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October 10, 2012

Are you out of touch with your clients? It’s not too late to reconnect.

I ran into a friend of mine on Saturday at the local coffee shop (the real social networking site!)… he works for an international manufacturer of equipment for the healthcare industry.

We were talking about the bureaucracy of working for such a large firm and how their marketing department is actually divided into two groups: strategic marketing and operational marketing.  He then made an interesting comment. He said that the marketers, while being really smart people, have no real idea what’s going on “in the field” because they rarely talk to their sales team and never talk to clients.

I was shocked!  How can you build an organization to serve customers if you don’t know what customers want… because you never talk to them?

Then it got me thinking about our industry.  As leaders of our firms, are we guilty of the same thing?  Are we so busy serving clients that we don’t take the time to actually talk to them?  Are we so involved in running our businesses that we forget why we’re there in the first place?

If you answered ‘yes’ to any of those questions, here are 5 ideas to get you back on track:

  1. Get a list of your top 10 clients and call just one a week for the next 10 weeks.  Ask them three key questions… What do we do right? What do we do wrong? How can we improve?  Oh yeah… and thank them for their business.
  2. Travel with a sales rep or sit in with your inside reps and just listen to what the clients and prospects are saying.
  3. Sit in with your project staff – PMs, PDs, etc. – while they’re working with clients and, again, just listen to what clients are saying.
  4. Go to a conference and network with as many people as possible.  And if you’re exhibiting, “work the booth.”  Find out what people are talking about and asking for.
  5. Get a list of 10 clients that you’ve recently lost and call one of them a week for the next 10 weeks.  Find out why they are no longer your client. Often times, you can learn more by failing than you can by succeeding.

The bottom line is this… the more you talk to clients, the more you’ll understand their needs and their pain points.  And when you understand those – you can build an organization that can respond to them.  But you can’t do that by sitting in your ivory tower or just reading the data from a survey!  Get out and talk with your clients and prospective clients.  And not just one time… make it part of your routine.  When you do that, you give your firm a strong competitive advantage.

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