Building a Client-centric Culture

Lots of organizations TALK about their company culture or investigate ways to change the culture. Clearly that is a good thing. But family businesses have a built-in need to ensure constant cultural change. You see when subsequent generations succeed ownership of the business they tend to lead differently.

Sometimes those differences are massive and at other times they are subtle but the team members can be very confused or even incensed over how that change occurs.  They may feel unimportant or underappreciated or o the other hand they may see it as an opportunity to manipulate leadership to “get what they want.” This can have a deleterious effect over the client relationship since it is our team members that are dealing with the client on a daily, weekly monthly basis. This happens with the sales team, account management, customer service, technical services and even accounts receivable, accounts payable and even the receptionist.

Often time’s client contact occurs at various points in the organization. For this reason it is critical in a family business that we focus on the selling culture. The more we can ensure behaviors which are consistent with the culture we desire to reflect the better customer experience we can create. As we examine all of the customer touch-points we can identify areas of alignment and misalignment. This correlates perfectly with the “culture hacking” precept which has previously been discussed.

You might have amazing customer service. You could be the leading provider of cutting edge technology. You may have an amazing Web presence. It’s possible that you have the world’s most compelling value proposition. But if your revenue-generating sales team isn’t reaching its potential, here are some key actions which can help your company to create a more effective client-centric culture:

1. Listen and Learn. I am not telling you to interrupt people when you hear them speaking with clients (internal or external) in a way that makes you grind your teeth. Listen, learn and discuss this with the rest of your leadership behind closed doors. People tend to change their behavior when Mommy or Daddy are watching and this does not give us a clear vision of the true culture.

2. Focus on Language. Help people to learn the right language. I’m not talking about proper grammar but rather the language of the client. Speaking in terms of what is most important to them.

3. Drive results. Customer relationships are built on common perceptions and shared values not just numbers and deliverables. So look at all the results. Certainly the numbers are a pre-requisite and all that count at the end of the day but “getting there” requires us to modify our focus to the small wins that happen with every person in every department, every day.

4. Trim the tree. We all know the negative impact that just one team member with a bad attitude or poor behavior can have over the rest of the team. Putting aside HR laws which we of course need to comply with don’t prolong the inevitable. Let people go free to pursue a career where they will be happier and more productive. That might mean higher turnover but that is better than threatening the culture which impacts the lives of ALL the employees and clients.

5. Elevate self worth. Recognition is important to everyone. Yet employees battle fear and rejection every single day. From customers, other team members, vendors and even their leaders.  If you want them to produce you need to promote how honorable and noble their work is throughout your organization. In your talk and demeanor, elevate the importance of the client-centric function to all the departments in the organization.

8. Build training and coaching into the culture. Training and coaching should be a consistent process in the organization, not a once or twice per year event. It’s your company’s job to give your people the tools and training they need to succeed in customer interactions as well as other function. Sales cultures have well-defined systems to help their people grow, learn and achieve. This is especially important for new hires but you also need to have some way to deliver on-going advanced sales training ideas for your entire sales team.

9. Enmesh self- accountability into the culture. Believe it or not, most people need and welcome regular accountability. Spending regular one-on-one time with your people not only gives you a chance to mentor and train with them; it shows that what they do is important and that you care about their success. Part of the reason why coaching has become so popular in recent years is because companies are stretched thin by tight budgets and managers are not able to spend enough individual time with their people so they seek outside reinforcement.

Small Businesses Blogging Best Practices

Blogging is one of the most important things you can do to help your website attract more visitors.  Blogs are important because two key factors for how search engines rank sites are the depth and freshness of content. Blogs allow you to expand the depth of knowledge your site contains, and posting over time ensures that you consistently have fresh (new) content online. We are often asked by clients what the best way to do this is.  This guide is written to help small businesses get the most from blogs on their websites. Here are some of the most common questions new bloggers have, and their answers.

How often should I blog?
The quick answer is, “As often as possible.” The more you blog, the more content search engines will find, and the more likely your site is to appear in the top results for the topics about which you write.  We have found that blogging one or twice a week is usually sufficient for the goals of most small businesses.  It is important to balance your blogging efforts against the other demands for your time.  Be sure to not abandon other initiatives in favor of blogging, and not abandon blogging in favor of other initiatives.  You can set aside time to create many blog posts at once that you then schedule to post over time, so even if you are unable to schedule time to post every week, you can still have your posts appear online on a regular basis.

What topics should I discuss?
This is dependent on your business, but it’s best to discuss things that your customers and prospects will find interesting, more than those topics you find interesting.  If you are a retailer, it’s great to discuss the products you sell.  If you are a manufacturer, discuss the products you make, and if you are a service based business, discuss the services you provide.

Beyond these topics, however, is where the real value in your blog lies to your audience. Write about the use of the products you sell, produce, or support. Write about unique solutions they provide to common problems.  When you write blog posts, try to use the terms that someone would type when looking for your solutions.  This will help with search rankings.  It is far more valuable to discuss the problem that your business solves than it is the solution that you offer.

How long should my blog posts be?
Again, this varies on your business and the type of blog post that it is.  If it is a post describing a common problem that someone has, it should be long enough to make reading it worthwhile, but not so long that a visitor is presented with a “wall of text” when they arrive at the page.  3-4 paragraphs are usually sufficient for this type of post.  If it is one that describes the solution in detail, then it may be a bit longer, since you have more information to convey.  If it is a post that is just providing a quick thought on a subject, you can get away with 1-2 paragraphs.  Write as much as is needed to get across the point you are trying to make, and no more.

What else should I have in my blog?
One thing that works very well is recaps/reviews of other online content.  You can include a few sentences from another online article, provide a link back to the source, and write your thoughts on the topic discussed.  These types of reviews/recaps are very effective, and often work well at inspiring others to provide some feedback.  To be valuable, your comments on the article should be at least as long as the content you include as a quote.

Another effective type of blog content is video- you can use a cell phone or web cam these days to easily create a basic video that helps you provide a more dynamic type of content to your readers. Videos are great as product reviews, unboxing demonstrations of retail products, showing how something is manufactured, demonstrating problems your services solve, etc. Videos should be less than two minutes in length, and any content that appears in the video should also appear in text form in your blog post. This is because search engines can’t index your video, they can only index the text you provide, so make sure you have a text write up to accompany the video that contains all of the important ideas.

Lastly, it is important to have a call to action in your blog. This can be encouraging readers to share the post with others, asking them for feedback, encouraging them to sign up for e-mail updates, asking them to buy your product, etc. It is important that once you have provided your readers with some valuable information that they are then presented with a next step to take.

How do I get people to see my blog posts?
One of the best ways to promote your blog is to use it in conjunction with your other social media efforts. Luckily, there are two tools that are free to use that assist you with distributing your blog to your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social media profiles.  You can use www.dlvr.it or www.twitterfeed.com to do this.  After an initial setup process, every time you publish a blog post a copy will be sent to your social networks.  This provides visibility to your blog, and an additional way for someone to provide feedback, since most persons are more likely to comment on a Facebook post or reply to a tweet than they are to comment on a blog.

We hope these tips help you with your blogging efforts.  Please let us know if you need any assistance with setting or managing your own blog.  Contact us at info@sbanetwork.org with any questions or comments.