We all know someone who’s a people pleaser. This person hates the idea of saying “no” or, heaven forbid, letting someone down. This quality can also be found within a company where the leadership team dreads saying, “We don’t provide that service.”
Any work is better than no work, right?
The trouble with trying to be everything to everyone is that companies inevitably fail because when they say yes to every request, they end up watering down their core competencies to the point where they can’t differentiate themselves.
So, how do you decide what you’re best at and then attract clients whose needs align with the services you offer? I’m glad you asked.
Know Your Strong Suit
Success starts with figuring out what your company’s niche is. Then, you need to set parameters to help you judge which projects are most appropriate for you to pursue.
1) Find Your North Star
At Influence & Co., our core competencies are content creation, editorial planning, client management, and content strategy. This is our North Star: creating content that educates and engages a specific audience and highlights the client’s expertise in his industry. It’s the key driver behind what we do.
2) Set Your Range
Once you have guidelines, it’s easy to identify what falls outside that range. For instance, we won’t write website copy for clients because that falls under the copywriting umbrella, which requires writers and strategists to consider sales and conversions. It’s more promotional and should reflect the brand’s perspective, not an individual’s expertise. We will, however, help clients write whitepapers because this type of content serves as an educational tool for readers.
3) Focus Your Lens
Make a list of “could dos,” and be frugal about what you allow on your “should do” list. Start by funneling each of your “could dos” through the lens of your North Star, vetting it against your core competencies and previously defined parameters.
Knowing your area of expertise gives you confidence in deciding which clients to take on. If you think of your team as generalists, it’s hard to say no. But when you view your team as individuals with specific skill sets and expertise, the added focus allows you to do extraordinary work.
The second half of the equation is finding clients whose needs align with your services. Start with their pain points, and then vet them against your competencies (and North Star).
1) Understand Your Clients’ Needs
If you push your services without understanding clients’ true needs, you’re missing a key opportunity to identify their pain points and showcase how your solution can offer relief. Plus, you run the risk of accepting a client and realizing that his needs don’t actually align with your services, causing you both to lose valuable time and money.
2) Set Expectations
No matter how excited you are to get started, don’t fall into the trap of getting ahead of yourself. The more you address in the beginning, the better the foundation you’ll set for a great client relationship.
3) Implement the No A**hole Policy
Just because someone can pay you to do your services doesn’t mean he should be a client. Your employees deserve to be treated with respect, so it’s important to make your expectations clear early on about what constitutes an appropriate client relationship.
4) Ask About Their Past Experiences
Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not me, it’s you”? Sometimes, problem clients put the blame unfairly on their agencies. We had one client who told us that he’d fired the last five firms he’d worked with. At first, we thought he’d had bad luck trying to find the right fit, but we quickly realized the client himself was the problem. In fact, we ended up firing this client a couple of months into the contract because of our “No A**hole Policy.”
5) Learn From Past Clients
You can learn a lot by identifying trends from both your most successful clients and those who weren’t great fits. At Influence & Co., we’ve found we have greater success with experts who have a marketing person on staff to support their content creation efforts. Additionally, we generally find the most success with clients whose business is B2B, though we take on B2C clients whose strategies align with our services.
Breaking Up Is Hard to Do
Let’s be honest — there’s no easy way to say “no.” Here’s how to break up with a client when the chemistry simply isn’t there:
- Repeat Yourself
When potential clients have absurd expectations, we reiterate what they can and can’t expect from working with us. Eventually, they either realize the benefits of our services or they determine that it isn’t the right fit.
- Stand Your Ground
When a client violates any of your policies, it’s essential that you address his actions by stating that you cannot continue the relationship without mutual respect. If he can’t provide that, then you need the let the client go.
- Create a Referral List
When clients ask for services we don’t offer, I tell them, “I’d love to sign you on as a client, but what you actually need is something we don’t provide. Here is a trusted vendor that can help you achieve your goals.”
Being able to provide value by making an introduction lets the potential client know that we truly care about helping him, and it also keeps our company on his radar.
At the end of the day, staying true to your company’s product offerings and being clear about expectations will reap major benefits. Too often, companies aim to please everyone while the truth is that specializing in one area makes you truly stand out.
Post by Kelsey Meyer.