Every dollar is not a good dollar

September 13, 2017

DollarIf every dollar looks the same, how do you know which dollars are “good” dollars for your business? The reality is – every dollar is not created equal and doesn’t serve your business in the same way. In fact, some dollars actually cost you money.

Let’s say prospect #1 wants to buy something you don’t do very often and so you’re not as efficient at it as you are in other areas. On top of that, they’re in an industry that you don’t know very well. Earning that dollar is going to be slow and painful with a longer, larger ramp up time.

Even if you see that they have a big pile of dollars waiting to be spent – you might very well never get a chance to earn those extra dollars because you’re probably not going to delight them right out of the gate.

On the flip side, prospect #2 is in an industry that you know like the back of your hand. You know their jargon and quirks. On top of that, they want to buy the product or service that you sell day in and day out. You know exactly how to deliver on their need and you know they’re going to be elated at the results.

Each prospect has the same dollar. But the path you’re going to take to earn each dollar is very different, in terms of your enjoyment, their satisfaction and your potential profitability.

Logic tells us that we should:

  • Specialize in terms of whom we serve and what we offer, based on what we’re best at. We can’t know whom to serve until we know who we are.
  • We should have a clear picture of who our sweet spot clients are, based on who we are and only go after those prospects
  • We should discriminate – rewarding our sweet spot prospects for coming a little closer and making if more difficult for the not so right fit prospects to find/hire us
  • We should identify what we do best and not try to be everything to everybody. Saying no is a good thing. Having strategic partners is even better.

Logic may tell us all of that and yet – for many business leaders, sales team leaders and business owners – we can’t get past the fact that there’s a dollar on the table. We want the dollar.

Here’s the truth of the matter. I’m betting that right now you have a customer or two that you are literally paying for the privilege of doing work for them. That’s right — they are so unprofitable, because they’re the wrong fit, that you are losing money every day that you keep them as a client.

Their fees or purchases help with cash flow. It’s money in the door every month. That reality can often mask the truth underneath. You are losing money on that work. Many business owners are surprised when they crunch the numbers and realize one of their largest clients is actually one of their most unprofitable clients.

Before you go out and start pursuing new clients – I want you to evaluate the ones you already have. Crunch the numbers to see if you’re actually making money and rank your clients in terms of profitability. I bet there’s a surprise or two waiting for you.

Once you know which dollars are good dollars for your organization, it will help you target who your next customers should and should not be. Then pursue the right ones with a vengeance, knowing that each one you catch will make your business stronger and in a better position to say no to the bad dollars.

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Gratitude magnified

September 6, 2017

gratitude magnifiedLast week we explored the idea of how smart businesses recognize that gratitude isn’t just a worthy emotion – it’s smart marketing. Everyone wants to be appreciated and today, when businesses must compete for both customers and employees, it’s an important retention tool. We covered how to create a spirit of gratitude inside your organization last week. But how do you expand that out to your vendors and customers as well? Gratitude magnified.

The sad fact is this. You don’t have to do much to get noticed. Your vendors and customers are so used to not being appreciated, you’ll completely catch them off guard by showing a little appreciation. Much like with your internal team, this isn’t about how expensive it is, it’s about how genuine it is.

Let’s start with your vendors. Here are a few ways to let them know how much you appreciate their efforts.

Put the spotlight on them. All too often, our vendors remain in the shadows – quietly helping us serve our clients. But a memorable way to say thank you is to shine the spotlight on them. Of course, they should be asking you for a written testimonial but like most businesses, they’re too busy and it never rises to the top of the To-Do list. Proactively write a letter that specifically states why you value working with them and how they help you and your business.

Put it on letterhead and send them a hard copy for their own use. But don’t stop there. Take snippets of your glowing praise and post it on their Facebook page or tweet about their efforts.

Another way to get them some well-deserved attention is to actively connect them to other potential customers or referral sources. No doubt you know and work with other people they should meet. You can introduce them informally, make LinkedIn connections or better yet – why not throw a referral party and invite all of your vendors to come and meet each other. Odds are – they’re going to make some great connections and remember just who made it happen. That’s gratitude magnified.

For your customers, a more personal touch might be in order. Sure – you can do the holiday card or gift or even hold a client appreciation event. But I believe the more personal you make it, the more meaningful it is.

I’ve written about it before, but there’s something magical about a handwritten note. Think of it as your love letter to your customer. Let them know why you value their loyalty and trust. Share with them how they make your job easier, more fun or more exciting. Don’t type it – no matter how awful your handwriting is. It doesn’t have to be super long but it should be very specific. A generic thank you feels like you sent everyone the same note.

A variation on this would be to help your client experience something important to them at a whole new level. Maybe they’ve always wanted to learn how to bake or they love live theatre or professional hockey. Use your connections to get them behind the scenes at a local bakery for a one-on-one lesson or see if you can score them backstage access after a play or game. The key to this strategy is to go beyond just buying them something. It’s the extra effort that really says thank you. That’s gratitude magnified.

Just a final warning – all of your efforts get drastically watered down if you attach any sort of ask or payback to your act of gratitude. This isn’t the time to ask for more business or a referral. Just be grateful and then be quiet.

I think you’ll be surprised at what you hear in return.

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Be helpful or be gone

August 2, 2017

helpfulLast week, we explored the idea that email marketing is about earning the audience’s permission to keep talking. I suggested that there were two equally important elements – intent and content – that had to be in sync if you want to stick around in someone’s in-box. Now it’s time to talk about being helpful.

As I said last week, “Intent is really about respect and a genuine desire to help. When we prepare an email campaign, we need to ask ourselves if we’re truly being respectful of the receiver’s time and attention. Yes, of course we want them to become a customer or if they’re already a customer, we want them to buy more. But we have to trade them something of value in exchange for that consideration.”

The something of value is all about the content.

The concept of content is not new. Smart businesses have long understood the idea that if they were helpful before they asked for a dollar, they could earn the trust of the prospect.

What is new is the wide array of places and ways we have to distribute content. Back in the day, we might have a printed newsletter, an 800 number for customer service or demos in our stores.

Today we have websites, email newsletters, eblasts, podcasts, infographics, forums, guest posts, blogs, digital magazines, and that’s just scratching the surface. Suffice it to say – we have lots of ways to be helpful.

Odds are you’re being inundated with “helpful” content every day and odds are, you ignore most of it. Guess what? Your prospects are behaving in exactly the same way. So how do you break through that clutter and actually help?

Don’t just tell. Lead as well: Content that not only informs but also tells your audience what to do with their new knowledge is incredibly valuable. Most content producers fall short here. We tend to spew facts but rarely offer direction, insights or warnings. Use your knowledge to guide.

Be available if they need to know more: When you create great content, sometimes it leaves your audience wanting more. Their natural inclination is to turn to the original source – you. Be available. Include your email address or phone number and invite comments and further questions.

Eliminate fluff: Time is everyone’s most scarce resource so do not waste it. Tell them what they need to know. I’m not saying eliminate context. Context adds value. But filler and fluff just gets in the way. Be a tough editor of any content you create.

Discriminate: The worst content is content that is intended for everyone. The more you can hone in on your most important audience and only that audience – the better your content will serve them. Your goal is to be irrelevant to the masses and indispensable to the few that you actually want to attract and build a relationship with.

Connect the dots: Odds are that what you sell is complicated and it’s not as simple as walking up to a shelf and selecting the exact right choice. But for content to be effective, it has to be served up in bite-sized pieces with an occasional full meal tossed into the mix.

That means it’s difficult to tell the whole story with any one piece of content. To truly be helpful, you need to help your audience connect the dots between bits of information. With links, “if you enjoyed this” guides and organizing your content in a way that allows people to follow the bigger picture.

I know you care about your customers and prospects. Show them how much by creating content with both the right intentions and genuinely helpful information. It’s the least you can do and they’ll reward you with their attention for a very long time.

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Earning Your Spot in their Email In-Box

July 26, 2017

emailWeird as it sounds, with all of the new technologies, email seems almost old school today. It’s been around for decades and much like other mature mediums, we value and loathe it at the same time.

Part of the loathing comes from the daily experience of being barraged by emails we didn’t ask for, don’t want and that offer no value.  We all suffer from email fatigue.  What the senders forget is that they’re in the receiver’s in-box because they were invited in and have been granted permission to stay.

Until they’re not. Email us too often, or email us nothing of value and you’re quickly asked to leave, either through the unsubscribe link or simply by being ignored.

And yet for most of us, there are some emails we look forward to receiving and when we get them, we actually go out of our way to read them.

What’s the difference?

I believe it’s both intent and content.  When you get those both right, the receiver will not only allow you to stay but actually be open to considering that next action (click on a link, sign up for the webinar, learn more about your product or services, etc.) you want them to take.

Intent is really about respect and a genuine desire to help.  When we prepare an email campaign, we need to ask ourselves if we’re truly being respectful of the receiver’s time and attention.  Yes, of course we want them to become a customer or if they’re already a customer, we want them to buy more. But we have to trade them something of value in exchange for that consideration.

Are we offering them something of value in terms of insights, information or even a reminder of something important?  A realtor sends me an email every month and at the top of the email is a “don’t forget tip” reminding me to do something around my house.  It’s usually something simple like “change the furnace filter every 30 days.” Do I already know I need to do that?  Sure but the reminder often triggers me to do whatever he’s reminding me to do.

I’m not in the market to buy a house right now but I give him permission to stay in my in-box because he’s actually helpful.  He’s also smart enough to know that if he keeps earning the right to email me, then when I finally am in the market for a realtor to help me buy or sell a home or when one of my friends asks for a referral – he’ll be top of mind.

Another aspect of intent is how often are you asking me to pay attention to you?  I am happy to get his email once a month.  If he started emailing me a couple times a week, I’d unsubscribe in a hurry because the value proposition wouldn’t be there for me.  The frequency of your emails shouldn’t be about how frantic you are to sell something but instead; it should be based on how or why you’re being valuable.

I get an email every evening from a company that analyzes the day’s market activities and talks about how the day’s changes will impact what’s going to happen tomorrow.  That information would be stale/less helpful if I received it once a month.  So again, their timing is about me, not them.

Intent is about putting the audience first and being valuable before you ask for anything in return. That makes it much more appealing to envision hiring you down the road.

Next time, we’ll explore the content side of this equation so you can get them both correct every time.

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The reviews aren’t good

July 19, 2017

reviewsIn the “good old days” when a neighbor or work colleague told you how much they enjoyed a nearby B&B, movie or restaurant, it mattered.  Word of mouth has always been one of marketing’s most potent weapons.  Today – we have word of mouth marketing on steroids with online reviews.

Interestingly, in a wide range of surveys examining the effectiveness of online reviews, the data is pretty telling. Depending on the research, somewhere between 84-90% of us trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.

Nearly 9 out of every 10 consumers has used online reviews to influence a purchase and about 40% of us use them on a regular basis as part of our buying process. Most people read between 6-10 reviews and they usually read the most recent reviews first.

Why do we give perfect strangers the same credibility score as our neighbors and friends?

  • We believe in the aggregate. One bad review suggests a fluke or someone had a grudge but when there’s a pattern, we’re willing to believe the crowd.
  • We assume that the reviewers are people like us who have no axe to grind but just want to be helpful.
  • We give more credibility to the “average Joe” than we do to marketing or corporate speak. In other words – I want to hear what other people say about you, not what you say about yourself.

Given both the number of consumers who rely on online reviews and the level of trust they put in them – it’s not something businesses can ignore.   And this isn’t just about restaurants or hotels anymore. Whether you’re a dentist, restaurant, ad agency, professor or an insurance agent – between Angie’s List and all of the specialty lists out there – everyone is being rated.

Interestingly – businesses seem to be adopting the head in the sand approach to bad reviews.  Even though almost every rating site will allow the proprietor to respond, very few do.

That is a huge missed opportunity. Every business owner, CMO etc. should be tracking where their business is being rated and monitoring those ratings.  While the ideal is that you’d respond to all the reviews (odds are there are not that many), you should at the very least react to the negative ones.

Here are some best practices for responding to negative reviews.

  • Apologize. Use the words “I am sorry” to acknowledge that they had a bad experience, even if you don’t believe it was your fault.
  • Refer to them by name if you can.
  • Identify yourself by name and title so they know who is responding to them.
  • If there really was a problem – don’t sugar coat it. Admit that you blew it and what you’re doing to make sure the next guest does not experience the same thing.
  • After your initial response, if they reply – take it offline. While you want everyone reading the reviews to see that you care, you don’t need to play out the entire conversation online.
  • If you feel like you can win them back – offer to compensate them in some way. And no, this will not encourage a bunch of people to leave bad reviews just to get a coupon or free meal from you.
  • Talk like a human, not a corporate committee. Use conversational language so they know there’s a human being behind your comments.

No matter what you do – ignoring negative reviews is not an option.  They are too influential to your prospects and when they go unanswered, they’re taken as gospel and can chase away potential business. So settle in and try to make some lemonade out of those lemons.

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Reducing the stress factor

June 28, 2017

StressWhether you’re successfully part of an internal marketing team, at an agency or even a business owner – you’ve got a skill that you probably take for granted. You’re a master juggler. You can’t execute successful marketing today without that ability. You’re used to having lots of balls in the air and even if you can’t always see each one, you’ve been doing it long enough that you’re confident that you’ll be able to catch them all. No stress for you.  It’s all just part of the day-to-day.

But here’s the part that we often forget. What we take for granted freaks our internal or external clients out.  That’s why they’re micromanaging you, asking you for updates all the time and making it harder for you to do your work.

Guess what – that’s on you. Their reaction and concern is natural and fair. It’s our job to keep them in the loop by over communicating so they can take a deep breath and be comfortable. It’s also good for you because when you reduce their stress, they’ll give you a little more breathing room.

Here are some tools you can use to keep everyone in the loop throughout the life of your work.

Project timeline: Marketing often looks simpler than it truly is. It’s a little like the duck swimming on the placid lake.  At first glance, the duck looks like he’s serenely floating on the water. But as we all know, under the surface, he’s paddling like crazy.

That’s why an initial project timeline can be a lifesaver.  But setting and correcting initial expectations right up front, you save yourself a significant amount of trouble down the road. It’s much easier before a project ever starts to help a client understand that the website will take ten weeks rather than three weeks in, they suddenly share that they need it next week for a trade show.

Real-time budget: On larger projects that are going to stretch out over months, it’s a good idea to establish a preliminary budget with the caveat that it’s based on what we know today. Then, keep that budget updated real-time. It’s a bit of overkill to do it every day, but once a week should help everyone feel very connected to the project and reassured that it’s going according to plan.

The other advantage of this is that it forces you to identify trouble when it’s still small enough to deal with. So it’s a bit of a CYA move as well.

Weekly status reports: This is a simple Excel spreadsheet that lists all of the projects you’re working on (if you serve more than one department or client, have a separate document for each audience) and tracks progress.

To make this manageable, keep it simple.  Include the project name, the ultimate due date, the stage of progress it’s in right now, next steps and who is responsible for that next step.  If you share it with everyone (marketing team, other players in the mix, client, etc.) on Thursday mid afternoon, it gives everyone a chance to wrap some things up on the next day so you start the following week on time and on target.

The bonus feature of this report is that it serves as a gentle nudge. Let’s face it – it’s often the client (internal or external) that is holding something up. But they’re also the client so you can’t get on them like you do your internal team. So this is a bit more client friendly but still gives them a good poke.

None of this is rocket science but I often discover that because we take our ability for granted, we forget that our clients don’t.  Implementing these tools will reduce their stress and it helps keep you on track as well which ultimately allows you to do better marketing.

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But can I trust you?

May 24, 2017

trustI can’t guess how many times I’ve written about trust over the past ten years.  I’ve talked about the importance of the know • like • trust model, I’ve discussed the connection between trust and a brand’s equity and I’ve explored the role of trust in shortening the sales cycle.

Suffice it to say, trust is a cornerstone of marketing success.

But it occurred to me that when I’ve written about trust, it’s been one-sided.  I’ve focused on the trust we need from our prospects and customers in order to make them feel safe enough to make that first purchase or repeat buy.

I’ve been ignoring the whole other side of the equation. Trust has to be a two-way street or else it doesn’t work.  When you don’t feel trusted – it’s very difficult to trust. Just like in our personal relationships, it’s difficult to let down your guard enough to develop trust when you’re feeling like a criminal, based on how you’re being treated.

Think that’s a little extreme?  Think about some of the signage you see in retail locations.  “You break it, you buy it” or “video surveillance cameras in use.”

Without meaning to, in a million little ways, many businesses communicate that they don’t really trust their customers.

And if you think we have work to do in that arena – it’s nothing compared to how many organizations treat their employees. It’s pretty tough for them to trust you, trust your brand and create a trusting environment for your customers.

If you want to cultivate trust among your prospects and customers – you have to start by demonstrating trust in your own team and those same prospects and customers.

Let’s look at a couple ideas for each.  First, the customers:

Your customer service promise: Call it a pledge, a promise or a policy. Whatever you call it – make sure it’s written in simple English, errs on the assumption that 99% of your customers are honest and good people, and cuts your customers a great deal of slack.

Make it very public – post it on your website, in your store and in your contractual agreements. Celebrate the fact that you believe in your customers and in servicing them with respect and affection.

Arm your employees with both authority and resources: Every time a customer complains or has a bad experience and you make them wait for a manager to resolve it, it feels like you don’t trust them or their story.   You also teach them that you don’t have enough confidence in your team to give them the ability to resolve the issue. But when your employees can immediately respond and fix the problem, the customer feels heard and that your organization believed them and their concern.

And now, for showing your employees that you trust them:

Treat them like grown-ups: Flip through your employee manual.  Are the rules for adults or does it assume that your team will act like teenagers trying to sneak out after curfew?  Too many employee rules are made for the few, not the majority. Create rules that make it clear to your employees that you hold them both capable and accountable.

Ask for help: Nothing says “I believe in you and your abilities” more than asking someone for their help. Involve your employees in key decisions involving customer-facing policies, pricing or R&D options.  You can’t just give this tactic lip service.  You actually need to listen.  The upside of that – you’re going to learn more than you think.

Remember that the know • like • trust model is a two-way street.  What are you doing to pave the way to trust for your customers and employees?

 

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What does your welcome mat say?

April 19, 2017

WelcomeWhat does your welcome mat say?  Several summers ago, I spent some time in Europe with my daughter celebrating her college graduation and even though I was on vacation, I couldn’t help but see things through a marketing lens.

One of the places we visited was Madrid, Spain and neither of us spoke very much Spanish. I was eavesdropping as we did our tourist thing and I would say about 50% of the people in Madrid are from the United States or Canada and spoke English. It was interesting to me to see how different businesses react to the challenge/opportunity of a non-Spanish speaking guest.

Just a note – we try very hard to show our respect for the countries we visit and always learn many of the more common phrases. We address everyone in Spanish in terms of greetings, directions, saying please and thank you, etc. We certainly don’t expect them to Americanize their country, but we are hardly fluent and are very self conscious of that fact.

My point isn’t about communicating in Europe but instead, how some of the business owners have recognized an opportunity to attract more foreign guests by making it clear that they’ll be welcomed and accommodated. And even more to the point – It got me thinking about how we can adopt that same attitude, even if we don’t face a language barrier with some of our potential customers.

Some establishments make it clear by displaying English versions of their menus, by having a large sign that says, ”we speak English” or by hoisting a British flag near their entrance. This was true in the more tourist crowded parts of the city as well as some of the very local pubs, where we were the only non-locals in the joint.

All of this got me wondering – how do we put out welcome mats (or not) for our potential customers?

Identify your outliers: First think about who, beyond your usual customer, might need your services/products. Is there a group of people who are “lingering” outside your door and just need to be invited in? Might they actually be even more grateful for your product or service, if they felt welcome? Imagine what that kind of word of mouth among their peers might be worth to you.

Move the barriers: Could it be there’s a communication barrier of some kind in the way? It may not be a language issue but are you using jargon that tells the novices they’re not welcome? And remember, sometimes it’s what you don’t say that gets in the way. What might make a potential customer pause and re-think “walking through your door?”

Add more welcome mats: Let’s assume you either have a literal front door to your business or your website is your virtual one. How welcoming are they? Do they reassure that fringe audience that you not only can help them but you really want to? Do you have a way for them to see themselves as your customer? That could be anything from a FAQ section that answers their specific questions, testimonials that come from folks just like them or a marketing tool that explains how you onboard new clients so they can visualize becoming one of your best customers.

You know that you want them as a customer. But they may not be as tuned in as you think. If they’re nervous about doing business with you or spending big money or switching from an old vendor – they may need a little positive reinforcement. Or it may be that they feel like an outsider or that they wouldn’t belong.

It’s your job to make sure they know just how much you’d like to help them and make it easy for them to walk in the door.

 

 

 

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Are you a commodity or are you different?

April 5, 2017

different

One of the first questions we ask a new client is “how are you different?” We usually hear things like:

1. Our people are better

2. Our products/services are better

But rarely do we hear – we do what we do differently than others do it. The harsh truth is, your people probably aren’t better. They may be great but your competitor’s staff is probably also pretty great. Odds are, your products and services do have rivals that are equal to what you offer. I’m sure you also have competitors who have lousy people and mediocre products/services but they’re probably cheaper than you are and that’s how they compete.

Let’s assume that there are a handful of companies who sell a product/service that is comparable to you and who have well trained, eager to serve employees. Those are your real competitors – the ones who do it as well as you do.

The danger to your business is that it’s just as easy to choose the other guy in the blink of an eye. When there’s really nothing different between you and the other companies – you all become, over time, average.

And that’s a very scary place to be. The reality today is that average doesn’t cut it. There are so many places I can get a “decent” buying experience. If that’s all that is available to me – why wouldn’t I then decide who to do business with based on the resources I hold most dear in a buying transaction:

  • My time
  • My money

I put those in that order on purpose. Today’s most scarce resource for the vast majority of consumers and business buyers is time.

I love the Buy Local movement but there’s a problem with it. If Buy Local doesn’t offer me something special and unique – most people are not willing to spend additional resources (both time and money) to support the cause.

Without something special in how you deliver your goods or service – you become a commodity. I know that’s harsh and I know it hurts to hear it. But if you don’t offer your customers something beyond what your other worthy competitors do, it’s your reality.

So how do you avoid to commodity trap?

Be more helpful than everyone else: If you are a resource that your consumers turn to time and time again, long before they buy, then they’re going to form an attachment to you. That attachment is a combination of trust, appreciation and obligation. You’ve already been so helpful – of course they’re going to consider buying from you.

Be more memorable than everyone else: One of the biggest factors in today’s buying decisions is the experience. Make it cool. Make me feel important. Make it selfie worthy. Do something to create an experience I want to tell others about. Don’t poo poo this if you’re a B-to-B based business. Those purchasing agents, business owners and general managers will love it if you wow them.

Be easier than everyone else: Why is Amazon winning? It’s so dang easy. 24/7, free shipping (with a Prime membership) and voila, it’s at your doorstep in a day or two. Plus, they have everything from shoelaces to lawnmowers and thanks to the customer reviews – you can quickly get a sense of the product’s quality in relation to what you’re trying to buy. That’s tough to compete against.

We may not like it – but offering something of value at a reasonable price is no longer a game changer. It’s a commodity.

If you want to be a company that buyers seek out, recommend and remain loyal to – you’re going to have to do better than that. You’re going to have to change the way you deliver your product or service so that it’s downright remarkable.

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Transparency leads to trust

March 29, 2017

TransparencyI really don’t like surprises. Granted, I’m anti-surprise to the extreme. I used to drive my mom crazy by ferreting out where she hid the Christmas gifts and then “guessing” what I was opening on Christmas morning. I suspect most people aren’t quite that determined to avoid surprises, but the reality is, especially when it comes to business – we don’t like them.  Your customers want transparency, not surprises.

There’s an excellent book out there by Patrick Lencioni called Getting Naked, A Business Fable About Shedding The Three Fears That Sabotage Client Loyalty. The core message of the book is that the more transparent we can be with our customers the more they learn to trust us over time.

Businesses are often plagued with customers who have doubts, uncertainties and unexpressed concerns. Those emotions breed mistrust and worry, which leads to a lot of questioning, push back and micro managing from your clients.

I’d like to suggest that there’s a different way, as does the book Getting Naked. I think many businesses operate under the misguided notion that clients shouldn’t see you sweat, know if there’s a potential problem or will throw a fit if you explain your pricing to them.

I think that’s a recipe for disaster. Here are some areas (I call it the three Ps of Transparency) where transparency can lead to trust, better customer relationships and increased sales.

Pricing: This is probably one of the biggest areas that needs more transparency. I believe many businesses are uncomfortable talking about their pricing because they’re either not sure how to justify the cost, know they’re not the cheapest game in town or hate the negotiations that come after the initial price is outlined.

We can’t let our money insecurities trickle down to our clients. If you are uncomfortable with your price point, maybe you need to think about how to add more value to what you deliver so you actually believe the client is getting a bargain. If you can’t hold your head up high when you talk about your pricing, then the problem is in what you deliver, not with your customer.

Process: If you’d like your customers to stop calling and asking for updates, proactively give them not only an outline of the entire delivery process but frequent updates. When they know exactly where everything is at, they will stop asking.

The other factor related to process is that for some reason business people believe that they can’t admit they don’t know something. So they fake it. Unfortunately, most of us aren’t that good at faking it and the client gets this vague sense of unease, which leads to more micromanaging on their part.

Saying “I don’t know” is a perfectly acceptable response as long as it’s followed with an explanation of how you’re going to get the information. We have to get over the idea that our clients expect us to be perfect and all knowing.

Problems: This is the biggie. No matter how buttoned up you are, sometimes there are issues that cause delays, errors and other undesirable results. This is the worry that keeps your client awake at night. And the companion worry for them is that it’s going to be a surprise.

The minute you get an inkling that there might be a problem – tell your customer. Give them as much advance warning as possible and carefully outline the possible solutions or workarounds. If it’s your fault – tell them. Don’t mince words or make excuses. Own up to it, clearly and directly apologize and then tell them how you’re going to fix it.

If you want your customers to trust you and to grow to rely on you – remember that they know you’re human, they know mistakes happen and all they want from you is your honesty. Weave transparency into every interaction and watch the trust grow.

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