Understanding clients and their needs is fundamental to any business. Not only does this allow you to provide the best possible products and services to them, but you can also use information about them to innovate and improve client satisfaction.
Knowing about your clients’ industries is also smart because a “bigger picture” view of your clients can help you anticipate their needs. In other words, if most of your clients are retail clothing stores, then understanding the fashion industry from top to bottom can help prepare you to react to changes and anticipate potential problems when they’re small enough to be solved easily.
For another example, if you realize there is a looming shortage of a raw material or resource that a client uses, you can foresee problems the shortage may cause, like shrinking inventory levels or potential sales problems. This allows you to prevent payment problems, or propose solutions early on, before having to turn to debt collection processes.
Here are a few easy ways to keep your finger on the pulse of your clients’ industries, so you can better understand their needs, innovate, and be more prepared when problems arise.
Create News Alerts on Client Industries
Try to take in industry news on both broad and specific levels, using both general interest news publications and industry-specific ones. This way, you have an excellent view of what your clients are dealing with, and where potential problems may lie.
Creating news alerts is easy. You can create them directly from your Google News feed, or you can use apps designed to help you create customized news feeds. Flipboard, Feedly, and Microsoft News let you access customized news feeds right on your phone. You can also use Reddit as a personalized news feed by subscribing to subreddits relevant to industries you follow.
Check in with Each Client Regularly
It’s great to have longstanding, “low maintenance” client relationships that go along as expected for months or years at a time. But things can change seemingly in an instant. Regardless of how smoothly a client relationship has gone historically; make time to check in regularly. This doesn’t have to take up much of your (or their) time.
Ask how business is going and listen to their answers. You may discover that you can fulfill another need of theirs and pick up new business that way. You can also gauge their concerns through general conversation surrounding their business. Maybe a new competitor has come to town, or perhaps it’s hard for them to find good help to hire.
Within the context of your industry research, you can gain a lot of business intelligence through regular client check-ins and may even be able to prevent the need for debt recovery by dealing with impending financial issues early.
Ask for Feedback and Suggestions
Similarly to checking in with your clients, asking for their feedback can be terrific for understanding their needs better – specifically what they need from you. Asking how you can improve the products or services you provide is a great start, but you can be more specific. Tell them when you’re trying to do a better job at a particular aspect of your services and ask if they have any suggestions. This is a great way to learn about client pain points and is the first step to addressing them.
You may also learn of issues they are having that may affect their overall business and ability to pay. That way, if problems should arise, you can be prepared with solutions that ensure you get paid and that help them continue to operate.
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