If your business was a restaurant, what type of restaurant would it be?
No, don’t laugh at me, I’m serious! In my opinion, this is the kind of question that should be in a serious business building course, because your answer can be really informative about what kind of entrepreneur you are.
Is your business a fast food joint? A Mom and Pops diner? Swanky five star restaurant? The little hole in the wall with amazing food that only the locals know about? A roving food truck?
(“Yeah yeah, Christina,” I hear you thinking. “What on earth does this have to do with anything?”)
Here’s why this is relevant.
One of the biggest concerns for any new creative entrepreneur (and, let’s face it, even the more experienced ones) is how to find clients. It comes up in every business group I’ve ever been involved with.
What we don’t talk about so often is the onboarding process – how we welcome those clients into our businesses. Onboarding is all about the systems we use to start work with our clients, keep track of their projects and milestones, and wrap everything up in a timely and professional fashion.
The onboarding process is actually really important, because it sets the stage for the relationship you and your client have and can make the difference between a happy client and an unsatisfied one.
And let me tell you… it’s a whole lot easier to keep a client, or get referrals, than it is to do a bunch of prospecting and cold calls.
So, getting back to my restaurant analogy… what makes a great dining experience?
Well, what you see is what you get when you pull into a chain fast food place… order at the front counter, your food gets slapped on a tray, and off you go to a hard plastic booth to unwrap and scarf your meal.
But what if you get a little pickier about where you eat, and upgrade to a nice walk-in establishment?
Now you might expect to walk in the door and be greeted by a hostess or maître d′. Then, after being seated at a (clean!) table, your waiter comes along to hand out waters, take your drink order, explain the specials, and answer any questions.
But a good restaurant experience is just as much about the things you don’t notice as the things you do – things like the bread basket and drinks being refilled unobtrusively, or dishes being taken away so you have elbow room. A good waiter provides service with a smile, checks on you often, delivers what is expected, and goes above and beyond make sure that your evening goes smoothly and is enjoyable.
In business speak, that means they’ve created a great customer experience – one that will probably keep you coming back and recommending the restaurant to your friends.
So, I’ll ask again… what kind of restaurant do you want to emulate? If your dearest wish is to rock a franchise-style service, I’ve got nothin’ for you. But if you’re wanting your client’s 5-star review, here’s what you need to pay attention to:
1. Discovery Call… A/K/A, Your First “Interview”
First of all, make it easy to schedule a call with you. There’s a plethora of scheduling services out there, so you just need to pick one and make it work for you! Not having to do the “Oh I’m free at this time, will that work for you?” song and dance goes a long way toward establishing your professionalism!
2. Contract Negotiation
Having a contract is a no-brainer way to A) inspire trust and confidence in your abilities (after all, you’re taking yourself seriously enough to have a legal agreement in place!) and B) to make sure the deliverables, deadlines, and terms of service are seen and agreed to by everyone!
Don’t skip this step!
Pro Tip: Need a contract but aren’t sure what kind? Start here and get some suggestions based on your profession!
3. Welcome Packet & Onboarding Questionnaire
This is your chance to make sure your new client has all the information they need to work with you. Your packet is the place to put your working hours, methods of communication, payment schedules, and any other relevant information. It’s also the best chance you have to get all the information you need about them, their business, and their project in a pre-project questionnaire!
4. Clear Deliverables & Deadlines
Expecting one thing and getting another is equivalent to ordering a vanilla caramel latte with cinnamon sprinkled on top, and getting a drip coffee, no cream, no sugar instead. Not so fun, right?
Your client wants to know exactly what they’re getting and when. So don’t make them guess, spell it out for them!
Pro Tip: One place to do this is in your contract… that way everyone signs off on it and no one can claim they “missed” that email!
5. Good Communication
Life happens – sickness, snow days, your cat needs an emergency vet visit (three times in a row). We’re all human and this stuff happens.
The important thing to do is to communicate about it! Your client doesn’t care (much) about your life… what they want to know is when they can expect delivery on the services or products they’ve paid for. So keep them updated on your progress and how things are going.
6. Exceed Their Expectations
This is where you put the cherry on top of your business. Your client has hired you to perform work or services for them, but what can you do that will put that little extra something-something into the mix?
Maybe it’s doing basic layout for the sales page you wrote up for them, providing printand web versions of the pictures they selected, or giving a bonus session or training module. Whatever it is, this is where you have the chance to stand out from the crowd.
7. Exit Interview & Review of Services
Do you want to know where you’re really shining, and where things could stand to be polished up a little? This is your chance to find out. Take the opportunity to chat with your client before you part ways. What were they happy with? What could have gone better? This is also a great place to grab a testimonial!
So, feeling like you can go after those Michelin stars yet? Try implementing a few of these tips and see how it goes!
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