Here's a thought for you....... Companies describe inanimate objects as "assets" but describe their staff as a "cost".....? We buy or lease equipment, technology, furniture and vehicles and write their cost down over a number of years and think of them as a depreciating asset, but we don't recruit staff and think of them as an appreciating asset - something that goes up in value over time. Why is that....?
The universal challenge for any individual, business or organisation, how ever large or small they may be and wherever they are in the world is how to find, recruit and keep clients, staff, etc. The cost of doing business with an existing customer is much lower than the cost of recruiting a new one and, likewise, the cost of replacing a skilled member of staff is far higher than the cost of retaining and developing existing ones.
So the point of this article is how to get your staff, clients, supporters, whatever they may be to become and remain advocates for whatever it may be that you offer.
There are, arguably, 6 steps on the journey:
· Finding you
· Positive experience
It goes without saying that if your target market can't find you, then you're lost before you even begin. This is now very much about having a decent web presence, so that when people search for you they find you, ideally in the top 3-5 results, but certainly within the Top 10 - if you're not on the first page then your chances of success drop significantly!
There is currently a "Gold-rush" underway, similar to the initial race for domain names, to own or dominate key words that people search for - if your business isn't doing this, then you will find it almost impossible to compete in coming years without spending a fortune on websites and Search Engine Optimisation "SEO", I'll cover this in the next article, but it is addressed to some degree in this article on The Semantic Web and Social Media.
The other way of getting found and, without a doubt the best way of being found is referrals - if somebody you trust recommends a business or person to you that counts for much more than any ranking in a Google search! Think about it for a moment, a personal recommendation puts you head and shoulders above your competitors, doesn't it?
Once people find you and make contact, they MUST get a consistently positive experience in every way. Authenticity plays a huge part in this because if your potential advocate gets even a whiff of anything that doesn't feel authentic then you're already back at zero, if not worse! For many, this is a "sixth sense", a "gut feeling" rather than something that is tangible, so they will sense that something's not right but can't necessarily explain what it is. Therefore, if you fail to explain who you are and what you do in a way that resonates authentically with the other person then it may already be too late because the harder you try to convince them, the more resistant they will become.
Assuming this initial contact goes well, it must be maintained, so setting and managing expectations on an ongoing basis will remain key to your success. This mean you must ensure that anyone else within your organisation that will be dealing with this person also shares your core values and acts to reassuringly reinforce these same principles. All too often a potential customer or a member of staff can be set back by a few off-hand comments by someone else who didn't think or wasn't aware of the situation, which is why having these core values at the heart of your culture is so important.
It also means being consistent across different media - telephone, email, face-to-face and you websites and blogs must ALL resonate, be authentic and carry a set of fundamental values that people understand and want to align with.
If you get the authentic communication right and ensure your interactions are positive, you will build credibility with people - by sharing your expertise and helping people beyond what would usually be asked for, this can happen faster. The key to credibility is that you are inherently believed and your advice will be sought. Once this point is reached it is NOT time to relax - it must now be sustained and built upon because you're aiming to build a trusted relationship.
This is about achieving a level of credibility where what you say is taken as 2gospel" and the advice you give will be acted upon - you are now a "trusted advisor" and when you commit to doing something, it is essential that you follow it through to completion. However, you now have room to fall short, as long as you are open, honest and up-front about the problem and also provide a solution to overcome the short-fall. Sometimes there is even more credibility in the recovery after a problem than if the problem had never occurred in the first place.
Now we're talking! Once you have loyalty you've emerged from the forest of competition and stand there, in the open, as the premium solution. Your clients and staff will now find it very difficult to go elsewhere because they know they will be disappointed, even if the alternative is financially attractive, the emotional bond to you means you now simply need to keep on delivering more of the same!
The utopia in any scenario. Your staff are talking about how great it is to work for you, your clients are telling others about you and sending potential clients through the door. Recruiting new clients and staff becomes an absolute joy because word of mouth is doing part of the job for you....... oh joy!! You now have the best possible route to market - personal recommendation.