Monday, March 07, 2011

I Did My Homework Before My Latest Client Hired Me

I had announced last week that I got a new client,  so I'm getting busy this week working on organizing the services for her that I offer with my Gold package, and will keep readers posted on some of the details, as I think this work is going to make a great case study. But I just wanted to backtrack briefly, as I think there are some valuable lessons I learned over the last year, that made my client consultation before we "sealed the deal," particularly productive.

First and foremost, I had researched the client thoroughly. Since this is a brick and mortar business, I had visited several times and taken note of the physical space, the visitors, and the ambiance. I also reviewed her online presence, including her website, newsletter, and social media (in this case, Facebook only, something I'm going to work on expanding and improving, of course). I also took note of her bio and background, so that I could get a feel for her experience and expertise.

During the one-hour free consultation, I made it a point to listen, and to allow the client nearly a full half-hour of simply speaking without my saying anything. I did this for several reasons -- obviously, I needed to learn what she wanted to achieve with her communications and social media marketing--but also, I wanted to see what her thought process was. That is, how she arrived at one conclusion versus another, what her likes and dislikes were, what she valued, what pleased her and frustrated her, etc. In this way, I could answer to her in a more personal way and develop an approach toward working with her before I was even working with her.

During the course of the last year, I had found it necessary to develop a client questionnaire. I did this for several reasons, but primarily so that the client could focus as closely as possible on certain key issues in their business, such as competitors, what their main goals and challenges were, what some of their past experiences had been, and what their ideal wish list would look like. When I mentioned that I had developed this questionnaire for the new client, she seemed thrilled. She has not filled it out yet, but she really liked that I had thought through some of the key marketing challenges she might be facing, and that I had also customized the questions to target her business.

I made my pricing and packages easy to follow. Over the last few years, I have been able to successfully get away from hourly rates, as I find them to be impractical and somewhat nervewracking both for the consultant and the client. From my point of view, I like that project rate or flat rate approach, as I don't need to be watching the clock, but can focus on quality and giving my all to the project. My tendency is to always provide more time rather then less anyway, and clients appreciate this. Clients also like the package, or flat rate, as they can relax as well and not worry about counting the hours and manually crunching numbers. When the time came to make a decision, I had my pricing choices and packages ready to go, with customization easy to do. For example, the client was not yet ready to embark on a Twitter campaign, so we switched out that service with public relations instead. She was literally able to point to the package she wanted, as I had the pricing and services mapped out, with a complete description of everything.

I had my notebook and pen ready, and I used them! I always like having my notebook at the ready, and in the case of a free consultation like this one, I took frequent notes on what the client was saying, so that if indeed I got the job, she wouldn't have to repeat everything and start from scratch. And even if she hadn't agreed to go forward, I still find it valuable to learn what the issues are for small to medium size businesses -- from the actual business owners, who know the issues best.

When it was contract time, I didn't fool around. Once the client agreed to working together and asked for the contract, I used the details of our meeting to create the bullet points, including project details, scope of services, timeframes and schedules, etc.
I made sure to communicate that I was available to go over the contract in detail, and to clarify if anything needed further explanation, which apparently it did not. I also included with the contract, a workplan for the upcoming month for the client to agree on, to ensure that we were "on the same page."

These are just some of the thoughts that come to mind in reviewing last week's news, and it's helpful to keep in mind in going forward with new clients.

For clients, what do you want your consultants to bring to the table, and for consultants, what do you think is most important in order to "seal the deal?" Share your comments here...and now I have to go and get ready to shoot some video for my new client!

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