Adopting customer-centric business practices is now THE survival strategy of choice for solopreneur consultants. Particularly for service providers, the battle to escape the dreaded label "commodity" is on. No one can afford to be just another replaceable face in the crowd. The "me, too" era is over.
To keep customers coming back for more, solopreneur consultants are compelled to consistently demonstrate unique value to clients and prospects. It's the best way to stay ahead of the competition and increase the chance that you are at top of mind when projects arise or referrals are made.
While providing top drawer service that meets or exceeds customer expectations is a given, another important mission is to evaluate business practices from the sight line of the customer---from the outside, looking in. It is useful to assess the experience that customers have when doing business with you.
To make that happen, find out all that you can about what really brings customers both to your door and to the doors of competitors. What assumed yet unspoken expectations do they have? What alternatives exist that might allow them to achieve their objectives without you? How easy, or cumbersome, is it to do business with you?
Your website plays a role in this process, especially in an online business, or a business where prospective customers typically visit the web when in search of information about your category of business. Invest in responsive design for your website, so that the site will be easy to read on smartphones and tablets.
Sign up with Foursquare, GoogleMaps and Yahoo Local to help prospective customers find you. Algorithm-friendly long tail key words will give your web presence a boost and help to bring your business to the first page of the search.
Your website should promote and reflect your brand well. Display core products and services prominently, along with information that will answer frequently asked questions and make it easy for the customer to get on the road to doing business.
Keep time-sensitive material updated, e.g. your list of speaking engagements. Allow interested parties to read your blog or newsletter directly from your website and also sign up to receive new issues or posts. Present a website that is easy to read, is not text heavy, contains an appealing call to action and is easy to navigate.
Wherever appropriate, leverage social media tools to provide additional communication channels for your customers. 2.0 is not only for communicating your brand and message, but also for letting customers holler back and dialogue. Another method to get the heads-up on customer priorities is through an online survey. A brief, well-designed survey will elicit useful information and may shatter a few illusions.
A thriving business is built on the customer: retention, satisfaction and growth. The products and services provided, how these are delivered and the price charged are all based on what customers need and accept.
To keep the cash flowing, stay current with customer priorities and learn their thoughts about what your business does well, what competitors do poorly, what you can offer to make customers' lives easier and what they would be willing to pay to acquire that ease. Freelance solopreneurs who solve those mysteries will create for themselves a good business.
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