I have just heard a fantastic story, which has got me thinking about where we get great ideas from. Apparently Japanese school girls can be partly thanked for the advent of texting.
The story goes that, when cell phones were prohibitively expensive, Japanese school girls bought pagers and developed number codes to send to each other. So: 111378 might mean “I’ll meet you at 8pm”. The phone companies got wind of this and significantly increased their investment and development of SMS technology.
How true this is, I’m not sure (Wikipedia has a far more technical, and probably accurate, version of why we are addicted to texting). However, it got me thinking about the ways in which we tap into ideas to market our businesses.
More often than not the ways in which we formally market or develop our businesses are led from the top – the CEO, business owners, or the marketing or business development teams.
But good ideas can come from anywhere and everyone should be actively encouraged to share their ideas with the firm:
- Use your wider team to generate ideas on how to connect with clients.
- Take advantage of the similar demographics that exist between your team members and clients, to understand what might be appropriate.
- Encourage the development of relationships at all levels – for example many relationships rely on a great understanding and connection between key support staff, for example secretaries/PAs.
- Develop incentives internally to encourage marketing and brand building behaviour. Try competitions between teams to see which team can achieve the most client contact over a period of time.
- Encourage teams to identify areas in which they would like marketing /BD skills training, for example if they feel nervous about attending events, offer them networking training.
How do you continue to generate enthusiasm and ideas for building your business? Where have some of the best ideas come from?
Have you challenged your wider teams to develop their own ideas?
Tom Kane, in his legal marketing blog, published a great post about learning from departing clients as well as from opportunities you miss out on. He provided some good advice about conducting ‘loss reviews’ and keeping channels of communication open with prospects and clients who choose to go elsewhere.
While it’s true that you learn a lot from your ‘losses’, I also believe you can learn a lot from your wins. As well as conducting ‘loss reviews’ I would also recommend professional services firms conduct ‘win reviews’ in order to find out:
- why the client selected you,
- what aspects of your approach and style they liked, and
- what could be improved.
This is particularly important in a competitive tender situation. We had a client who won a major contract through a rigorous RFP process. We interviewed the company following our client’s win and found out some great information our client has been able to apply to future tenders. What was particularly interesting is that the reasons our client believed they had won, were not the reasons at all!
My rule of thumb is ‘don’t assume’. It’s easy to ask new clients (however you win them) why they chose to work with you and to seek their input into how you could improve your new business process. However, a word of caution: don’t take feedback from one win/loss review as gospel – clients have differing likes/dislikes and so you will need to use your judgement about what is likely to resonate with a particular target going forwards – the more you know about your prospective client, coupled with your past feedback, the better you will be able to tailor your approach to each opportunity.
And if you don’t get the work, as Tom said in his post – “losing a client does not have to be a total loss”. Here’s our two cents worth:
- If you pitch for a piece of business and miss out, conduct a loss review. Find out what the prospects decision making criteria were, how you performed against these, what they liked about your pitch, what they thought could be improved, what the winning person/team did that made them stand out, and any other suggestions the prospect has for future pitches.
- If a client (that you value) leaves you, find out the reasons why and what, if anything, you would need to do to work with them again in the future.
- When you lose a piece of work, give the person a call after three months to find out how things are going for him/her. Make sure you send them information of value to them occasionally along with a personal note.
- If a bill remains unpaid for longer than 30 days, call the client to find out if they were happy with the work you did. Don’t just follow up the unpaid invoice. Use it as an opportunity to evaluate your service.
I strongly believe that obtaining client/prospect and referrer feedback, wherever possible, is invaluable to building your business and improving your client service.
Learn from your wins and your existing clients so that you minimise the losses. But, when you do lose a client or a piece of work, learn from that too – and never assume it’s a permanent move – you may have to work hard, but you can win them back.
Do you conduct win/loss reviews on a regular basis? If so, how have these helped your business?
What advice would you give to others starting this process for the first time?