My old boss once told me that in high school he had a standard first date, and it was purposefully epic. Every single girl he took on a first date went on the same exact date. And we’re not talking same restaurant, we are talking every single moment planned out and executed in the same way. He added in an element of surprise and spontaneous escapades throughout the night so nothing seemed planned, even though it very much was.
He arrived late to EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. because of a “flat tire”. He wanted the girl to worry she was stood up at first so her senses would be heightened for the adventure he had planned. It wasn’t a date, it was a theater performance. But, the girls loved it. LOVED it. In fact, that’s why he replicated it. His real first ever date was so amazing (because of events, not the person apparently) that he repeated it over and over and over again with different girls. If something went off the rails during one date, he would change it slightly on the next one until every night he took someone out was a perfect storm of laughter and frivolity. He felt he had crafted the perfect first date.
Of course, it was all fun and games until a couple of the girls, now adult women, reconnected at a high school reunion ten years later and began sharing old stories. They were shocked to discover that one of their favorite high school memories was a complete setup. Soon, the entire room knew and he . . . well, he stopped going to his high school reunions.
Even though that date was a sham – set up from the moment he arrived late with his tire iron in tow (to fix the “flat”, of course), it felt special, surprising, and memorable to the women involved. And because he tested it on multiple people, he was able to spot the awkward bits that are present in all first dates and smooth them seamless the next time.
This is what you should be doing for your clients. Okay, obviously, yes, designing a perma first date is creepy, but for a nerve-wracked 16-year-old who hadn’t hit his growth spurt and was smaller than the other boys in his class, it’s how he managed to deal with dating in a way that felt safe and didn’t leave room for rejection.
I’m also not suggesting you lie to or manipulate your clients in any way. In fact, authenticity is key to forming strong client relationships. (And his inauthenticity is certainly the reason he had so many first dates instead of seconds or thirds.)
But, I am suggesting that you create a repeatable experience that feels personal, surprising, and memorable for your clients. One that ten years later, they’ll still be talking about.
Salespeople know this repetition all too well. They send the same emails over and over, give the same spiel over and over, watching for the tricky points and perfecting it the next time. My dad is an audiologist and prescribes hearing aids. He always says he loves his patients but hates patient education because he has to say the same words to different people five times a day. By the end of the day, he’s just tired of hearing himself talk.
But, what if your process reached beyond the pitch, beyond the in-person jargon to an entire, laid out series of events that are designed to feel like you’re personally reaching out to and taking expert care of your client. How would that make your client relationships bloom?
At the end of the day, we’re just people. We forget. We’re distracted. We connect better with one person over another. But, if you take away those variables and have a clear cut path to follow, you ensure that every client feels valued and connected. What a huge difference from today’s modern world where phone trees, poor communication, and sitting on hold is commonplace.
So, how do you do it?
Map the paths.
Obviously, there are many paths a client can take with you depending on what product or service they are interested in and how often they need to use it. Identify these and map out the ideal customer journey for each one on a sheet of paper. Be sure to plan in Easter Eggs and other surprises that they won’t be expecting. Think of it like a Rube Goldberg machine – each piece leads into another in a fun and inventive way. Realtors are great at this, sending flowers and other gifts to clients after they purchase a home. Consider how you want your client to feel at the end of the process and use that as a guide when you’re mapping.
Automate the journey.
If you rely on yourself to remember and follow through on every client, your process is ultimately going to fail. It will fall short because of a million different reasons that boil down to: you are human. You have a life outside of work; you have other responsibilities to which to attend; you have too many clients to be able to focus all your energy on just one.
Automation takes the brain work out of this process. It takes away the weight of remembering. It can prompt you to make a phone call or send a gift at critical points in the customer journey. It allows you to send follow up, educational, and cross-selling emails – those emails that you’ve typed a million times – to as many clients as necessary, thousands need-be, while you sleep, golf, relax with family, and just generally live your life. Automation keeps you from forgetting. It makes sure no client falls through the cracks, and every single one feels valued.
Sometimes the hardest part of making a process work comes after it is created. Too often we create processes in a vacuum. We don’t think through what could go wrong on the day a task pops up for us. We don’t think about being tired, stressed, or feeling like we don’t have enough time to finish it all. This is why realistic goal setting for yourself is so important. Automation can help ease the weight of remembering; it can send reminders for the tasks that still need to be completed. However, if you don’t honestly assess what you have time to personally do for each client (make a 30-minute phone call, design an upsell proposal, etc.), you are creating a client roadmap that will ultimately fail. Make sure that the tasks assigned to you are simple, easily doable, and reasonable in the time you have available. If not, delegate them or create templates for them that you can quickly mold into what you need.
If you find that you are repeatedly the bottleneck in a process, delegate that task to someone else or simplify it. Do not continue to be optimistic about your time and then deflate yourself because you can’t get to it. Done is nearly always better than perfect. Perfectionism slaughters processes, deadlines, and creativity.
Once you’ve cleared your personal congestion, look at the other bottlenecks in the process and work on cleaning those up as well.
Gather feedback and readjust
Just like my old boss crafted his perfect first date through trial and error, based on the feedback he received from the girls he courted, you will learn how to step up your game and woo your clients more gracefully with each one that goes through the process. Don’t just finish designing it, wipe your hands, and move on. Tinker and play with it. See how your clients respond and adapt it until it’s spitting out raving fans that can’t wait to interact with you again.
The concept is easy enough, but mapping and deciding how to guide your clients can get confusing as paths overlap. Keep referring to your true North – the feeling you want your clients to experience while working with your brand. Let it be your guide and you’ll unravel a path that is good enough. Testing will perfect and polish it. And in the end, you’ll end up with clients that are as committed to your brand as you are to them. . . no tire iron required.