This blog originally published in Printing Impressions.
All customers are good, some are just better than the others. Or are they? It’s amazing what you can earn from your clients, if you take the time to engage and go beyond the transaction. Do this with your clients, especially from the three major groups – your best clients, the ones that you are looking to grow, and the ones that keep hanging around, but you really aren’t in sync with them yet.
Let’s focus on three characteristics that you should identify, and learn more about for each of these groups. The first, and perhaps the most obvious, is are they currently a profitable account and how do they contribute to your business? Start by looking at the numbers, and you’ll try to gauge not only their level of profitability, but why they are profitable. Is it because of pricing, or the type of work that they ask you to produce, is it the timing and schedules, or could it be the way their work is organized and it flows easily throughout your business? As you can see, there is more to just looking at the final numbers by themselves. Taking those factors into account, if they are not as profitable as they could be, the solution might be more than just pricing that moves the needle on their profitability ranking.
How did you get the account? Why did they choose you? Understanding the competitive advantage that earned you the business will help you to leverage those attributes to win more business. I’ll try not to oversimplify this, but maybe the best way to find out why they selected you is to ask them. Let them know that you understand they have many options when it comes time to select which suppliers to work with and that you appreciate the trust that they have placed in you and your business. That said, what was it that you said, or did, that caused them to select you to work with?
The third factor to consider is to have a good understanding of where their business is going relative to what you do for them. Take a close look at the type of work you do with them, the frequency, the distribution, the pricing, etc. Your objective is to learn as much as you can about how they use what you do to drive their business. Then engage in conversations about their business. It should go beyond asking them if they are going to order the same amount of catalogs next year as they did this year. What are they using those catalogs for, how has it been working for them, and what shifts in their business will have an impact on yours?
Get past the transactions as you engage your clients in these discussions. Learn more about their business and how what you do helps them to succeed. Having these conversations with the three main client groups will create a sense of purpose, a common language, and help to create a solid action plan within your business to drive results that go well beyond a simplistic “work faster, try harder” view.
Whether you are a new CEO, or a seasoned professional, reviewing these areas should be an ongoing exercise. And, doing it well will help you make the best decisions for you, the company, and overall shareholder value. How are you evaluating your clients? Send me a note or leave a comment.
Mike Philie can help validate what’s working and what may need to change in your business. Changing the trajectory of a business is difficult to do while simultaneously operating the core competencies. Mike provides strategy and insight to owners and CEOs in the Graphic Communications Industry by providing direct and realistic assessments, not being afraid to voice the unpopular opinion and helping leaders navigate change through a common sense and practical approach. Learn more at www.philiegroup.com, LinkedIn or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.