Like lovers, clients can be fickle. Both will tell you that they love you and everything about you and everything you do, that is until they don’t, and they leave you for someone else. I take this to mean that in business as in love, one should never get too comfortable. Continuing to do the same things in the same way can become very predictable and therefore boring. You could eventually be considered to be outdated or out of touch.
Clients and lovers want to be understood. They crave a partner who is aware of their shifting needs and priorities, without being told. Talking to clients and lovers to find out how they feel about the relationship is a useful exercise, but the conversation will not always elicit the truth. It could be that our perceived lapses and failings do not become apparent until a competitor comes along and persuades them that they can do better.
To sustain healthy and satisfying business and intimate relationships, we must hone our intuition and be prepared to never rest on our laurels. Continually affirming one’s value is key, in both short and long-term scenarios. I suspect that the 24 hour news cycle and 140 character messages have contributed to the brief attention spans, impatience and need for instant gratification that seem to have overtaken us.
In defense, I suggest that periodically, a brand refresh that includes an update in how services are described and packaged will do some good. Think of Lady Gaga as you engineer a little shake-up every three years or so. Staying abreast with what is happening in the industries in which your clients operate will be helpful, so that you can learn about the challenges and priorities that your clients see and you may be able to see opportunities for you new or expanded services. If nothing else, you’ll can become fluent in the jargon and terms that your clients use to describe themselves and that will add to your credibility when you echo that in your content marketing and client meetings. When you speak their language they will know that you “get it” and that you can be trusted to deliver the outcomes they need.
As a caveat, I also suggest that you beware the temptation of giving your clients precisely what they say they want in every instance and in particular, avoid being swayed by a vocal minority. Keep client preferences in mind (especially if a clear majority raises the same issues), but understand that clients (and lovers) are not always able to articulate what will make them happy enough to stay with you.
This may be apocryphal, but it’s been said that when the late founder of Ford Motor Company, the legendary inventor and entrepreneur Henry Ford, was asked if he spoke with potential customers to learn what improvements they wanted to see in the transportation field, replied, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said ‘faster horses.’ ”
Hockey legend Wayne Gretzky advised that when playing, you have to skate to where the puck is going, not to where it’s been. CEOs from Warren Buffet to the late Steve Jobs have quoted that line because keeping that advice in mind is how one builds a successful company. Where the puck is going will be impacted by recent innovations, the economic climate and even social and political developments. Always, we must stay on top of developments because that is the only way that one who is in business can project what clients might want us to do for them, either next month or next year.
So what does a Freelance consultant do to find out what’s going on? The short answer is to keep your eyes and ears open and fully engage in your business and your life. Read blogs, newsletters and business magazines. Occasionally listen to a webinar, attend a seminar and go to a business or professional association meeting. Talk to your clients and colleagues, friends and family.
There is a tidal wave of information to soak up, but it isn’t necessary to drink from the firehose and become overwhelmed. Just be consistent. Be open to how new information can benefit your clients and you can ask their opinions about some of what you’ve heard or read. Invite your clients to interpret some things for you, since they are best positioned to do so. You will then understand the big picture and when you do, you’ll see where the puck is going to be.
Thanks for reading,