I lived in a fourth floor walk up apartment that was 3 very hilly Beacon Hill blocks from school my first year of law school. I reveled in the fact that I’d get so much exercise without having to go to a gym. I’d be smart & HOT- LOL
Who wouldn’t want to stroll the historic, charm filled streets. Louis-burg square has to be one of my favorites lined with stately homes and carriage houses. And, if you ever get to Charles Street you have to have breakfast at the Paramount. No fooling-delish. I loved living in the midst of it all. Until winter came.
Three blocks might as well be 30 when the wind chill is near zero and you’re struggling up hill thru un-plowed streets. Grocery shopping was brutal. Drudging down with the granny cart, then up the hill, then up the four flights. I get tired just remembering it. I was miserable.
So, I splurged on a new service called PeaPod that delivered straight to my door! They did the shopping then showed up with my goods. Heaven! I was on a crazy tight budget. Like I worked 5 jobs to pay for my living expenses, my full scholarship didn’t include (the oddest? Rose thorn remover!) I traded fewer groceries for the convenience of not facing the snow.
I LOVED greeting the truck driver at the top of the steps with a big smile and a tip, while he huffed and puffed the groceries inside the apartment. For a while.
Then I noticed the groceries weren’t always the freshest, not like the ones I would’ve picked myself. Yes, I got lettuce but maybe it was wilted or brown in spots. I remember thinking, ‘it’s not perfect but it’s way better than the aggravation and time-suck of going yourself.’ Deal with it.
Couple weeks in, the drawbacks started to outweigh the benefits of delivery. The shopper forgot items or substituted something totally unrelated to what I ordered. Eggs and bread got squished because the driver was standing midway up the last flight and kinda pitching the grocery bags at the landing.
I kid you not- I watched from the peephole amazed. Eventually I was throwing away too much stuff. I still wanted the fresh produce that I’d pick out but the folks helping me weren’t quite as particular. So I stopped. Just in time for spring when I could walk over to the old Haymarket on Friday for their famous farmers market. Talk about having to be clear about what you want! But that’s another story.
So, what has this got to do with communication and client relationships? Here’s where I’m going.
Running a business is a big challenge. You knew that when you started right? Some things you could anticipate. But maybe you didn’t expect the client part. Clients are not always reasonable or right. They can be as unpredictable as the weather. Communicating effectively to your clients about your preferences and how you do business can seem like trying to walk up hill in a white out- just not possible.
A happy business begins with you
I get that, and here’s the thing. You are the thought leader. A happy client relationship begins with you and how you define it.
Probably more than any other business relationship, you can deliberately shape how prospective and current clients interact with you and your business. Moreover, you want to mold that relationship, to select your best (not ideal) clients . Your best client is the one who works for you and happily pays what you’re worth.
What’s missing in most discussions of ideal client is you! Sure, you know what the target market, the demographics, the pain points. But do you know the people you want to devote your the dwindling number of waking hours you to? Do you actually like those people? Reading the forums makes me wonder sometimes. What traits do you want to see in your clients?
I met a fab intellectual property lawyer while networking this week who knew exactly the personality type she does her best work with. That’s major. Knowing and naming is half the battle when you’re creating your expectations around working relationships.
Create your own client yardstick
Be creative. My favorite client-spotting question is: would I like to have a beer or a meal with this person? Gets me thinking about the time commitment, the quality of the connection, how much fun. This is largely an intuitive thing for me now. Entrepreneur who are 3 or 4 years into their business say the same thing- they have a feeling. I say write it down. Spend the time to think it through and write it down. It’s gonna change but at least you have a solid platform to build on.
Are you doing this now? Do you have a Manifesto, document that talks about who is your best client and what mutual promises you’re making as you work together?
Speaking of solid platforms, did you check out the Grand in your Hand Giveaway?