Adopting customer-centric business practices is now THE survival mechanism of necessity for Freelancers, as well as businesses large and small. Particularly for service providers, the battle to escape the dreaded label “commodity” is on. No one can afford to be just another replaceable face in the crowd. The “me, too” era is over.
In order to keep customers coming back for more, Freelancers are compelled to demonstrate unique value to those with whom we do business. It’s the best way to stay ahead of the competition and make your name come to mind when a project needs to be done or a referral made.
While providing top quality products and services that meet or exceed customer expectations is our number one mission, another important mission is to take a look at our business practices from the sight lines of our customers—from the outside, looking in. Assess the experience that customers have when doing business with you.
To make that happen, find out all that you can about what really brings them to your door, or to the door of competitors. What assumed but unspoken set of objectives and expectations do they have? What alternatives exist that might possibly allow them to achieve those objectives without you? How easy, or cumbersome, is it to do business with you?
Your website plays a role in this process, especially if yours is an online business, or customers typically search the web for your category of business. List with GoogleMaps and Yahoo Local to help customers and prospects find you. SEO friendly algorithms and key words will also give your website presence a boost.
Furthermore, your website should promote and reflect your brand very well. Display core products and services prominently, along with information that will answer frequently asked questions and get customers on the road to doing business with you.
If anything on your site is time sensitive, e.g. your list of speaking engagements, keep that updated. Present a website that is easy to read, conveys relevant information in clear and simple language, is not overly text heavy, contains an appealing “call to action” and is easy to navigate.
Wherever appropriate, leverage social media tools to provide additional communication channels for your customers. 2.0 is not only for communicating your brand and message, but also for letting people holler back. Another method to get the heads up on customer priorities is through the online service, Survey Monkey. A brief survey that contains well designed questions will elicit useful information and may shatter a few illusions.
A thriving business is built on the customer: retention, satisfaction and growth. The products and services we sell, the way these are delivered and the prices we charge are all based on what our customers need and accept. To keep the cash flowing, stay current with customer priorities and learn their thoughts about what your business does well, what your competitors do poorly, what you could offer that will make their lives easier and what they are willing to pay to have it all. If you can solve those mysteries Freelancer friend, you will have yourself a nice little business!
Thanks for reading. To those who are keeping score, Freelance: The Consultant’s Diary reached the one year milestone on June 16, 2010.