What can you do to maintain close relationships with your clients?
When your business involves being phoned or e-mailed by clients with changes to their short-term insurance requirements, it’s difficult to maintain close links with them. For the duration of a policy you might not physically get to see them. So what then is the ‘loyalty factor’ between them and your business and why should they stay with you?
Price and convenience become important ‘dislocation factors’ when there’s a depersonalisation of service. If there’s nothing other than the cost of doing business with you and the convenience or inconvenience of doing so, then the potential for the client being wooed away or opting for seemingly greener pastures is high. The cost to your business of this happening is even higher. Because it’s then into a repetitive prospecting, landing, consolidating and servicing new clients cycle. This is way more disruptive than extending the service offering to existing clients and maybe getting them to insure other aspects of their homes or businesses. There’s a ‘familiarity factor’ – however distant, with existing clients.
It’s all too easy, when we’re caught in the day to day running of a small business to focus on urgent but maybe long-term not so important stuff. It’s not rocket science to decide what’s of greater medium to long term strategic value to your business than just replying in detail to that e-mail today. Maybe reply, saying something like, ‘I’m going to put together a brief proposal for you and get it through as soon as possible.’ You’ve acknowledged the mail, you’ve reassured the client that it hasn’t got lost in cyberspace and that you’re giving thought to their need. That frees you up to do something genuinely important.
Learning to differentiate between what’s important and what’s totally mundane takes thought. You have to pre-plan. I gave some advice to a one-person business owner who was battling to get some momentum in his practice. I said to him, ‘Before you go to sleep at night, ask yourself this question: “What am I going to do tomorrow to market my services?”’ If you don’t have at least one idea you don’t go to sleep. Because, if as and when your business hits a slump – which it most certainly will – you’re going to have many sleepless nights! And in your stressed-out state you’re not going to come up with many creative, business-building ideas. So do it by choice – now.
Although we can give very good advice to others on aspects of marketing or growing their business, somehow, when you try to strategise for yourself, the brain gets enveloped in a fog of non-productivity. So here’s a little tip: I think through the scenario I’m facing. Then – as if I’m advising a client or friend – I explore possible solutions. Because you’ve introduced a degree of dispassion and objectivity to your process, you’ll find that the ideas and potential solutions flow much more easily.
A great way of coming up with ideas is to
bounce thoughts off peers, friends and family. People don’t have to be in your
business to come up with interesting ideas for it. There’s a history supporting
the fact that great ideas for industry sectors most commonly come from outside
of those sectors. They’ve come from people with little ‘understanding’ of the
sectors. The huge plus of the ‘little understanding’ is that they haven’t
bought into the ‘impossibility’, the ‘improbability’, the ‘lack of resources’,
the ‘lack of infrastructure’ or the ‘poor timing’ of the ideas for your sector.
Often, our stereotyped blinkers have us discarding thoughts before they’re even half-formed, because
we have preconceived notions of what will or won’t work. So, explore outside of
your turf. Talk to others. Read widely and eclectically outside of your field.
You should ideally be reading publications that have a ‘tech’ sector or a
sector dealing with innovation. Both Financial Mail in South Africa and TIME magazine are quick and useful reads if you're looking to broaden your creative business thinking skills.
You don’t have to spend a fortune on building closer client relationships. Maybe consider an e-newsletter (an opt-in one) with some genuinely interesting snippets about things that will be close to their heart. Like simplifying their insurance processes. Saving money. Reducing risk. Maybe get a small number of them together two or three times a year. Get one of them (or someone else) to talk for 20 minutes on a topic of interest. Pitch it as a combined networking/educational evening. It doesn’t have to last for hours. You can actually put a one and half hour limit on it. Maybe even take a private room in a hotel and do a working breakfast with the same concept. It’s going to be a tax deductible exercise for your business. And you’ll be adding a relationship value that will be worth hundreds of times more than it actually costs you.
So, tonight, before you go to sleep, ask yourself, ‘What am I going to do tomorrow to market and further develop my business?’ I pray that the gods of creativity will give you an early night!