I Don't Chase Clients - January 13, 2016
If you know me or have worked with me, you know I don't chase clients. If they call me to book an appointment and never return my call, I don't try to hunt them down. If they miss an appointment and don't call me, I don't call them. If after several sessions, they suddenly drop off the radar and don't book for a week, or a month, or a year, I don't email a reminder of all we have left to do. And when they do book or call, I don't remind them how long it's been. If they cancel an appointment or no show, I don't call or hound them to reschedule. That doesn't mean I don't have boundaries. It doesn't mean I don't care. I just don't chase them to schedule. Client's have to want to do this work, MORE than I do. That's how it works. That's WHY it works.
Despite having leading edge training in some of the most powerful techniques in influencing behavior, and despite having advanced skill in shifting people from one mindset to another, my approach to attracting and retaining clients is very simple - care for the client experience. That begins with simply extending compassion to real people with real problems who are doing the best they can. This means meeting clients where they are, instead of where they could be (on my calendar and in my constant contact database.) See, I know the best way to motivate a client to schedule is to start with a motivated client. And when they come (and they always do) it's my priority to do whatever I can to NOT add stress to their situation. Otherwise stress creates a pressured client who will all of a sudden become. . . wait for it. . . .and unmotivated client. And then my job becomes twice as hard.
Sadly, I am inundated, (as we all are) with examples of how many marketers are NOT leading with a concern for the client experience. It seems, these days, the prevailing approach targets an individual's sense of regret, guilt, fear of missing out, entitlement, embarrassment, and even shame for NOT biting on the call to action. This pressure is demeaning and pushes me as a consumer further and further away from products and services, making it twice as hard for the marketer to bring me back. In my mind, I would rather start fresh with someone new than pick up with the marketer who shamed for NOT buying. Frankly, for the marketer I see more time, money, and energy wasted than revenue generated or value created. For the consumer, I see all of that AND emotion wasted. How can anyone be a motivated client under those conditions?
No surprise to learn that my approach to the client experience was fostered by my work at Disney -- the leader (hands down) in marketing with the exceptional guest experience as it's driver. The principles are timeless and transcend any industry, product or service. If you begin with the end in mind -- shape your marketing approach around what you want your clients to experience, you will make so much more than a sale, you will make a relationship built upon powerful emotions with positive associations to you and your brand. I know it works because I have seen my practice grow in this model without relying upon the marketing practices described above.
It's not enough to just create a picture of that experience, you have to build a process and support it with a mindset and set of practices that produce the result. A 30,000 foot view of that approach looks something like this:
- Potential clients are people, not leads. They are real people with real problems who want real solutions. They are thinking about parting with real money and investing real time to buy your product or engage your service. Whether you target market or use the buckshot approach, they need to feel like more than just a demographic hit or piece of buckshot. So they need your focus. They need to see and hear that you understand them and have their best interest in mind - even if you are NOT the right fit for them. This fosters a sense of trust and positive association with you. Even if they never buy from you, the positive experience creates a relationship, which lends to more referrals -- and all you did was listen and extend basic human respect. You may remember from the movie Miracle on 34th Street, how Macy's became an ambassador of goodwill by sending shoppers to Gimbel's for items they didn't have in stock. Same idea. Always be working for the best and highest interest of people's needs -- not what you want to sell them.
- People are on a journey, not in a sales pipeline. They have an idea of where they are, and where they want to be and they have some idea that your product or service will play some role in getting them there. All you can really do is educate and inspire them as to how your product or service is a natural compliment to where they are going. And then respect and honor their choice and timeline (see previous comment about the motivated client). Build your transactions and touches around their readiness, not an arbitrary automatic schedule delivered by your content software based on when and how many times they opened an email. Resolve to become a gardener. Plant the seeds, cultivate the relationship watch with joy what grows on the journey. It will likely exceed your expectations and theirs especially when you extend patience for their process.
- Cake takes better than carrots. Don't be a afraid to dole out something free to recruit, retain or recover a client -- with no quid pro quo and no strings attached. I'm not talking about a note pad with your logo on it, or a beer koozi. I'm not talking about free sessions necessarily or a free recliner, but I do mean something in and of itself useful to the client even if you never saw them again. I'm talking something of value, that gives a the client a real feel for their value to you -- not the other way around. Serve up some cake. Make it something that is satisfying and memorable -- something that builds powerful positive emotions and again, fosters that positive association to you and your product or service. Free consults definitely fall into this category as long as they do not end with violations of point 1 or 2 above. Pressure on the heels of a free gift is a not only a rotten carrot on a string, it creates indigestion and a negative association.
- Treat clients like you want to be treated. So this should feel like a no-brainer. yet, when I check my email and see that buckshot approach to getting my attention again -- 10 emails in a week from that pet store "Oh No! Fido is Running Out of Dog Food." Or when I visit that service provider and she hands me 5 more discount coupons to give to friends and family. Or another key in the mail from Joe's auto dealership down the street. I'm insulted. Seriously, who thinks I need to hear from them that that much? Who thinks I didn't pay attention last time I was handed those coupons or that key? Understand, if you take the buckshot approach, statistically you will land on people. But at what cost? The repeated attempts at communicating lose meaning and the message no longer becomes targeted marketing. Worse, it's annoying and you alienate potential clients who were better fit for you than the ones who got shot. Treat clients like they are smart and pay attention and guess what, you will attract smart focused clients. More important, they will come looking for you because you DON'T operate like everyone else.
- Be grateful, let go and trust. When I meet people, I sit in a place of gratitude for the encounter regardless of where it leads. I listen. I share. And if the opportunity presents, I educate about what I do and how I can help. Then I let it go and trust. I trust I have created a foundation of compassion and respect. I trust that the right people who need this work are finding their way to me. I trust that clients can see the care for their experience in every tool and transaction. I trust that the positive association they have made with me will serve them at the right time. While we working together, I empower them with as many tools as I can to do this work on their own, and to transition them back to their own resources as quickly, and efficiently as possible. Then, when they are ready to move on - no pressure, no guilt, no shame -- move on. Positive associations throughout and all the way up to the end. And it works. No one ever attracted, retained or re-gained a client through pressure, guilt, shame or desperation. If you let gratitude be the undercurrent for the entire experience, you will attract more clients and experiences to be grateful for. This usually shows up as referrals.
So somewhere, there is a business coach who is going to want to revoke my coaching cert and my MBA for what I shared. And somewhere else, there is a marketing maven who rolled her eyes through this entire post. That's okay. They are not my clients. I understand this approach may not be for everyone. There are certainly many industries for whom more statistically predictable models are employed to drive a financial bottom line. But not for me. The bottom line of the work I do IS the client experience. And because of this, somewhere, there's a client breathing a sigh of relief for missing her appointment tonight. She'll call me tomorrow when she remembers and be received with compassion and respect. Then she'll get right back on the schedule and we pick up where we left off. She'll be grateful. I'll be grateful. Positive associations all around. Fertile ground to grow a relationship and cultivate change.
I'm proud to report, this approach has yielded a thriving practice of clients who feel no pressure to schedule and yet they do. No pressure to reschedule and yet they do. No guilt when they're ready to move on, and when they do, they usually send me a nice testimonial. Their experience is generating referral upon referral such that I do very little through traditional marketing outlets and still book 2 to 3 weeks in advance. Clearly, something is going very, very right. I don't have to chase clients. I create meaningful relationships and they just keep coming.
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