In this ultra competitive business environment that we all work in today, it is all too easy to make an assumption that all is well, when in reality your clients may be thinking… what have you done for me lately?
Let’s face it, over time we can all get used to doing the same thing for our customers – and it can even be a good thing! We can deliver the projects on time, respond to calls in a timely manner, prepare new quotes, provide accurate and timely billing, even make that call to say thanks on a fairly regular basis. But is that enough?
We all go out of our way to impress new prospects, show them creative ideas, highlight our services, etc. But once we have them signed on as clients, we tend to concentrate more on the given task at hand – the most recent order. What we all forget is that our competitors are also out there looking for new business. There is a good chance that one of them is calling on a pretty important client of ours and doing their best to sell them just like we did before! This can often strike up the thought in the client’s mind about what value you as a vendor bring to them – whether it be about price, service or quality.
It is not easy as a supplier – even a trusted one over time, to genuinely keep up with all of these concerns. You may have been quite competitive at one time only to have new technology offer less expensive options. This will mean you have to now respond to potential inquiries from you client as to how you can be more competitive – are there other material vendors you can seek out or new equipment investments you can make? And then can you explain this in a way that does not appear that you had been “overcharging” all along? Likewise in service expectations – are there more streamlined ways to manage production or order entry now that you could offer? And of course quality can be a big part of any business relationship – no matter how good you are or what systems you have in place, there will likely be a time when your product is delivered at less than the client’s expectations – it happens! The key here though, is what you can do to a.) make it right and stand behind your mistake, and b.) what you will do in the future to ensure that it does not happen again.
Another key component of helping to bring value back to your relationship is to continue to bring new ideas, options or resources to your existing clients – just like you strived to do in the beginning! This can be difficult over time to keep coming up with new ideas, however this is also what can help keep you “fresh” in the marketplace. Can you sponsor surveys to find out the success of client’s work, can you offer educational seminars to enhance their knowledge, or how about writing educational “white papers” on relevant topics? Could you possibly offer new design possibilities or material options? Or how about customer focus groups, to learn more about what challenges they face or concerns they may have? These can all be great ways to not only offer more for your existing clients, but help to keep them engaged as well.
So what is that you have been doing for your clients lately?