Getting Feedback from Clients

In his E-Quipblog this week Mel Lester provides some great thoughts on client feedback that are well worth reading. In addition to his insights he provides a great sample, “Client Service Assessment” that you can download from his site. Two of his points that I found especially insightful regarding a new client feedback program were: ‘Start with your best clients’ and ‘Communicate client feedback.’

  • Start with your best clients. The best way to generate momentum for this process is to start with those clients who have a mutual interest in strengthening the working relationship. Pick an easily manageable number of clients to start, where you’re confident you can be fully responsive to whatever feedback you receive. Then expand to other clients when you’re ready.
  • Communicate client feedback to the staff. Everyone in your firm should be engaged in continually improving service and striving to deliver the branded experience. Feedback from clients is the fuel that keeps the fires of continuous improvement burning. Give all employees a stake in helping your firm become a service leader. Share feedback, lessons learned, and success stories.

How to Market in a Recession

Focus on your existing clients and services. It is easy to want to expand into new markets during a recession. The problem is that during a recession work is much harder to come by, both in the markets you currently serve as well as in markets that you don’t serve. Expanding into a new market requires both time to enter the market and money: two things that are not readily available during a recession. As a result, a recession is not the time to expand into new markets, but rather it is the time to focus on your existing clients and services.

The goal during a recession is to focus on bringing work in the door immediately. Most marketers will tell you that the fastest, least expensive, and easiest way to bring in new work is to focus on your existing clientele (that is people you have already sold to previously, or others in the same industry that are familiar with your work).

So what can you do? Here are several things that you can do during a recession that will position you to succeed:

  1. Don’t Wait, set-up your current marketing: When faced with the possibility of a recession initiate action immediately. Often when the slowdown reaches your doorstep firms find themselves among a large group of competitors that are competing for work. The idea is to immediately step-up the everyday marketing efforts that you have found to be successful in your industry in an effort to build your backlog going into the recession.
  2. Call your existing clients: Especially at service firms, the “last line of defense” when you are in need of work is to pick up the phone and call your best clients to ask for work. Firms often hesitate making these calls because they are afraid what others will think. Simply put, get over it. I have found that calling your existing clients and asking for work is the most effective way to get work in the door in a down market.
  3. Focus on being the best: Now is the time to set-aside change orders and additional work authorizations (with-in reason) and give all of your clients 1,000 reasons why they should never even consider another firm. Ask my favorite question “What can I do to help this person” and add on the end “that is above and beyond what they hired me to do.”
  4. Diversify within your current markets: Pursue relationships and work in market sectors in which you are currently working that are stable. Generally in a downturn these markets include federal and higher education markets. As discussed above, now is not the time to pursue new sectors, but it is a great time to place emphasis on some of your markets that will handle the downturn better.
  5. Be Patient: Markets change. Just when you think you will run out of work the markets will start moving again. Firms that survive this economic cycle will again experience an upswing as industry and opportunity prevail in the free market.

For some foundational truths on your marketing budget in a market downturn, check out the article Marketing Engineering Services in a Market Downturn. Also, remember what Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today.”

Changing Complex Corporate Cultures

Complex corporate cultures are often the result of multiple sub-cultures that exist among distinct groups, divisions, and offices of one company. For a variety of reasons, organizations with complex corporate cultures often look to unify the organization by proactively addressing cultural differences. The task usually seams daunting, but with the correct approach it can be simple compared to the complexity of the organization.

Changing by accident
Individuals are the DNA of corporate culture. Over time our cultures are formed as people work and adapt a culture that helps them to achieve their individual and corporate objectives. Major changes to corporate sub-cultures can happen through generational differences, hiring ‘new blood’, and even through prolonged isolation. In each of these cases, as it is with most cultural changes, these changes usually happen by accident.

Individuals make up culture
The good news is that, because individuals are the foundation of corporate culture, these individuals are also the ones that can change the culture. To achieve success when changing corporate culture companies must focus on individuals, even in companies with thousands of employees. The key is to use the positive principles of behavior modification to begin adapting the culture at its source.

Don’t destroy existing cultures
This said, the goal in complex cultural change is to unify existing cultures rather than to replace them. A company that begins by identifying the goals of the cultural change can clearly identify the aspects of each sub-culture that need to adapt. This should also help identify the aspects of each sub-culture that should be embraced, providing groups, divisions, and offices with individuality.

Thank You SMPS CT!

It is truly a great group of people that make up the SMPS Connecticut chapter. I greatly enjoyed connecting with them this past Wednesday morning as I spoke on the topic of “Building a Culture of Rainmakers.” It seems that every time I meet new people at the regional SMPS chapters I am amazed at the caliber of people that make up this incredible organization.

SMPS CT, thank you to the numerous follow-up e-mails that I received after the meeting this past Wednesday, I was humbled by your kind words. Special thanks to Wayne Cobleigh of GZA GeoEnvironmental, Inc.who originally contacted me after my presentation at SMPS Build Business this year and who spearheaded the event. I hope to have the opportunity to speak with all of you again in the future.
Tim Klabunde

“Thank you so much for bringing “Building a Culture of Rainmakers” to Hartford, and thank you too to William H. Gordon Associates, Inc. for sharing you with us. It was a great program and you are an engaging presenter. The response has been wonderful. By generously sharing your valuable step-by-step approach, you are extending the value of the program and giving marketers a great tool for training within their own companies. I highly recommend that other SMPS’ invite you to present to their chapters.”
Geryl Rose
President, SMPS Connecticut Chapter

“I was so impressed with the clarity of your ideas that I had already gone to cofebuz and started downloading!  … You are an extraordinary person!  The myth of “networking is for extroverts” was the best.  …  your rules and tips were far better than some of the material I’ve read and seminars I’ve attended.  It is my job to coach my team into building relationships, and your material will be the basis of my new training program over the next month.”
Holly DeYoung
Tai Soo Kim Partners, Architects

“Thanks for the follow up and the assets Tim. We just had a Friday pizza/”Building a Culture of Rainmakers” lunch where I did my best impersonation of you with the aid of the presentation (I got it at cofebuz) for our staff of six. We’re a brand design consultancy in the Hartford area and your presentation was my first event with SMPS CT. I was taken with the folks at my table, the presentation and the SMPS board members. I felt quite welcome. Thanks for sharing your knowledge. I believe you’ve achieve your goal with me — you’ve helped…”
John Gibson
Bertz Design Group

“Your presentation was really great.  I am very excited to look through your links and materials and share with my colleagues.  Thanks so much!”
Vicki Pancoast
PinnacleOne an ARCADIS Company

Building a Culture of Rainmakers

I am excited to be heading to Hartford Connecticut today to speak at SMPS CT on the topic of “Building a Culture of Rainmakers“. As is my custom I have attached a copy of the power point presentation under the resources tab on this site.

Networking: The Universal Tool
The term “rainmaking” encompasses many aspects of work capture (as perfectly described in the book Rain Making by Ford Harding). These include speaking, writing, public relations, networking, and marketing.

When dealing with changing a corporate culture it is vital to focus on aspects of rainmaking that all of your employees can embrace. Networking is the universal tool that everyone in your company can leverage to bring work in the door. This does not negate other aspects of rainmaking, but rather it focuses the efforts of everyone on relationship development, the foundational key to a successful business.