Critically Important Basic and Fundamental Rules About Clients (NEVER FORGET THESE)

Lessons From A Beauty Expert
I was talking to a close friend of mine the other day. She is in the skin and beauty service and products business. She is very entrepreneurial.  But like most entrepreneurs she is an "expert" - but she is an expert in her business - and only her business, the beauty business. She can make anyone look good, and even feel good. She studies her craft with meticulous precision. When you talk to her, you see she is very, and I mean very, passionate about what she does. She can tell you which products are which, how they work and what works best for the individual and their specific characteristics. She knows which have ingredients that are natural, will have a long positive effect and impact and which ones are to be avoided. She can explain what foods to eat and why, and what effects these foods have not only about the outside beauty, but the inside workings of the human body, and how they ultimately affect how a person looks.

She is by anyones' estimation - a true expert and passionate about it. Because of this, she is very good at what she does.

She is, however, a "technician" of sorts. She is an expert in her craft. She, like most experts in their craft, doesn't know how to do the things that are important to developing her business and getting clients. Specifically, she doesn't think about how to get and keep clients.

We were having a cup of coffee, chatting away, as she was analyzing my face, and feeling comfortable enough to tell me I need to do something with my skin (I think I look lovely frankly). She also mentioned casually something about her clients, quite by accident.

She said, a long-term client came in and went to another professional in her firm. This was because my friend was "booked" - and since the client just walked in - the receptionist just "made the appointment with the other professional anyway" - to accommodate the client. The client really wanted to see my friend, but the reception was trying to efficient (getting the client to another person) rather than effective (getting the client to the person - my friend - whom she trusts). Write down that term. The term again: "efficient rather than effective." This is a critical term in working with clients.

My friend was a little distressed about the receptionist's decision to send her client to someone else in the firm. She was incensed at first. Then she thought that she shouldn't be. She thought it would be okay. And that this - well - was "normal."

I wanted to scream at her. But I thought if I wanted to keep getting free advice about my face (which apparently isn't as pretty as I imagine it to be) - I had better not.  I wanted to tell her - to be incensed. Be pissed off. Explain to the receptionist that this should never happen again - period.

I did the next best thing however. I asked her if I could help her by giving her advice. Note: I asked permission, I didn't just give it. First off, this allows information to come in without the other person feeling offended. Second, it readied her for the information.

I asked her, "How hard is it to get clients?"

She said, "It's very hard. In today's environment, clientele stretch their dollars by coming in once every other week or once a month, rather than once a week or once every other week. And those that were coming in once a month, are now coming in once every two months or not at all. Of course, except for the well-off crowd. They come in anytime they are having a bad day."

"So, it's hard. Just like my business," I said. "Do you mind if I give you some rules about clients? And these rules come from personal experience."

She of course agreed or there wouldn't be any reason to write this story.

10 Rules For Getting and Keeping Clients
I said, "Here are my rules. And never ever forget them." Here they are as I ripped these off the top of my head and I told her. They were so good she actually got out a pen and wrote these on a napkin (it took two napkins as she just jotted down the main points). I give them to you free of charge.

  1. Never, ever, ever, lose a client. Do everything you can to make sure they never go to a friend, a colleague, a competitor or another professional - if, of course, you can do the work yourself. Clients are hard to come by. Don't lose clients. That's the first rule. It's the most important rule. And while it seems so obvious, you'd be surprised how many people don't do the necessary things to keep clients.
  2. Work at getting clients, not customers. The difference between clients and customers are remarkable. Clients come to you because of you and the value you provide them. They are less concerned with price and more concerned with the results or outcomes. They are loyal to you. There is a relationship - stemming from the value you provide them. The relationship does not come from friendship or similarities in background. Clients will pay more for the value, the convenience, and the knowledge you have of your craft and how it is applied to them. "How it is applied to them" means you know them and therefore know how the services and products best meet their characteristics, attributes, and needs. Customers, on the other hand, shop for price. They want: less cost, less cost, less cost. They are not loyal. They will go down the street to someone else in a minute. They don't care about the knowledge you have and how it is applied as much as clients appreciate it and care about it. They do a lot of their own research on the internet, and while they think they are knowledgable, they actually aren't. But their ignorance is so strong that they actually think that they do know as much as you.
  3. Never discount something without a really, really good reason. If you have to explain that to your clients - that you never discount. And if you have a really really good reason to discount, explain why to your clients. Explain the rationale. This way they won't think you are now a cheap, low cost provider of services. There is a great force in the universe, that compels people to shop for the best bargain and get the best price. Once you begin discounting - you are going to get swallowed up by cheap and you will begin to compete with cheaper firms. Eventually, your clients will depart and the customers - may - and I say "May" with all the emphasis I can muster - come flocking or in droves. This may sound good - but I have news for you - it probably isn't. Remember, the one client that comes in once a month or once every two weeks? How many customers do you need to make for that one client? Because you're dealing with the customer coming in once every two or three or six months - you can do the math to determine how many customers you need to fill that void left by just one client. Also, because customers are cheaper, (they shop price remember?), you will have multiply the customers by two (because they are probably spending half of what clients will pay). Further, your advertising or however you get them, has to increase. Your life now begins to becomes a very tiresome treadmill. 
  4. Work on referrals. What are referrals? They are word of mouth campaigns where your clients tell their friends about you and your services. Explain to the clients you have how some client of yours told two friends and they are all very happy. The client may get the idea. They may not. But explain that this is your best way of getting clients - word of mouth. They'll get it - without your having to ask them for a referral. And if they don't - they don't. Don't force it.
  5. Make sure you deliver more than was asked for, and hoped. Can't explain this enough. The value you bring is your ability to exceed their expectations. Get to know the client inside and out. Well that might not be the best way to put it. But understand them so well, that it would take them hours, days, weeks, to have to explain to someone new, what you know about them - specifically to how your services are applied to them.
  6. Maintain contact with your clients - regularly. Start a blog. Start an email update. Don't be a pain in the you-know-where, but send out not good - but great information. Let them see and hear from you - but deliver your name to their inbox, if you can daily. I know one consultant, who sends out at least, and this is no exaggeration, five to ten emails - are you ready? a day. Now he is the nicest guy and pretty smart. He has like a clipping service. I don't read all his emails - I don't even have time to open them, let alone read the subject line. But I see his name. His name is now synonymous with what he does. I am sure I am not the only person who feels this way. When I have a situation or problem or question, he is the first person I go for the answer and help. By the way, he sends articles, not written by himself, out to his client list.
  7. Swim upstream, not downstream. Keep working on your services and craft to deliver more value. If you get lazy, your differentiator dies. Look for work on higher end professional services you can deliver. Always be upgrading. Even if it is little nuances to the services you already deliver - keep on improving.
  8. These are your clients. They are not someone else's. Protect your Rolodex (contact list). Never give away your list. Because you are doing number 6 above - you must have a list.
  9. It's the Experience.  Like Starbucks, we remember not just the coffee, but the entire experience. The free wi-fi, the tables, the smell, the clean bathrooms, the gift cards that look cool, the music that's cool, the music gift cards that look cool, the new coffee flavor of the day, the baristas, (or whatever they call themselves), the green sign (do you know how many people look for that sign when looking for a Starbucks?) and on and on. It's everything about the place.
  10. Be remarkable. Stand out. Be someone different - be cool. Be nice. Be smart. Be whatever - but don't be blah. 
Got it? She got it. I said, take that list and review it every day for the next six months. Let me know if you have a different mindset. 

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