I had a problem earlier this week with my life insurance … I forgot to pay the premium.
The bill arrives quarterly – just infrequently enough for me to never have bothered automating the payment.
And somehow, between it being summer, us going on vacation, and the new season of Welcome to Wrexham, it slipped through the cracks.
Frankly, it’s been a terrible investment. I’ve been paying those life insurance premiums for 20+ years and they have yet to pay off.
That aside, I’ve heard that insurance companies will sometimes cancel policies for late payment.
So, did I call Prudential and beg for forgiveness? Nope.
I texted Mike Eagan, my long-time insurance guy and asked what I should do. He texted back immediately (on a Sunday, no less) and said he’d get to the bottom of it.
Sure enough, 9:45 the next morning, he sent me a phone number to call and told me exactly what to say and do. Problem solved.
And that, my premium-forgetting friend, is what makes us, as small professional service firms and solos, so much better than our larger competitors.
Mike has been my life and disability insurance guy for 30 years.
I’ve had the same accountant for 23, the same attorney for 22, the same tech resource for 20, and the same home, auto, and business insurance guy for 15. (And the same wife for 34, but that’s kind of a different category.)
Are they technically more capable than other options? I have no idea.
Do they have more experience or better credentials? I haven’t a clue.
Are their web sites prettier, LinkedIn profiles more compelling, or elevator statements more catchy? Your guess is as good as mine.
All those things matter, certainly. After all, they are a big part of what constitutes “marketing.”
But once somebody becomes a client, your marketing ceases to be relevant. They are no longer deducing (SAT word!) what it might be like to work with you based on how you look or the promises you make.
Rather, their assessment of you is a function of their lived experience working with you. That’s an opportunity to do things to make them want to stick around.
Not because you’ve deliberately engineered high switching costs into your services.
It’s simply because your clients are so happy with who you are and the way you take care of them that in their minds, there are no good alternatives.
That’s why I’m still a client of those professionals all these years later.
So, how do you make that happen? Some suggestions…
#1. Make Yourself Super-Available
One of the reasons we all dread calling the phone company, cable company, credit card company, insurance company, etc., is because it’s so hard to get through to someone. And when you do, it’s often the wrong someone.
So be the opposite of that.
Give clients your cell phone number. Respond to their emails as quickly as possible. Encourage them to text you if they need to get in touch (even on a Sunday).
Won’t they call and text you constantly? I have never found that to be the case.
Instead, by deliberately removing any perceived barriers, you are providing an alternative universe to the one they are forced to live in every day when interacting with big companies that view them as an expense to be minimized.
#2. Break Your Own Rules
It’s hard to scale a business without a consistent approach. So big companies necessarily have policies and procedures. They know that exceptions cost money.
I don’t blame them for establishing rules, but that’s their Achilles heel (mythological reference!).
So let’s do the opposite of that – look for opportunities to make exceptions.
I’m not suggesting you do everything your clients ask. But don’t say no just because it conflicts with your standard way of doing things.
Every time you allow an ad hoc, last-minute, special order, you increase your value and give clients one more reason not to look elsewhere.
#3. Show Them the Door
Lots of professionals seek long term contracts. I get it; there’s security in knowing how long a given engagement is going to last.
I prefer a different approach: I don’t have any long-term client contracts – they can leave whenever they want.
First, it prevents me from getting lazy. Knowing they are not tied to me is like working without a net. It helps me stay focused.
Second, it’s a great selling point. Long-term agreements are terrific for the professional. But they force the client into making a much bigger, more consequential decision, which often leads to, “We’ll get back to you.” Their perceived risk is much lower if the time commitment is open-ended.
Third, it’s better for both of us. I don’t want a client who’d rather be elsewhere. Which means that 100% of the ones that stick around are here on purpose. And that has a totally different energy compared to working with people who are just running out the clock.
Here’s the Bottom Line
Your business may operate differently than mine; some of these specifics may not apply.
But the overall concept does: Find ways to take advantage of your small size and your clients may stick around for decades!
- Have you been watching Welcome to Wrexham?
- What’s the longest you’ve been a client or customer of a particular business?
- What’s your favorite way of emphasizing your small size?
Share your answers below…