Think about how ridiculous it is to buy or sell services based on a markup (i.e., the seller’s profit). When you go into a Starbucks, do you ask the staff how much the shareholders will profit from your cup of joe? Of course not. You gladly hand over your money for because you know that in return you’ll get some of the best coffee in town.
Return on investment is one of the key metrics that companies rely on to measure their success and to chart their future paths, and calculations of ROI are based in part on quantitative analysis of outputs (products). But when your product is people, is it possible to quantify their quality? Yes!
The first step it to take a look at how the quality of non-people products is measured. For example, when you buy a computer, car, refrigerator, phone, television, or other high-cost product, you get a sense of its overall value by asking yourself certain questions about its makeup and function. Asking similar questions about the people you hire can help you assess their value as well.
What is it made of? An engine block machined from a solid chunk of aluminum is typically considered of higher quality (mainly because of significant weight savings) than one made of cast iron. Obviously, an engine block isn’t the same as a human employee. But asking a similar question about people helps you understand that the temps you provide are each the sum of his or her parts. Their value as employees is based in part on their prior work and life experiences, their personalities, and their dependability—all factors that can be measured and assigned a value.
Is its expected lifespan longer than that of the competitor’s product? Consider the longstanding “Mac versus PC” debate. I’m writing this on a MacBook Pro that I purchased new in 2009. Aside from some minor battery-life issues, it runs just as well today as it did on the day I bought it. I can’t say the same about a similar product from a competitor: in the past seven years I’ve had to replace my Windows-based computer three times. The up-front cost of one Mac is greater than the up-front cost of one PC, but the Mac’s longevity makes it a much better deal in the long term. You can do a similar examination of the duration of your employees’ “life” with your company by tracking not just the retention rates of your temporary employees but also the frequency at which your clients hire them as full-time, permanent employees.
What is its warranty? It’s standard practice these days for consumer products to come with warranties. You can offer similar guarantees for the work your employees do (though I don’t advise offering a lifetime warranty!). Compare your guarantee to what your competition offers, and be sure to highlight how yours adds to the overall value of your services.
How easy (or difficult) is it to get service from the manufacturer? Have you ever had a still-under-warranty appliance die and had to fight with the manufacturer to get it replaced? If the manufacturer was especially resistant to fixing the problem, you may have even told yourself, “That’s the last time I’ll buy anything from that company!” Staffing providers, too, need to be prepared to fix problems that involve their products—or risk alienating clients. Offering a warranty or a guarantee is fun, but unless you bend over backwards to right every wrong, clients will view your guarantee as an empty promise.
Does it come from a reputable source? In the minds of many consumers, the products from new companies often don’t stack up in terms of quality and value to products from companies that already have stellar reputations. Sometimes a reputation is based on how long a company has been in business; sometimes it’s based on the company’s demonstrated expertise. With staffing firms, referrals are key—and those are dependent on reputations. So think about how your employees contribute to (or detract from) your organization’s reputation among your clients, the talent pool, and even your competition.
These are just a few questions to get you started. Obviously, people aren’t objects or services. But subjecting your employees, their work, and their impact to close scrutiny can help you be sure that you’re providing the best people—the best product—to your clients.
Marketing experts strive to create brand awareness. A company has brand awareness, for example, when someone who’s asked, “Have you heard of ACME Fancy Cars, which are manufactured in North Dakota?” replies with, “Yes, I have.”
But the most successful marketing efforts also achieve unaided awareness, which manifests when an individual who is asked about a category of products or services exhibits brand recall without any aids or prompts. In this case, if someone who’s asked, “What’s an American-made luxury car brand?” replies with, “ACME Fancy Cars,” that’s a clear sign that the company has achieved a degree of unaided awareness.
It’s hard to overestimate the value of unaided awareness. People seek out a product or service when they feel a need for it. So they think of the category—not the specific company—first. In other words, people don’t think, “I wonder what ACME Fancy Cars can do for me today.” Instead they think, “I’m contemplating the purchase of a luxury car that’s made in the USA. Which companies do I want to investigate?”
Obviously, any company can reap the benefits of unaided awareness, regardless of what product or service it offers. If you’re selling temporary staffing services, for example, think of what a high unaided-awareness score could do for your company. This industry is renowned for being highly competitive and as well as having an element of unpredictability when it comes to timing of the buying cycle. Companies that rank high in unaided awareness have a competitive edge in both sales and recruiting.
Imagine a mid-sized manufacturing company that has just received a second round of venture capital funding. The company is in high-growth mode and busily expanding into new markets. As the end of the year approaches, a key member of the accounting team resigns—and the company’s high activity level means that this position can’t remain unfilled for long.
The company’s well-established recruiting team is having a tough time keeping up with the organization’s rapid growth, however. After a quick assessment of the company’s resources and ability to find a suitable replacement quickly, the HR manager, Jane, decides to hire a temporary employee to help the company’s accounting department get through the end of the year.
Jane has been with the company since it started ten years ago, and although fifteen different staffing companies have been competing for her business during that time, she has never used an agency to fill either a temporary or direct-hire position. As a result, she hasn’t had the opportunity to build relationships with any staffing firms. Right now, she doesn’t have time to call several agencies and try to get a sense (from a phone call) which one can help her out. She wants to be able to reach out to one staffing firm—and have that firm meet her needs.
In other words, the company that gets the call is the one that comes to Jane’s mind when she asks, “What temporary staffing agency can send me a high-caliber accountant quickly?”And that agency comes to mind because it’s done a good job of staying top of mind and working hard to develop its unaided awareness.
The scenario above plays out countless times a day. Some companies are more adept than others at negotiating the path to unaided awareness. How do they do it? They know that staying on their current and potential clients’ radar is key:companies out of sight are out of mind—and out of business. And the best way to stay in sight is to employ a marketing strategy that not only publicizes your company and its product or service, but also leaves a lingering, positive impression on your clients’ minds. Such a marketing strategy doesn’t have to break your bank, however: as I’ve discussed previously (here andhere), your company can increase its brand awareness by employing a broad strategy that includes custom or branded publishing as a targeted (and extremely effective) tool.
Companies that position themselves well through brand marketing have a leg up on the competition. Don’t miss out on a sales opportunity because your company hasn’t put in the effort to develop its unaided awareness!
Did you know that it costs six to seven times more to acquire a new customer than to keep a client you already have? With those figures in mind, you can certainly see the benefits of focusing on client retention instead of spending the bulk of your efforts on acquiring new clients.
Think about all of your past and current clients. When you examine how those connections were made, I’m sure you’ll find that timing, perseverance, personal and professional relationships, skill, and even plain luck factored into most of them. If you’re in the staffing field, for example, most of those connections probably meet at least one of the following criteria:
The client was in a bind to fill the order (because of a time constraint, perhaps, or maybe because their primary vendor fell through) and called every staffing vendor in their rolodex until they landed on you.
You just happened to connect with the right person at the right time.
An unfilled position required a very narrow skill set, so the client opened up the opportunity to multiple vendors—which gave you a chance to get your foot in the door with them.
Now consider how many of your initial orders blossomed into longstanding relationships. If you see too many one-time-only arrangements on your staffing resume, then you need to reevaluate your practices. In any field, converting each and every order into a longstanding client relationship is critical for success.
Regardless of how the door to a client first opens, if you don’t maintain the client relationship beyond the initial order, you will lose thousands of dollars in repeat business. Even when you’re unable to make a placement the first time a client calls on you, keeping the lines of communication open can help ensure you get a call the next time the client has a need—and may one day lead to a long-term arrangement with them.
Luck doesn’t factor into retaining clients: for that you’ll need hard work and a good business strategy. Experts tell us that the bare minimum is to add clients to your marketing list and try to make personal connections with them through introductory meetings.
Both of those tasks are important, and you’ve probably done them already—and that’s great. But guess what? Your competitors have done those things, too. You need to figure out how to stand out from the crowd. You need something that gets potential clients to give you a first look—and holds their attention beyond that.
The answer? Branded publishing. The nature of this format and its distribution model are unparalleled at differentiating you from the competition. Magazines have staying power: they linger on desks—and on clients’ minds—far longer than other forms of print advertising. Mamu Media produces branded magazines full of content that is relevant to your clients and that positions your company as a thought leader in your field.
Do you want to keep your doors to clients open? Contact Mamu Media, and find out how we can help you retain your customers!
Nearly a quarter of a century after it first hit bookstores and newsstands in 1989, Steven Covey’s book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People continues to inspire productivity experts, managers, entrepreneurs, and countless others in business fields.
Why did this book have such a huge impact? And why does it continue to influence thought and action in the business community today? The answer to both of those questions is the same: because Covey focused on effectiveness, ethics, and generosity as the most desirable outcomes and methods, and he distilled his wisdom into a handful of easily understood and implemented suggestions.
We at Mamu Media, too, find inspiration in Covey’s work. And so we’ve presented our own list of effective habits—one that (we hope!) pays homage to his groundbreaking insights and offers advice relevant to the needs and concerns of today’s salespeople.
1. Send a handwritten follow-up letter or thank-you note after meeting with a client.
A huge chunk of today’s interpersonal written communication takes the form of quick e-mails or texts. Take the time to write a thoughtful and personal note to your client. He will notice the extra attention—and you’ll stand out from the crowd.
2. Keep your promises.
If you walk out of a client meeting with a to-do list, then do the things on your list. Likewise, make follow-up calls to keep a project moving along. Proving your competence and reliability could lead to more (and bigger!) opportunities with that client.
3. Do your homework before the sales call.
Before you even think about picking up the phone, do your research on both your contact and her company. She’ll be impressed not only by your knowledge but also by the fact that you took the time to get your ducks in a row first.
4. Tailor your message for each prospect.
People who field a lot of sales calls know a canned presentation when they hear it. Impersonal messaging is both boring for them to hear and boring for you to deliver. Seize the opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge about and commitment to a client by crafting a presentation that specifically addresses his situation and needs.
5. Respect your client’s time.
In today’s busy world, the gift of time is a precious thing indeed, so be grateful for the time your client shares with you: don’t be late to meetings, and don’t overstay your welcome.
6. Take the sales hat off occasionally and teach something.
Sharing your knowledge with a client not only highlights your competence but also demonstrates a generosity of spirit that won’t go unnoticed.
7. Don’t be afraid to say, “No.”
If you know that something (a product, a contract, or a price, for example) is unfeasible or not in the client’s best interest, say so. She will appreciate your honesty.
8. Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know.”
If you don’t know the answer to something, be honest about it. Rather than try to fake your way along, tell the client that you don’t know—and then do everything you can to find out.
9. Don’t call only when you need something from the client.
Too many salespeople earn bad reputations for calling only to ask their clients for something. Distinguish yourself from the pack by calling every once in a while to check in or to share some good news.
10. Don’t mistake activity for productivity.
Just because you’re busy doesn’t mean you’re getting anything done. Maximize your effectiveness by using your time mindfully and efficiently.
One more thing …
If you follow all of these suggestions, you’ll be well on your way to establishing a reputation in your field for honesty, dependability, professionalism, competence, and generosity. Your clients want good deals on the products and services they need, of course—but they also want to be treated fairly and with respect. By taking the time to lay (and maintain) foundations carefully, you can create mutually beneficial, long-term relationships with your clients.