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Cultivating the Best Customer Experience

cultivating client relationships

There are satisfied customers – those who have received their products or services and are content with their purchase; there are dissatisfied customers – those whose expectations have not been met; and then there are off-the-charts fans of your business – those clients who have received memorable, exceptional customer service and products. Can you think of the last customer service experience you had that made you a raving fan? Creating this type of memorable experience for your customers does not have to be difficult.

Use Failure as an Opportunity to Improve

We all set out to make our clients happy with the work we do, but we don’t always succeed. Failure to make a client happy with your product or service is not a failure at all – rather, take it as an opportunity to create an even stronger impression. Think of client dissatisfaction as the best time to show just how resilient, patient, and cooperative your company can be. Use negative feedback to improve your future operations and customer service. As long as you learn from your mistakes, you will only get better.

cultivating strong client relationships

Say it with a smile – being personable and passionate goes a long way in great customer service.

Customer Experience is a Part of Your Brand

Great customer service should be a part of your package, not an afterthought. If you find yourself constantly patching up problems and messes, then it’s probably time to re-evaluate your approach. Think of good service as a part of the product you are selling – people are buying your product or service over others because you offer the complete package – a great experience in addition to a great product. Win more sales with great products, win customer loyalty with great service. Be passionate about customer service and show your customers that you care. Find a way to build excellent customer service into your process from the very beginning.

Leadership Leads Good Customer Experience

Realize that good customer service starts at the leadership level. If treating your customers to a good experience is not valued by leadership, then that will be reflected in other positions. Other hindrances to good customer experience are apathy, disorganization, and disengagement of employees. All of these are problems that can be solved by good leadership. Executives should provide training, assistance, and perks for good customer service. A solid client-centric program should have guidelines for providing good service, as well as protocol for addressing problems when they do arise. In the case of Zappos, for example, if clients don’t like the shoes they ordered, no problem! Just return the items with free shipping both ways. The problem of customer dissatisfaction is virtually erased, since they can return the product without worrying about being charged. When you have a great customer experience, it’s because that experience is built into the very culture of the organization, beginning at the top.

Check out a few of our favorite books on the topic of customer service:

The New Gold Standard – The Ritz Carlton Hotel Company

Zappos: Good to Great

Trade Shows: To Participate or Not … that’s the Last Question

trade show booth marketing
At some point, you may hear of a trade show for your industry and entertain the notion of attending. The immediate question is whether such an excursion would be a worthwhile investment of time, effort and money.  Reaching that determination will require carefully considered answers to several other questions, first.

Begin by asking yourself what do you want to accomplish? There are a number of excellent reasons why business owners and managers attend trade shows. These include:

  • Learning about new trends, products or services within your industry
  • Networking with vendors or noncompeting businesspeople with whom you can establish mutually beneficial relationships
  • Getting leads on potential new customers
  • Taking a look at what your competitors are doing
  • Participating in educational sessions led by industry thought-leaders
  • Getting away from the office/store/shop and having a little fun

Taken separately, any of these objectives might seem to justify a trade show excursion for you (or perhaps a few of your deserving employees). But that still doesn’t necessarily mean you should attend. Here are three additional lines of inquiry are worth tackling:

  • What is the opportunity cost of attendance?
    • When you or members of your staff are at a trade show, someone’s regular duties will either go unexercised or must be undertaken by adding to the workload of other staff members. Are you raising the morale of some employees by lowering it for others?
    • Is there a chance that some customer service needs might not be met while staff is away? You don’t want to lose current clients for the mere potential of gaining new ones somewhere down the road.
    • Could the money budgeted for the trade show be better spent somewhere else? For example: going to a trade show vs. purchasing some new tool to improve individual productivity.

With careful forethought (and budgeting) these concerns could be allayed, but they should be given their due consideration.

  • Could the benefits of attending the trade show be gained in a more cost-effective, alternative manner?
    • For example: Do you really need to network with people from all over the country, when 95% of your business is local, or would a membership with a hometown civic or business organization work better?
    • Could a subscription to an industry publication or two be just as effective as walking around a trade show floor for a few hours a year?
    • Would an office party, or off-site team-building event do a better job of raising spirits within your company?

Once again, we don’t mean to diminish the value of trade shows or dissuade participation, but rather to encourage thoughtful comparative analysis.

  • Can you evaluate the return on your investment?

Whatever motivates you to attend a trade show, once you’ve made the decision to attend, be sure you have a plan and a process to get all the value from that event that you can. As you look over the list of things you expect to accomplish by attending a trade show, you should be able to foresee ways to measure success. Work through this question to gain impetus for tracking the contacts you meet, and for recording the things you learn with an idea of how to implement the new ideas. Conversely, if you can’t really see any way to quantify your trade show attendance, perhaps you want to rethink going.

One important consideration that absolutely shouldn’t be discounted, is that you may simply enjoy the spectacle, energy and camaraderie of trade shows. We’ve written this piece for people who are on the fence. If you’re a business owner who looks forward to trade shows, and if you’re in a position to attend, that’s really all that matters. Your instincts have served you well in the past and will likely so in this decision as well.

Here are a few other online articles about trade shows that you may want to check out:

Trade Show Marketing

13 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Trade Shows

Trade Show Check List

Tampa Bay public relations

How to Sell a ‘White Elephant’

whiteelephant_newsFrom time to time, we’ll find it necessary to sell something that might lead one to question the sanity of anyone who buys it. This could be a product, a service, or even an investment opportunity that’s missing readily apparent value. While a challenge, successfully unloading (or rather, locating a buyer), is often just a matter of looking at the offering a bit differently ourselves, and then getting a prospective customer to see it the same way.

We aren’t talking about putting ‘lipstick on a pig’ to cover flaws, or using euphemisms that confuse or mislead a potential buyer. Instead, we want to highlight commonly perceived weaknesses and make the case for desirability based on the offering being exactly what it is. We’re not fudging the truth. But we are manipulating the customer’s emotional and intellectual make-up so he will feel good about our offering. After all, an important goal in business transactions is making the customer happy—even if he doesn’t immediately think it possible. Consider these strategies:

Match the ‘product’ to the audience. Make no attempt to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes. Be aware that when you have that special, one-of-a-kind deal, not everyone is going to have the ability to properly appreciate it. Consider, for instance, sky-diving. Not everybody sees the appeal of paying a stranger for the chance to jump out of a perfectly good airplane, but the right people will enjoy the experience.

Acknowledge and then embrace the negatives. Show no doubt, show no fear, and don’t hide anything. The unattractive aspect of whatever you are selling should be front and center in your sales pitch. (“Take a look at this fabulous sinkhole – 100 feet deep! And it comes with a house at the bottom of it!”) People are wary if they think you’re trying to hide something, but if everything is out in the open, your customer will be more willing to hear you out.

Appeal to ego. Remember how we matched the product to an audience? That’s a select group, right? Exclusivity! Not everyone has the background, good taste, or financial resources to make the most of any particular opportunity. Additionally, an appeal to someone’s adventurous spirit (sky-diving again, or bungee jumping) often works with customers because they want to feel young and daring. Or you might tap into their hidden conceits by mentioning what great things a person with their home-decorating style could do with a 15 x 20 abstract painting.

Point out that you’re offering a one-of-a-kind, limited-opportunity. Have you ever seen those TV commercials selling the gold-clad (e.g. an atom’s thickness of gold covering a cheaper metal) coins? They’re always limited editions because people like owning things that other people can’t get anywhere. Uniqueness sells. Sure, the three-wheeled Robin Reliant had a tendency to tip over… but it was a British automobile with three wheels! How cool is that?

Make a joke out of it. Back in the 70s, a product came on the market that will forever live in marketing fame. From a practical standpoint, it was completely useless and frankly, definitively idiotic. It was the Pet Rock and it made its originator a millionaire. Face it – when you think of reasons to own a pet, choosing a rock would be terrible. Yet people went wild buying them, solely to be in on the joke.

Maintain enthusiasm for the customer’s benefit as they enjoy their purchase. Take the time to make your customer feel happy about doing business with you. Follow-up with them after they’ve made their purchase to see how things are going. (If you did a good job of matching customer to product, they shouldn’t have much regret.) If they are less than enthusiastic with the feedback, express your genuine surprise and try to find out if the product failed to perform as promised. And if their complaint is a real problem, you have another bullet-point for your brochure!

The reality is that there are no perfect products. And there is no sales pitch that’s going to work with every potential customer. But an honest representation of your offering, a positive attitude, and a sense of humor will go a long way toward helping you sell just about anything – and enable you to have fun trying.

 

 

Join us for a legal marketing presentation and social

Tampa Bay legal marketing
The Legal Marketing Association Tampa Bay City Group Presents: Get in the Game: The Gamification of Business Development with Jill Huse & Heather McCullough of Society 54 followed by Happy Hour Sponsored by Pinstripe Marketing

We’ve all heard that many of the skills needed to develop business are counter to how attorneys are wired. But we do know that attorneys are competitive by nature so that begs the question, can the skills and habits needed to develop business be taught and instilled through playing a game? Businesses of all sizes have been using gamification, defined as “game design elements in non-game contexts,” for many years with great results. Gamification of business development is simply another internal tool that can be used to help build engagement in the process and confidence in an individuals’ ability to build a base of clients.

An effective internal “game” includes:

  • outlining what outcomes the firm hopes to achieve
  • identifying which behaviors will be changed
  • defining how progress will be measured
  • clearly describing success in the program and how it will be rewarded

This hands-on, interactive session incorporates case studies, training and roundtable brainstorming on how to create and implement a successful business development game within a firm. It is not a one-size fits all approach so the practical ideas and tips that are presented will allow attendees the opportunity to create a program that will drive real results within their own firm.

SPEAKERS

Jill Huse Jill Huse, Partner, Society 54

Society 54 Co-Founder Jill Huse is renowned as a trusted professional services advisor. Jill, a certified business coach, is highly regarded for her progressive ingenuity, research-based strategy and, most importantly, her ability to deliver results for clients.

Jill has worked in legal marketing for more than fifteen years, after starting her career in accounting marketing. Clients have said that Jill has an innate ability to identify, encourage and develop their unique and differentiating professional strengths, and to help them to leverage these strengths to meet and exceed bottom line goals.

As the director of marketing and business development at one of the most reputable AmLaw firms in the southeast, Jill structured and led her team in developing, implementing and managing award-winning communication, business development and marketing initiatives. Further, Jill is a tenured member and past president of the Southeastern Chapter of the Legal Marketing Association (LMA), which, as the second largest LMA chapter, serves more than 450 members across nine states.

Heather McCulloughHeather McCullough, Partner, Society 54

Society 54 Co-Founder Heather McCullough is two parts wit and one part tenacity, with heaping doses of creativity and intellect on the side.

Heather represents the power of hard work, strategy and collaboration. For more than 14 years, she has brought game-changing results to professional services firms across the Southeast. As the director of business and practice development at one of the most well-respected law firms in the Carolinas, Heather oversaw all aspects of firm branding and business development, including communications, client relations, events and business development – – all while keeping a keen eye on budgets and ROI.

 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

4pm – 6pm

Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney

401 E. Jackson St.

Tampa, FL 33602

Map

REGISTER NOW

Plan to stay after the presentation to join your fellow LMA members along with Jill and Heather for a Happy Hour sponsored by Pinstripe Marketing.

pinstripe-marketing

 

Special thanks to Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney for hosting our May program.

buchananFounded in 1850, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney is a full-service law firm with approximately 500 lawyers and government relations professionals who serve the legal and business needs of regional, national and international clients. Our offices are located in 18 cities in Pennsylvania, Florida, Washington, D.C., Virginia, New Jersey, Delaware, New York, North Carolina, Colorado and California.

Identifying Your Ideal Client Profile for Business Growth

Tampa Bay marketing firm

Does it matter who your customers are? As long as there are plenty of people clamoring for your products or services, that’s got to be fantastic, right? Actually, the ideal customers are only those that best allow you or your company to meet its true objective.

True objective … that’s the key thing here. Let’s be honest; for some (or most), the number one goal is making money. For others, charities for instance, the goal may be to improve people’s lives. A few others may want to educate or increase public awareness of important issues. Whatever the objective, the idea is to maximize the frequency and quantity of its attainment with the least possible expenditure of resources. And as we all come to realize at a certain point, some customers are just not worth the effort to keep.

It’s a matter or opportunity cost. The time/effort/money that you devote for one client represents time/effort/money that you could not provide to another. It’s ROI: some customers are going to be better investments than others. Of course, the tricky part is making sure you actually have a more profitable client waiting in the wings if you begin doubting the worth of the customer you do have. After all, the customer who provides some profitable reward for your work is better than not having any reward at all. You will want to identify who your “best” customers are and then steadily transition your client base to one more closely resembling the ideal client profile.

So what makes a good client? In general, here are three key characteristics:

  • They will truly benefit from your products or services. While this may seem obvious, many business owners take the attitude of “If they’re buying, we’re selling!” The problem with this approach is that the customer can’t ever be satisfied. You’ll expend a lot of resources trying to make them happy (with a square peg for a round hole) before you or they give just give up. Then you get to live with them sharing their negative assessments of your organization to anyone who will listen.
  • They won’t require exceptions to your rules. Understand, we’re not talking about value-added service, or going the extra mile to make a customer happy. Those are business differentiators that promote customer loyalty and deliver great word-of-mouth advertising. Rather, what you must avoid is agreeing to provide a level of service to one client that you offer to no one else (i.e. outside your normal service area, hours of business, billing process … etc.). The increase in gross income probably won’t adequately compensate for the disruption to established procedures or morale.
  • They represent the opportunity for repeat business. It’s always more profitable to serve existing customers than try to get news ones. Therefore, target your marketing to prospects who will stay with you for years rather than those who are more apt to be “one and done.”

The bottom line is that you want customers who make you feel good about what you do; clients who let you work with a spring in your step rather than beating you up over every penny’s worth of service. So, how do you get more of the good ones, and fewer of the less desirable sort? That’s where the profile comes in. The good news is that you’re already familiar with it.

Simply take some time to review your current and former client lists. Or if you focus on retail customers who come and go without a lot of personal interaction, sit down with employees who deal with them on a daily basis. Start identifying those that meet the criteria of a good customer as listed above – those that fit culturally with the work you want to do and are profitable. What demographic characteristics do they have in common? Are they mostly from a particular industry or similar industries? Are they of a certain size or business maturity? Are they driven to your business by a common need that other, less desirable customers don’t seem to share as much? Write down everything you come up with. That will be the profile you want!

Once you have an idea of what your ideal client is like, then you can start building marketing campaigns that target those individuals specifically. Over time, you should find you that you’ve successfully negotiated the “out-with-the-bad, in-with-the-good” maneuver.

 

Tampa Bay public relations