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Delight Your Customers
It's the best way to continue to have customers
I like variety in my work-life, so over the years I have started a few small side-businesses. My university teaching career (1990s-early 2000s) was so “word-based” that I wanted something non-verbal and artistic to do on the side, so I started a custom bridal headpiece company. When I went to trade shows, however, I realized that there was an unusual business model in-play: because there was almost no “repeat business,” because the customers were new to the market, and because of all the emotion wrapped around having the “perfect special day,” many (not all!) of the bridal professionals charged HUGE markups, in order to squeeze as much profit as possible out of these one-time customers, and often sold poor-quality products at massively inflated prices.
Most industries don’t work like this. My own business model for TJG, and the models for most of the companies where I do consulting, are based on repeat business. Repeat business comes from meeting the client’s needs. Those needs might be as simple as getting the product to them on-time and on-budget. However, in many industries, on-time/on-budget is the minimum standard. You can help your firm stand out if you go above and beyond. Consider:
Communication. Figure out what to emphasize in your communications, so that what you say matters to your client. You can figure out what matters by listening to them. Do they just want bullet-points and the bottom-line? Do they want you to go into the nuts-and-bolts of process and details? Do they want your positivity and enthusiasm? Do they want to be consulted and give input? Do they want you to show your expertise, so they can relax and not feel like they have to micro-manage? Tailor your message and don’t smother what they see as the important parts in the stuff they don’t care about.
Integrity. Meet your commitments. Tell them the truth. Own up to any mistakes… and then tell them how you are going to make it right.
Quality. Give your clients a good product, a product you are proud of. Charge a fair price, of course—make a reasonable profit. But don’t cut corners or try to overcharge a client who doesn’t know the industry well enough to know you are gouging them. When in doubt, assume that they might bring in a new hire, someone who knows your industry extremely well. Make sure that your work is so good that this hypothetical expert would be impressed and recommend that they bring you in again for the next job.
Make your standard that you would be happy to ask the client for a testimonial or to use them as a reference, and that client will likely be a source of repeat business and testimonials.