Guest post by Maribeth Kuzmeski
Author of Red Zone Marketing: A Playbook for Winning all the Business You Want
The other day I heard that old Bonnie Raitt song on the radio. You know, the one with the verse "let's give'em something to talk about . . ." And, it occurred to me that most businesses could use a bit of that gossip-inspiring intrigue that Bonnie was singing about.
All of which leads me to my question for the day: are your clients talking about you? You'd better hope so! Furthermore, you'd better hope they're not talking about the bad service you gave them, or the fact that you took three days to return a phone call, or even the hideous green carpet that's graced your office since 1973. No, the kind of talking I mean is positive in nature . . . in fact, it's delightful.
If you're at all familiar with my marketing philosophy, you know that I am constantly harping on the subject of client delight. That's because I'm a realist. I know that unless you absolutely delight your clients, they won't talk about you to their friends and colleagues. In fact, they may not even stick with you. Why? Because there are a lot of competitors out there offering services identical to yours.
Consider these statistics for financial advisors (many industries including yours may have similar statistics): There are more than 800,000 financial advisors and insurance agents in the U.S. Over 12,000 mutual funds. Countless Broker Dealers. All of which boils down to one disheartening fact: you are in serious peril of becoming a commodity. If you want clients to talk about you - which helps you fulfill the larger goal of pursuing referrals - then you must separate yourself from the pack. You must give them an experience. You must WOW them.
In short, you must give them something to talk about.
Sounds great, you're probably thinking, but how do I do that? Here are three principles to keep in mind.
Ask your clients what they want. A novel concept, huh? Too many businesses simply assume they know what the client wants. They tell the client "This is what you want and need, and I have it." What you as a Red Zone Marketer must do is ask, "What do you want and need? Tell me and I'll provide it." Ask your clients (at the very least your top clients) the following questions:
- How would you like us to communicate with you? How often?
- How often do you want to hear from me?
- Are we meeting your objectives?
- Would you appreciate regular information on a different aspect of the business?
- What would make working with us truly unique?
- What could we do to create delight through the services we provide?
Now, really listen to their answers. You may be surprised by what you hear. And you can be sure of one thing: if you give clients what they REALLY want-as opposed to what you think they should want-they will talk you up to their friends and colleagues. That's because very few of your competitors even bother to ask.
WOW them with the unexpected. Want clients to talk about you? Give them an experience they're unlikely to get anywhere else. In Red Zone Marketing and The Client Experience, I provide numerous real-life examples of how businesses I know and work with go about WOWing their clients.
For example, I work with a financial services advisor who has created The Life Enjoyment Experienceä. The concept is that he helps his clients "get to the top of the mountain." From the mountaintop, you can see and experience the world-so he has decorated each office and conference room to represent a different part of the world. For instance, one room has a mural of Athens on the wall; another one represents Paris. He reports that people bring their friends by, who are not yet clients, just to see his unique facilities!
Another one of my colleagues takes a different approach. He is very health conscious, and he wants to share his knowledge with his clients. Therefore, he incorporates healthful foods, exercise books and videos, and lifestyle seminars into his unrelated business offerings. He's providing an experience-and at the same time, showing his clients that he cares about their total wellbeing.
What can you do to WOW your clients?
Be the Michael of your firm.
I am a huge sports fan. (The name of my company and books should clue you in!) So it's not surprising that I spent some time in the early 90s working for a team in the NBA. The team had 30 people making outbound calls selling tickets to games. I couldn't help but to contrast that to the Chicago Bulls, who were sold out most of the season!
What was the difference? In a word (well, actually, two words), Michael Jordan. Bulls tickets were in demand because the team had something truly different. I believe this phenomenon applies to the business world, too. One person can lift up an entire organization, if he or she is giving clients what they want! In other words, even if you work for a dry, humdrum, middle-of-the-road business, you can become the "Michael" of your firm. Dream up a unique slant on serving your clients and start doing it. Word of mouth will take care of the rest.
By the way, if you think you don't have what it takes to be a star in your industry, consider the fact that Michael Jordan was cut from the varsity basketball team as a sophomore in high school. The lesson? No matter what happened before, you can become a star. Just figure out what your clients want and give it to them in a unique way . . . and they will consistently seek you out. Guaranteed.
Now, how are you going to get people talking? Give it a bit of thought and I am convinced you'll come up with something. Maybe it's your expertise in an specialized area of the business you are in . . . or the fact that you send them an info-packed e-mail every Monday morning . . . or the hot breakfast you provide at your wildly entertaining tax shelter seminars. You get the idea.
As long as you're doing something different, something that sets you apart from the crowd, something your clients can't get anywhere else, they'll talk about you. And believe me, that word of mouth is the best kind of press you'll ever receive.