I’m a huge fan of Gary Vaynerchuk and have been following his work for the better part of a decade. If you’re like most people, you might be thinking to yourself, “Who is Gary Vaynerchuk?” The short version: Gary took his family’s liquor store from $3M per year to over $60M per year by leveraging social media to establish himself as a leading expert in his field. (more…)

Although much of what I have written about here is focused on growing business, that doesn’t mean that customer/client service is somehow less important or relevant. In fact, good customer/client service is essential to growth.

As many people know, word of mouth marketing can be very powerful. Referrals and unsolicited testimonials have perhaps the greatest potential for growing revenue. But they aren’t going to just fall out of the sky.

From Client To Evangelist

Transforming clients into evangelists for your company isn’t something that happens without effort. And it isn’t going to happen if your clients are less-than-pleased with your company’s services. The first step to getting your existing clients to become cheerleaders for your firm is to make sure that your clients are satisfied with what you provide.

An excellent suggestion that I’ve seen from many project managers and professional marketers is to do a post mortem at the conclusion of every project or engagement with each client. This could be a formalized process, but I think it is best handled in a personal conversation. After a project is completed, schedule some time to sit down with your client to discuss the outcome. Simply ask the client what worked, what needs improvement, and in general, how satisfied they are with the results.

This process involves elements that are integral to business success:

  1. First, this process identifies areas of improvement. Your business and your approach should be living and breathing things that are constantly revised and improved. Who better than an existing client to help you understand what needs to be improved?
  2. It is important to remember that clients are people, too. Your client engages your services to improve their life or business. Was that objective accomplished? How does the client feel about the outcome of the project? This is not a trivial assessment.
  3. Focus on the positive. If the project was a success, this post mortem process will serve to highlight that success. If there are some negative outcomes, this is your chance to demonstrate your commitment to improve your relationship with your client. Offer tangible ways in which you can improve the outcome of the next project.
  4. Finally, this process is all about forward motion. What is the next assignment? How can you help the client in other ways? And here is the clincher: ask your client at the end of a successful project if they would be willing to refer you to other clients or perhaps give you a testimonial. If you don’t ask, it isn’t going to happen.

The post mortem process is one way to ensure client satisfaction and your personal commitment to the needs of your clients. It is a way to emphasize the added value that you bring to the relationship by focusing on positive outcomes and ways to improve. More than anything, it is a statement of solidarity.

If you’re good at what you do, make sure that your clients have the chance to see that. Don’t let the last communication you have with your client on a project be an invoice. Finish the project the way it most likely started: with a friendly conversation discussing your commitment to meeting the client’s needs. Because if you’re not meeting the needs of your clients, someone else will.

Additional Notes

  • Caution: Unless you have more work than you can handle in your business, I don’t think that relying on word of mouth is enough to sustain any company.
  • Don’t even think about charging your client to sit down and do a post mortem. I know there are a lot of people that bill by the hour, or worse, by a fraction of an hour. Charging a client for customer service is a slap in the face.

The Construction Defect Journal is publishing its annual Construction Attorneys Directory and is accepting listings until March 15, 2011:

The 2011 CDJ Construction Attorneys Directory will be published online and in limited print on February 15, 2011. The directory is widely distributed throughout the construction defect and claims community. Both online and print versions are made available to a concentrated audience of professionals concerned with construction defect and claims matters.

With highly developed search engine optimization the CDJ Construction Attorneys Directory is a valuable tool in helping potential clients identify your services and specialization in construction defect and claims matters it’s also a great way to promote your business or firm.

According to Darwin’s theory of evolution, natural selection is the process by where those who adapt thrive, and those who do not adapt to changing conditions die. Marketing has changed – don’t be a dodo.

Jeff Auchter has spent the better part of the past 25 years relying on conventional marketing and advertising to help sell new homes and communities. But Auchter, who’s now vice president of marketing for Centerline Homes in Florida, says his company has been steadily shifting its focus toward social media and has attracted its share of consumers’ interest: Centerline has 102,000 followers on Twitter and nearly 1,100 ?friends?

Yet another example of how important relationships are to the success of business:

Architects? struggles with client relationships are as old as the profession itself. Who hasn?t heard an architect grumble about making design compromises because of client demands? The story of Mies van der Rohe?s commission to design a house for Dr. Edith Farnsworth as if it were a residence for himself continues to instill longing in architects, despite the difficulties that living in the house posed for the client.

There is an even better story, however, that tells of great buildings borne out of flourishing architect and client relationships. The vigorous partnership between Louis Kahn and Jonas Salk around a shared vision for the future of medical research led to the inspired design of the Salk Institute?a building that would not have been realized by architect or client alone. In my conversations with the clients of Tadao Ando?s Times building or Antoine Predock?s Rose house, for example, the story is the same: the triumph of these projects demanded a successful alliance?occasional healthy disagreements included?for their realization.

Imad Naffa (@ImadNaffa on Twitter) has over 40,000 followers on Twitter and has used social media to achieve some amazing results. For instance, he was recently invited to China as part of the TED series, and has conversed online with Jordanian royalty. He posts hundreds of items per day. How does he do it?

When I started using social media I didn’t anticipate just how many different niches I would be interested in keeping track of. I wanted to find a tool that would help me manage that without data overload.

I started looking around at many tools as I knew it was time for me to upgrade from twitter.com to a more sophisticated productivity solution. That’s when I found Pluggio.

Pluggio is an online service that offers a great deal of functionality for managing a prolific Twitter account.

Heather Morse recounts a story over at The Legal Watercooler where a partner won over a desirable client from a competitor. It only took 10 years of cultivating the relationship to win the client. Instant gratification from business development and marketing efforts is the exception, not the rule in professional service industries.

When exerting marketing and business development efforts, it is desirable to see immediate results. Unfortunately, immediate results rarely happen. Most of your efforts won’t be realized until months or years down the road. Relationships take time. However, you must position yourself to be in the right place at the right time.

Marketing and business development are not about the work you are doing today, but the work that will come in the door when your current matters have wrapped up and the files sent to off-site storage.

Nicole Black is a noted attorney and blogger. Writing for the Daily Record, she gives some great perspective on what is required to create an effective legal blog. (Hint, a J.D. and a domain name are not enough…)

I?m frequently asked to explain what makes a ?successful? law blog. However, as is the case with any other type of social media, success is in the eye of the beholder.

A law blog is successful if it helps you achieve your goals, whether they are to obtain new clients, increase your law firm?s search engine standing, showcase your expertise and writing skills, or simply serve as a creative outlet for your headstrong opinions.

Regardless of your goals, there?s no point in blogging unless you enjoy the process of writing and have a passion for your subject matter. Otherwise, the blog will fall flat. While it may achieve desired goals of increasing search engine optimization, it will ultimately be uninteresting and will have few regular readers.

Establishing a strong brand for your business and developing a strong personal brand in concert is essential, especially in marketing professional services. Inc. provides some solid ideas for mastering online branding. Hint: tacking your logo onto your company’s website is not we’re talking about here.

It’s no longer enough to have a sleek website, social-media presence, and consistent brand aesthetic online. The new rules of branding your business on the Web have a lot less to do with presentation, and a lot more to do with interaction. In order to bring you up to speed, Inc.com has compiled nine of the most innovative and ingenious tips from articles, guides, and interviews in Inc. and Inc.com over the past year. These are the new rules of branding online.