Successful businesses connect with customers. And they do this via 5 traits that are critical for client engagement: believability, authenticity, transparency, sincerity and dependability.
Let’s see how this works. One of the easiest ways to do this is by asking yourself 3 questions:
Think about your favorite businesses. What is it about them that makes your favorite list?
How do you FEEL when you interact with those businesses?
Why do you keep going back?
What we’re doing here is identifying engagement triggers. Those traits that keep you engaged with vendors, shop owners, and service providers.
We count on certain colleagues and small business owners for various services we need — IT support, accounting, video production…..to name a few.
If we look at the commonalities of these vendors, we see a recurring theme.
They’re all dependable and believable. Believable because they’re transparent. What you see is what you get. It makes us feel confident that they’ll deliver on their promise and we’ll get what we were ordered. And then some.
Since we like working with people we like, we also hire people who are sincere and authentic. These traits are part of being a trusted provider. And that’s one of the things YOU need to do to build your client base.
Examples always help. We learn from others who’ve gone before us. So let’s look at some companies that have done a really good job of engaging their clients.
Successful Client Engagements
The name Netflix is synonymous with offerings that no one else has. And what you see is what you get.
Can you think of the last time you heard anyone say something bad about their service? I can’t. What I DO hear is only raves about the latest hits that “you have to watch!” And the service is always dependable.
Per this article in Forbes, “While the company hasn’t been without the occasional controversy, a report in the Wall Street Journal going so far as to describe its corporate culture as being “transparent to the point of dysfunctional,”
If you shop at Target, you know their stores are uniformly clean and well-stocked and the service is outstanding. You rarely have to search far for assistance. So you can get in and out quickly and generally find what you need. Their mission is to “provide Target shoppers a hassle-free experience” and the effort starts with making sure inventory is available in stores and on its online site. They nail it.
Trader Joe’s is another company that delivers on customer care with impeccable service. Jolly check out people, helpful shelf stockers, and easy returns make shopping there enjoyable. Well, other than the Covid lines outside the stores. But the lines are there because Trader Joe’s wants to keep you safe. They are precise about the number of people allowed in their stores at any given time. So you feel like they really care about you as a customer.
I love Warby Parker! They take customer engagement to a whole new level. For one thing, it’s fun to go into one of their shops. It’s like going into a wonderful bookstore but instead of books, there are glass frames. Which you can touch. And try on. At your leisure. You can browse…..
as much as you want. And when you’re ready for help or have a question, there is always a knowledgeable and friendly sales associate to help you out.
Their make-shopping-fun branding is outstanding. “Nice to see you” is printed on the inside of your glass case. It’s fun and charming and makes you feel good. Like they really care about making you happy with your purchase. And they include a bright colorful lens cleaner that makes you smile every time you clean your glasses. Super marketing. Super company.
Familiar with Quince? They embody all of the traits I mentioned at the start of this post — believability, authenticity, transparency, sincerity and dependability. Plus one more, sustainability.
Their tagline — “Everyone should be able to afford nice things.”
An online retailer, they offer top quality clothing and organic bedding at remarkably low prices. Think beautiful quality $59 cashmeres and washable silk items that would cost triple that at a traditional retailer. Their secret? No middlemen, they sell “Factory direct to your doorstep.” Low-cost minimalist packaging. And what they call “specialist factories” around the world that pay sustainable wages.
Add in a commitment to green manufacturing, reducing carbon footprints and a beautiful clean website designed for accessibility, and you have a company that truly understands millennials and probably a lot of their parents as well.
Bottom line: you feel good shopping Quince. You feel like you’re helping others receive living wages and not hurting the planet. And their Mongolian cashmere sweaters are yummy soft.
What can your small business learn from companies like Quince?
How do you build trust into your client relationships?
We offer 5 key takeaways:
Believability – Make honesty a part of your culture.
Transparency – Let clients get to know you. This is how you engage them and build relationships.
Authenticity – Be genuine. Whether you sell products or services. Quality counts.
Sincerity – We like doing business with people who are sincere. It makes us feel good.
Dependability – Without this, you can’t have much of a business.
Companies that don’t deliver what they promise don’t stay around long. Especially with social media that enables anyone to share your lousy products or crappy customer service with half the world.
From a consumer standpoint, the internet affords us a multitude of ways to buy. If your company doesn’t make customer care a priority, there are plenty of others that will.
Really? Month 6 of a pandemic. Life is anything but normal. Shops still closed. Restaurants going out of business. And Target can’t get out of their own way.
What’s Target doing that others aren’t? It’s simple, really. They’ve listened to their target market. And provided solutions.
Their customers want to be safe. They want to shop from home and pick up purchases without getting out of their cars. Or get deliveries. They also want convenience and to save time.
Smart small businesses come up with solutions.
Target ramped up their online presence and made it easy to shop their website. Don’t want to go into stores to browse back-to-school items? Their robust website has everything your kids need online. So you can easily shop from home, then pick up at a dedicated pickup location or get your items delivered.
No, it’s not the same back-to-school experience we knew. No browsing the aisles so your kiddos can find the right color glittery folders. No picking that perfect pencil case and backpack. No trying on new clothes.
But this is a new school year unlike any we’ve seen before. And these are the realities. The retailers who GET it……like Target….are seeing sales soar. And they’re not alone.
What can you, a small business owner or an entrepreneur, take away from Target’s example?
Here are five things you can do right now:
Pay attention to what keeps your customers up at night. Then find a solution that you can offer them.
Let them know. Share those solutions/new services on your website, in emails and newsletters and on social media. And ask people to retweet, reshare and tell their friends.
Reach out. As soon as you’re aware that your clients are having trouble, let them know you’re there to help.
Make it easy for them to contact you. Everyone has different ways they like to connect. Give them options — phone, email, text, Facebook Messenger.
Research new products or services you might provide. Can you offer free delivery? Extended payment terms? (Be careful about that one). You might discover some new income streams, and that would be a win-win for you and your customers.
These are challenging times but that doesn’t mean your business can’t survive…..or even thrive. These are conditions that smart entrepreneurs look for.
What opportunities for growth do you see?
Now is the time to figure out exactly what you can do to move forward. Need more inspiration?
We were excited to be on Shalom Klein’s radio show, Get Down to Business, yesterday. We talked about good website design, what makes a website great and why our clients like to work with us. Many thanks to Shalom for the shoutouts. And yes, we’d love to come on your show again!
It happens to all small business service providers if you’ve been in business long enough. You meet with a potential client. She needs a fill-in-the-blank-with-what-you-offer and wants you to quote on it. In our case – a new website.
You go back to the office, review your meeting notes and consult with your partners. Something feels off. You might not be able to put your finger on it but you have a bad feeling about this potential project. Maybe the person you met with was argumentative, negative or challenging. Or it could be just one of those gut things.
What do you do?
Don’t do this: We NEED the Business.
First of all, how badly do you need this business? Enough to put yourself through a month or two of misery? Because that’s what you might be getting into.
It’s one thing when your business is new and you need all the work you can get. You might overlook the danger signs and figure it will be fine once the project starts. Or just accept the stress as part of launching a new business. We get it. We’ve been there.
But after you’ve been established for a while, will you do the same?
If you’ve been in a caustic relationship a few times, odds are you won’t be eager to say yes. Unless you really need the income, it boils down to a simple decision: are you willing to subject yourself to a difficult and stressful situation? Or would you be better off saying “Sorry, we don’t feel we can help you” and moving on?
We had this happen a few weeks ago. A potential client approached us to build a website. She seemed nice enough. We gave her a proposal. She called to say our quote was too high and asked us to drop our fee. Then she wanted to know how many hits we could guarantee to the site we would build for her.
After a brief company discussion, we declined the job.
Not because of her problem with our fee. We understand that not everyone can pay what we charge for a website. Even though our fees are well within the reasonable range for small business website development, not all small businesses have marketing budgets. We get it. It was the “give us a guarantee” ask that turned us off.
Google and Facebook ads have changed organic search. Now there are many variables and active competition for those 4 or 5 first page queries. Search positioning is still related to how well your site is written and the organic use of keywords, but we will not offer a guarantee.
We will, however, advise you on things you can do to help your website work for you. For example….
using social media to promote your site
adding new content reflecting changing keyword usage
staying on top of what you competitors are doing (are they advertising and if so, where?).
And if you want to ramp things up, we can connect you with folks who’ll help you run Google ad campaigns to keep you visible in search results for targeted terms.
The Upside of Saying No
So if your gut is telling you this might not be a great client for you, listen. Something else will come along. It usually does. In our case, a few days later, we met with a really nice client whose new website we are happily designing.
To read more on working with dysfunctional people, here’s a great blog post by Daphne Gray-Grant about dealing with difficult editors. Pretty much applies to difficult clients as well.