Running your own business is no easy feat. It doesn’t matter if you have a physical business, or if your company is based online, or both.
When you work for yourself, every single task that must be executed on a daily basis for every aspect of the operation you’re running falls on you.
Many business owners who are just starting out or have only been in operation for a few years feel the frustration of trying to manage everything as a one-man or one-woman show, or as a micro biz with just a handful of employees.
It’s especially difficult when you don’t have a lot of startup capital to invest in all of the people, systems and processes needed to keep the daily functions running in a seamless way.
So you’re doing it alone, hoping to eventually catch up with all of the little things that fall to the wayside while you spend your days and nights putting out emergency work-related fires.
But the catching up part never happens, and this drains your energy. Being chronically strapped for time in your business can cause a once-enthusiastic entrepreneur to become jaded and want to give up.
But you shouldn’t give up!
Nothing replaces the satisfaction of running your own operation and making money doing it on your own terms. Nothing beats being of service to other people while having the freedom and flexibility to make your own decisions and put all of your ideas into motion as a small business owner.
What does all of this mean? Basically, it points to the need for shortcuts in your business.
For anyone who owns a small business or freelance enterprise, and is attempting to go it alone or with a very small staff, shortcuts and practical solutions are key. And one of the biggest time sucks for the small business owner, where shortcuts can be a lifesaver and total game changer, is communication.
Communication with your customers is critical — you MUST talk to them if you expect to have their business — and yet the process takes up precious, fleeting hours and can suck away thousands in profits if you let it.
So let’s talk about that more in detail.
The time has come to streamline your customer communication for the most organized approach that makes clients feel supported in your work together.
The Importance of Connecting With Customers from Day One
Yes – it’s great to connect with customers and be there to answer all of their questions. The people who come to you for professional help, or to purchase products, or lessons, or whatever you offer, do so because you deliver something that they can’t or don’t want to handle on their own.
They’re hoping that you can fulfill their needs in some way. Maybe they’d like to learn something new and so they’re looking to you as an expert guide. More than likely, they require your helping in solving their problems.
Perhaps they seek support around a task that is overwhelming, confusing, and falls outside their realm of understanding or capability. The task is something that you can either do for them, or walk them through the details so they can eventually master and manage the steps on their own with ease.
Think about this from the perspective of your customers. They need help and they’re seeking it from you. The act of selecting a person, group of people, or entire organization to help handle important details of your life is no small matter.
So when your potential customers decide that it’s time to fork over their hard earned cash to solicit your support or otherwise buy from you something that brings them closer to their goals, they’re always going to search for that one intangible thing.
Do you know what it is?
The Thing that your customers and potential customers want from you is trust.
They want to be able to walk into a business relationship with a sense of trust from the start. What sort of trust are they hoping to find in you?
- They want to trust your expertise and your ability to solve their challenge.
- They want to trust that you’re keeping their needs on the highest priority.
- They want to trust that you will provide high value with the products and services you offer.
- And of course, they want to trust that you won’t rip them off or do something unethical in your business dealings with them.
How do you arrive at a place of trust with people so they feel ready to take the next step and do business with you?
How do cultivate trust with a new customer so they’ll return again and again for repeat business?
The way to get people to trust you is to establish a rapport with them.
This kicks off with a dialogue – a getting-to-know-you, feeling-out phase.
However, what some business owners tend to forget is that the dialogue doesn’t end after the introductions and proverbial or literal handshake are past.
Rather, the dialogue keeps going. After the intro conversation, you must now guide your customers through a series of necessary phases of the business you’re handling for them or the transaction you’re carrying out on their behalf.
Your customers want to get the sense that you are “with them” every step of the way.
The best way to deliver this is through effective communication that reaches them at key points in the project or process that you’re taking them through, at the times when they need it most.
When Do Your Customers Need to Hear from You?
Using your own process as the basis, notice how the various steps of what you offer fit with this general outline of the communication that needs to happen to keep customers feeling like you are in touch and engaged with their unique situation.
What should you be communicating to your customers at these key points of their business transaction with you? Think about what you will say…
- In the beginning, introductory phase of your association
- At the start of your project – the kickoff
- At any time that they feel confused
- At each next step of the process that you’re hand-holding them through
- At the point where any problems crop up
- At the final phase, when small adjustments may need attending to
- At any point where there is a delay
- At the close of the project, the end of the order or the wrap-up of your business with them
Let’s cover each of these in detail:
In the beginning, introductory phase of your association.
A potential customer will go through a series of decisions that he or she must make before settling on you as their chosen provider of services or opting to order a product or products from your company.
This is why it’s key to communicate clearly and succinctly to them what to expect from you during the transaction. If you don’t bother to say what you mean clearly and confidently, you can easily lose them at this delicate point in your association.
Help the customer visualize the process of doing business with or placing an order from you before it actually happens. This way, he or she is more likely to give the go-ahead and say yes to partnering with you.
One way to be sure they can visualize the process is to lay it out in front of them in simple, easy to understand steps.
This will go a long way toward helping them understand what’s going to happen and who will be responsible for what along the way.
They will also want to know what sort of personal commitment they need to invest in, in order for you to be able to carry out the anticipated work in fulfilling their need.
You can help them get clear on what will happen by bulleting out each phase, and letting them know what else they need to provide in order to get the ball rolling.
You’ll also want to give them other key details. These may include anticipated turnaround time, a set price for the product or bulk order of them… or in the case of a more in-depth project, an educated guesstimate of the total amount they’ll be billed at the conclusion of your work for them.
Finally, you’ll want to exchange contact details and any other pertinent information such as account numbers, personal identification, and any relevant matters that pertain to the service or products you’ll be providing to them.
At the start of your project
Once the introductory phase is past, you’ll want to help clients and customers stay on track with the timing and details of any work you do for them. You can fill them in on exactly what will happen so they know what to expect going forward.
One helpful piece of communication that you can hand out as you on-board new clients is the Welcome Email or Welcome Letter.
The welcome message gives your customer the sense that you are committing to this work for and with them, and that the two of you (or a group if that’s relevant) are partnering or teaming up for success.
Here are some tips for creating your Welcome message:
- Keep it brief
- State the goal
- Summarize the steps you’ll cover together
- Direct customers on what they’ll need to provide or do next
- Give them a timeline or estimated timeline of how long this phase will take
Please keep in mind that as the steps become more specific, you should customize the content according to the customer, the specific project or the item they’re purchasing. This is where you might start out with a general timeline for your template, but then insert details before printing and handing to the customer.
At any time that they feel confused
Each time a new customers goes through the process of working with you, hires you to do a specific job or purchases a product from you, they’ll tend to ask specific questions.
You’ll notice that most of the new customers you deal with have the same questions as other customers did when they first began working with you.
You may feel like you repeat the same answers over and over, all day long, which results in a lot of unnecessary email typing and talking on the phone. A lot of the time, the talks you have with potential clients don’t even end up landing the sale, and that’s frustrating.
Of course, if the type of business that you have lends itself to talking on the phone or in person with customers, then you may not have the option of getting out of this.
However, the simple addition of an FAQ area of your website, or FAQ handout that you provide to customers, can drastically cut down on the amount of time you spend explaining things to the people who solicit your services, hire you or buy from you.
So what should you include in your Frequently Asked Questions handout?
It’s all based on what aspects of your business tend to confuse people the most.
What do people always ask you about? Write that down. Then think of other things they ask you.
You can start with a basic FAQ of questions that you brainstorm “through the mind of your customer,” list out, and answer.
From there, build out your FAQ as the need arises.
Any time a customer comes to you wanting clarification on something, write down their question. Then take some time to answer it in detail, in writing. Hand your response back to the customer.
Save what you wrote to use again later as a template that your future customers will find useful.
At each next step of the process that you’re hand-holding them through
A printed handout or email message signals forward momentum in your step by step process with customers.
Whether it’s a single order that they’ve placed on your website, or a series of steps that you’re taking them through as they make a larger purchase or farm out a service to you, it only takes a short, written wrap-up to let them know this phase is past.
The communication that you deliver will help you conclude the final phase of this step so you can move on to the next.
At each step, you can sum up:
- What was accomplished
- What is still left on the list
- What deliverables you provided (so they can be reminded of the ongoing value you deliver to them)
- What you may need next from them to keep things moving forward
- What to expect in the coming phase and how long you expect the next deliverable to take
At the point where any problems crop up
As you work on similar projects or fulfill the same types of orders for various customers, you’ll notice that the same sorts of problems and issues may come up over and over again.
There could be ongoing challenges that you’re forced to navigate through. For example, if you work with a drop shipper to deliver items, maybe delayed shipments is an issue that keeps showing up for you.
Or, perhaps the projects that you’re working on with clients are being held up for a variety of reasons. The reasons could be…
- the client isn’t providing the necessary info
- some other aspect of the project is delayed, such as the delivery of a key component of the project from an outside supplier
- payment hasn’t gone through which means you’re forced to put the project on hold
- any other type of expected delay that may be unique to your industry or trade
Work through this challenge by creating a short template. Your template can offer an explanation. Or, it might make a request for the customer to fulfill which applies to each type of delay.
Keep the messages you create in your file of templates. Print or email and use as necessary when future customers voice complaints about things that are outside the realm of your control.
At the final phase, when small adjustments may need attending to
The final phase of a project, order or other type of deliverable can vary greatly from one client to the next. But on the other hand, orders may play out in a similar way, over and over.
If you tend to send out the same products to the same types of customers in the same manner for every order, then communication in your final phase will likely be a boilerplate message.
However, if you work individually with clients in a very customized way, then your message during the final phase will be different from one client to the next.
It helps to have a standard message in place that you can pull out when the final phase is near. Use this message as a starting point and then fill in the missing details so that the wording pertains to that unique customer.
Print off and/or email as needed.
At any point where there is a delay
Delays of any kind will cause your customers to doubt you and begin to worry. They may worry that you won’t be able to deliver the end product the way they prefer or in the allotted time frame. They may worry that you aren’t able to be trusted – after all, they likely don’t even know you.
A brief and reassuring message that lets them know you’re handling their issue or attending to their details in a timely and thorough fashion will ease their discomfort.
If problems occur that you know you’re equipped to handle but simply must be worked through in a routine fashion, your proactive message will go a long way to allaying their fears and this will increase their trust in you as their chosen provider.
At the close of the project, the end of the order or the wrap-up of your business with them
When your work for the client concludes, send them a brief wrap-up detailing what was delivered to them. You can use bullet points for this.
Thank them for their business and remind them that if they have any questions or would like to leave a positive review, please reach out to you via email, phone or whatever your preferred method of communication may be.
IMPORTANT: Keep invoicing separate from the “final wrap-up” message – these are two separate things. You don’t want your readers thinking about payment in the same context as what was delivered. Doing that will put them in a scarcity mindset, and you don’t want this.
Create Custom Communication Templates to Use in Client Projects or as You Close the Sale.
Create custom communication templates for your business, and save yourself countless hours and headaches while providing a seamless customer experience. Dina can help. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for a custom project quote today.
Prefer to Make this a DIY Project? We have your communication templates already written. All you have to do is pop open the document and work on this project on your own. You’ll find them at Wordfeeder Private Label Rights Content.