How to Make Your Clients Seem Like "Regulars"
I know what you are thinking: all this talk about serving a niche better and creating a more collaborative client experience sounds nice, but cut to the chase. What are the practical steps I have to take to encourage my clients to feel more like regulars? And, as a bonus round, why should I really bother trying to foster this feeling for them at all?
There are as many ways to increase that “regular” feeling amongst your clients, as they’re partners to dance with. And, different things matter more or less to different folks, yet another reason having a niche really helps!
Still, that doesn’t mean there aren’t grand patterns underneath all those individual particulars. So, here are a few broad strokes on places to start:
- Keep up on your niche: Seems basic, but it inspires confidence. Who are they? What do they sell? What are they really selling? And, how do these answers inform what is most important to them as people? Add on knowledge of special laws, permits, pending issues or regulations, or just general challenges they happen to be facing as a group. Whether financial or otherwise, it all helps to demonstrate your commitment to the niche and the soundness of your advice.
- Read between the lines: Given the above, what are your niche’s current potential pain points? Do you have any ability to alleviate them? If not, do you know who can, or can something else be made easier to offset the drain on resources? Say something about it!
- Keep up on your clients: It sounds obvious, but do you actually know? Who does your client truly rely on, and for what? What are their current hurdles? What’s the hardest thing they must do regularly? Once in a while? Are you a part of that? Are you the solution for it?
- Observe what isn’t offered: Clients don’t know what they don’t know. If you have not spent a day or two simply sitting in on the day-to-day of a business or two in your niche, I will first ask, why not? Second, I will say that you also don’t know what you DO know. There are inevitably a lot of things you don’t even realize you can contribute – things that your clients simply cannot see or cannot do for themselves. Your unique perspective makes you valuable. Put in the time to learn what can’t be discovered secondhand. It’s a foundation you can build from, and energy you’ll spend without regret.
- Know the infrastructure: What is your clients’ financial prep workspace like? What is the raw data like that your clients are working with? What do they have to go through to transform it and get it to you? What is the pace of your niche’s business or life in general? The amount of predictability? The ability to plan ahead? How much of their business is ad hoc vs. methodical? How much is affected by immediacies completely beyond their control (i.e., weather and events)? Can you make any of it more palatable?
- Ask it all directly – in person, if possible: Even if you think you know the answers, ask your clients how they would answer all this. Half the point is you having asked and actually listened to their answers. So, ask and listen … with no expectations and not with a form! Forms feel like homework, not conversation.
- Give them the courtesy of a why and enlist their help: This is my personal thing, but I think it goes a long way toward building a relationship with clients that feels more like a conversation. I don’t ask clients to do anything that is difficult or tedious for them to do unless:
- I can (and do) explain why they need to do it and why it has to be done that way, rather than some way that’s easier for them or not by them at all.
- I also encourage them to think it over, and if they come up with an easier way that is at all viable, I adopt it – even if it requires a bit of extra maneuvering on my side.
I’ve found this sets a collaborative tone for our work together, and makes them infinitely more invested in doing the work required. Plus, fresh ideas from the trenches are always great to have! There isn’t much I do now that doesn’t contain gems from clients who were invested in making our work together better.
Remember – The Thought Actually Counts!
Now, the why. Although this process can feel like crossing a middle school gym at first (Foreign. Scary. Sweaty. Hard work.), SHAKE IT OFF! Most business owners and individuals are starving for plain-spoken financial information and validation. However awkward your first tries at dancing with their day-to-day perspectives might be, chances are high that they’ll be wildly appreciated.
And, when you put in the time to really know what life is like for clients in your niche, you are laying down an archeological record. Over time, it is this baked in, ground level, year on year, in the bones knowledge that makes stand out service something you almost can’t help but provide.
Besides, it’s probably going to be a win either way. In my 20 years with my own niche, I have learned at least twice as much about business, service and how to cultivate regulars from them as they have from me.
Editor’s note: This is part 2 of a two-part series. Check out part 1 here, which dives into client interaction and niche practice satisfaction.