Understanding Your Client

ClientSuccess in any industry requires that you understand who your clients are and what makes them tick. The initial stages of understanding your client take place when you create your firm?s business plan. During the business plan creation process you should dig and uncover client factors such as where your client shops, the types of automobiles that your client drives, whether or not your client has children and is married or single.?

Getting To Know Your Clients and Customers

The more thoroughly you understand your client, the better you can write copy (i.e. press releases, direct mail letters, postcards, fliers and brochures) that will resonate with them. For example, if you are a shoe retailer and you write a direct mail letter to a client that parallels the latest hit romantic movie with a new style of shoe that you are marketing and the client hates romance movies, you could strike a raw nerve. The impact could cause the client to not only miss the details about your new shoe — it could also turn the client off to your business.?

We all have biases and preferences, ways of thinking and feeling that impact our decisions, including the choice to buy a certain product or service. During economic downturns these biases can reveal themselves more clearly. Understanding your client will allow you to better serve your client when their concerns about their personal finances, etc. are peaked.

As financial adviser, Michael Pompian, states in the December 30, 2009 Wall Street Journal article,? ?Voices: Michael Pompian, On Understanding Clients? Investment Biases?, ?During very volatile times, psychological bias really presents itself. What advisers are learning is that they really need to understand the psychological makeup of their clients to work with them correctly.?

Customer Connections Can Grow Your Business
Following are strategies that you can incorporate into your business marketing plans. They will help you to uncover the true hidden wants of your clients. The steps are inexpensive and easy to complete.

Customer Surveys

The Internet has made surveying customers cost effective and painless. Gone are the days of hiring a team of assistants to print, copy and stuff envelopes in order to canvas your client base and solicit their feedback about your products and/or services. Firms like Constant Contact, Zoomerang, Poll Daddy and Key Survey allow you to create customized surveys online in as little as five to ten minutes. All you need are customer names and email addresses, and you?re set.? Areas that you can measure customer satisfaction on using surveys include:? price, customer service, product or service quality, ease of purchase and range of products offered.

Continuous Feedback
Set up a toll free Customer Service telephone number that customers can dial to reach you. Telephone service providers (i.e. Verizon, Comcast) often include toll free services in their basic plans for businesses. Online firms such as Arkadin and Web Meet Live will also set up a toll free number for you that you can also use to conduct teleconferences and webinars.?

Allow customers to leave you a brief voice mail message if you and your staff are away from the office. If you operate a brick and mortar business, consider creating a Customer Service desk, which customers can visit in order to voice their appreciation (or their concerns) about a product or service.?

Whatever strategy you use, make it easy for your client or customer to contact you. Over time, you will start to see trends in topics that customers contact you to discuss. Use this information when you enhance your product line, reevaluate your prices or expand a line of business.

Town Halls
Former President Bill Clinton understood the value of connecting with the people he hoped to serve. His open forum town halls were a breath of fresh air. At his town halls, people stood up, and people spoke up. Your customers and clients also want to be heard.?

Large firms can organize semi-annual town halls and present executive strategies to investors. Smaller firms can hold conferences and invite their long-standing clients to attend. Begin the conference by discussing new milestones that the firm wants to meet. Department heads or product specialists can take center stage and complete 20 to 30 minute presentations.?

Give Away Samples
Food retailers get immediate customer feedback by offering sample food items at grocery stores. When product sales increase on the same day that the samples are given out, the retailer knows the sample was a hit. Radio stations ask listeners to rate new songs that they play before they put them into rotation.?

Writers and publishers hand out excerpts from books that they are working on (but have not yet published) at literary events and book club meetings. Sharp literary business leaders include an email or Web site address where readers can submit their feedback about the excerpt on the bottom of the handout.

Distribute free samples of your products at cultural and charitable events that you attend. Solicit immediate feedback from people who receive samples. Capture customer feedback on a chart that includes five to six questions.

Savor the Rewards
The most detailed client or customer research study will not reveal every challenge and concern a client has. However, by keeping in constant contact with your clients and letting them know that meeting their perceived needs is your priority, you can build strong client relationships.?

These relationships will impact your business? return-on-investment now and in the future, perhaps for years to come. Anne Segrest McCullough, Joanne Schehl and Roxanne Esch (three attorneys) said it well in the American Bar Association?s March 2007 article, ?How to Think Like Your Client?, when they said, ?Nothing will jumpstart your success more than knowing your client.?