To maximise the benefit, ask for permission to reproduce the article as part of your publicity. You can also boost your credibility by volunteering to give speeches or talks at events such as industry conferences or business forums.

Make contact with local business groups and professional associations. Attend meetings, hand out your business cards and do some networking. If you identify a group that offers a lot of contact with potential new clients, join them and become actively involved. Talk to them about generating leads and think about ways you could pool your resources.

Make use of your business network by talking to your suppliers, vendors and fellow businesses. Try to agree to some mutual promotion or recommendations, particularly with businesses that operate in the same field and target the same clients, but aren’t direct competitors

Bonus: How can we provide extraordinary customer service?

Listen to your customers

The number one rule for providing extraordinary customer service is to listen to your customers. Ask them what’s important to them. Businesses can score easy wins in customer service by tweaking their processes to remove the little things that annoy their customers, or by adding a special touch that shows customers that they care.

When a customer makes an unusual request or suggestion, never simply dismiss it. This is a golden opportunity to be extraordinary. Use their comments as a learning tool and do your best to address their needs. Even if their suggestion is impractical or unreasonable, try to offer creative alternatives to meet their requirements. Even if ultimately you don’t succeed, you will have done your reputation no harm.

Encourage staff creativity

Encourage creative thinking from your employees, particularly those on the front line. After your customers, these are the people who are best placed to know what works, what’s broken and what could be improved. Provide an anonymous suggestion box, or get employees to make one new suggestion every month. Reassure them that they won’t be criticised, however outlandish their idea. Discuss their ideas and let them know that these are useful and valuable to the business.

Support your staff

Support your customer service staff. They put up with a lot, and even the best of them can get jaded. Give them space to let off steam. Provide time away from the front line for training and team bonding. Focus these activities on maintaining a spirit of helpfulness, empathising with customers and trying to see things from their perspective. Teach negotiation and the skill of staying calm and confident when faced with a difficult customer.

Look out for staff who are underperforming. Whether they’re tired, distracted, burnt out or experiencing physical or emotional difficulties, for some reason they’re not providing extraordinary customer service right now. You need to identify the cause of the problem as soon as possible, and give the employee reasonable support, time and an opportunity to improve their performance. If you need to let them go, do so, but make sure it’s a fair process so you don’t undermine the confidence and morale of the other staff.

Plan and review

In any customer-facing business, sometimes a customer service failure will happen. Don’t imagine you’re immune. Instead, plan what you’ll do when this occurs. Devise a process of reviewing what happened and why. Look at what went right and what went wrong, and focus on preventing the same thing from happening again. If a staff member made a genuine mistake, it’s unproductive to criticise. Instead, look at how all employees can be supported to avoid making the same mistake again, such as by training, checklists or adjusting procedures.

Remember, every customer contributes to the success of your business. When they receive extraordinary customer service from you, they’ll tell their friends and win you new customers