Results Driven Customer Services Focus


Picture of a deeply inspired person focused on a starlit sky.photo c/o Steve Halama, Unsplash.com

Taking Your Content to the Next Level

↑  click heading for my brief customer focus presentation  ↑

When you have a special project that, first and foremost, absolutely must capture the attention of your targeted or intended audience, you want to make sure that your message does indeed reach that audience, right? How do you ensure that happens and once you have reached that audience, what next?

Marketing your content to reach the greatest potential number of your ideal audience online today is a complex and challenging prospect. On one hand, you feel that you have written exceptional content that millions will not only see but feel deeply compelled to click through to find out more. On the other hand, you feel that through your research on the subjects of ‘audience reach’ and ‘audience engagement’, you have mastered the technique of grabbing your readers’ attention. Still, you find that your results are minimal and perhaps even trailing behind your previous content publication.

So what on earth is going wrong? You’re frustrated that after endless hours of time and inspired effort you continue to struggle with reaching your audience, triggering their interactive responses to your content, clicking through to various pages on your website and advancing to the ‘shopping cart’ phase of purchasing what you have to offer.

Steps Toward Better Business Results

The process of marketing your business online today continues to be increasingly complex, challenging you every step of the way and you feel like you’re spinning your wheels. Spending valuable hours of your business day focused on content marketing for the promotion of your business seems like a prudent and necessary activity right? It most certainly is important. 

Whether you have staff that can attend to effective website development and updates in conjunction with current day standards that must incorporate Google’s algorithm updates and web content standards, social media marketing, website blog content development, search engine optimization (SEO) and paid advertising copy (analytics data analysis, keyword research, ideal targeted audience demographics, and ongoing social media management),  or you are a one person operation and have to bring it all together on your own, be prepared for initial and ongoing research to make sure you stay abreast of best and preferred practices and schedule sufficient time to address those tasks.

This article is not intended to be exhaustive in terms of detail regarding each subject covered here. This will serve as an overview with touch points on key aspects of achieving greater audience reach, engagement and forward response to the purchase stages of your relationship.

Website Name, Registration & Development

Assuming that you have fully developed your ‘Brand Story’ and Business Plan in advance of your new business startup, determination of exactly who your targeted audience/customer/clients will be, and what financial resources you will have as startup capital to set up your business and get it launched, the next critical step is to set up your new website name and URL registration and plan for the physical development of the new website.

Website Name

  • Never decide on a website name in haste. Your business name must clearly define in a few well-placed words what you have to offer. The first instinct is often to come up with an artistic, catchy business name that may be unique and intriguing but does it immediately tell your potential audience/customers what product, services or cause you offer or represent? Don’t make people guess or you will lose them in a heartbeat; if in doubt, they click out! In advance, you need to determine what small group of core keywords represents your business.
  • While keeping your business name brief, make sure you incorporate a critical keyword or two which represent the primary service(s), product(s) or cause(s) of your focus. If you anticipate expanding your services, product line or cause focus, be sure to allow for that differential in your website name determination. 
  • Before formal registration of your business name and website, determine a second and third alternative business and website name as there is a possibility that your first choice may already be chosen and registered. Avoid potential legal challenges in future that may ensue because of a business or website name duplication with another legitimate business entity.
  • Research thoroughly in advance on best practices for the development of your business name. Draw from the experience of experts in this facet of your new business startup to ensure that your company name is effective in identifying what you have to offer and one that is unique to your competitors’ business names in a distinctive way. Your business name should also be easily remembered.

Website Registration

  • Once you have established your preferred website name, you need to secure that business name and website URL address as an exclusive business entity with sole rights to the chosen name/URL through official registration with the appropriate provincial, state or other local or regional authorities designated for legal website name and URL registration.
  • Do advance research to ensure that you understand critical issues and legalities surrounding the selection and registration of your new business website address/URL.
  • Website Domain:  Research the pros and cons of having an exclusive and primary website domain vs. a sub-domain. There is the argument that sub-domains will cause many to perceive your business as less professional/successful because you have not acquired your own domain. In the case of your own domain, you purchase the exclusive right to your own primary/proprietary domain. If you have a free hosted website platform where you have not purchased a domain, your website or blog URL will include the name of the site host in addition to your own chosen business/URL name. A sub-domain has a much longer/elongated URL address which is much more difficult for people to remember accurately.

Website Development

  • When looking at which website or blog hosting service you wish to acquire, pay particular attention to not only price (free/premium) but all conceivable aspects of functionality, what add-ons will be charged extra, domain stipulations, terms of use and so on. Also, check customer reviews in detail. Are there any highly negative comments that would cause you to raise a red flag? Be sure that in the event you wish to go to a different hosting service in future you are fully able to transfer your site content from the current to the new website.
  • Restrictive Functionality:  You will find that the level of site builder functionality varies between website hosting services. Are plugins included or are they a chargeable extra? What features are included (or not) i.e. shared or dedicated hosting, managed WordPress hosting, type of servers i.e. Windows/Linux, data storage and transfer limits, and more. Research hosting service reviews on sites like PCMag.com through searches i.e. “top website hosting services”.
  • Website Navigation: Plan for the website navigation menu and parent (primary) vs child (secondary/sub) pages in advance. Base your website pages and content on the purpose of your website and how it will best represent your company brand story development and core products, services or cause presentation and promotion. Assign easily recognizable web page names to avoid guessing or visitor navigational problems from occurring. If a visitor feels confused about where to go on a website and ends up struggling to find the desired page, they will click out in anger and never return.
  • Site Search Engine Optimization:  This aspect of website development remains an essential component and plays a critical role in how visible your website will be to search engines, how well-represented your core business focus is and the kind of content quality and user/informational value visitors will find when they arrive on your landing/home page. You should have determined your core set of keywords/keyword phrases in advance. 
  • Be sure to research in advance all current and relevant content requirements as defined by search engine algorithmic updates and related guidelines. Do NOT leave this to chance and attempt to determine on your own what is or is not critical in this regard. Google is by far the largest and most authoritative search engine on the internet today. Refer to Google Webmasters for support and tools/resources. Do NOT ignore the Google guidelines with respect to website content.
  • Take the critical time needed to research through industry experts like SiteProNews and Social Media Examiner to become aware and understanding of current SEO best practices. Google launches periodic and fairly frequent algorithmic updates and guidelines, therefore you cannot simply develop your new website or blog site based on guidelines at the time of your business website launch alone. Always stay up to date with frequency through research to avoid dismal website/page ranking and poor positioning in search engine results pages. If your site is placed beyond the first or second page of search results on the major search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo and Ask are currently the top 4) your site will be virtually invisible or ignored. Most people do not review sites listed beyond the second results page of their search.
  • Site Navigation:  Again, research expert articles regarding best practices for website development. Site navigation must be quick and easy for your site visitors. Statistically, new visitors to a website will spend no more than 7 or 8 seconds on the landing page to sum up in their mind whether they are on the right track for finding the information they want and need and if they cannot find that information fast they will click out and never return…another potential customer lost. Refrain from getting artistic about names you choose for your navigational (page title) tabs. If your visitors have to guess at which page tabs to click on and discover they have arrived at the wrong page, they will be frustrated and click out permanently.
  • ‘Responsive’ Website Design:  The number of internet browsers today are doing so via ‘mobile’ technology in addition to or instead of a desktop or laptop computer. The rising number of web browsers on mobile is staggering and increasing to eventually become the most common way to browse the internet while on the go. The portability of mobiles allows users to connect online wherever they are over the course of their day. As such, make doubly sure that your website is ‘mobile responsive’; critical to reaching a huge segment of the market who now opt for the portable online means to browse the internet.

Website Content

  • Once again, I cannot stress enough the importance of researching in advance to find best practices for your website content including your blog articles and your other primary pages where highly informative content tells your visitors/prospective customers exactly what services you provide or products you offer or what cause(s) you would like them to support.
  • Determine in advance how best to structure your page content, how much content is recommended, the type of visual elements that best represent what you offer and most relevant to the subject matter of each page, how to optimize images through “alt text”, best practices for search engine optimization in terms of content quality and practical usability, infusion of keywords and their density, the use of semantic wording, phrases and sentences vs keywords
  • Enhance user experience by linking from one of your website pages to another. Use ‘organic’ words and phrases that occur/read back naturally within the context of your content. This practice also helps to improve page/site ranking by the search engines. The more visitors click on such navigational linking, the longer they remain on your website, a key indicator of visitor engagement to the search engines.

Page Titles and Headline/Subheading Formatting/Tagging

  • As you can see from my article headlines and subheadings here, I have applied an alternative font color and font size in order that the headlines (or subheads when used) are readily visible. Stay as close to only two textual content colors only that tie in well with your website and logo theme colors. I have also formatted each of the primary article title (H1) and subheadings (H2) and by doing so, such formatting is a clear signal to search engines what the article entails as a whole and in part through the subheading and bulleted information throughout the article. This formatting of content supports the search engine bot scanning for page and site ranking and ultimate search engine results page (SERP) positioning. This type of formatting is a critical and powerful form of SEO that all website content writers need to implement to increase their overall site/page rank.

Website Content Quality & Informative Usefulness to Customers

As a business owner/administrator today who is reaching out to their potential/targeted audience for the purpose of attracting new customers, clients, or increased website traffic, engagement and purchase decisions, newsletter and blog subscribers, new leads generation, authority/expertise building and more, you MUST get away from pushing the sales element of your messaging to your reading/site visiting audience.

For years now, the consensus for web content best practices included heavy keyword and keyword phrase content (to the point of virtual keyword dumping or ‘spamming’). The major search engines no longer accept that type of black hat approach to website content development. Website browsers/users/searches are sick and tired of being constantly bombarded with nothing but heavy-handed sales pitches; “buy me, buy me, buy me”. 

Current expert consensus reveals that content marketers need to focus on what is best for their potential customers and develop their content accordingly. High-quality content that includes website content that is highly informative and immediately usable by our site visitors. Focus on your audience’ wants and needs through your content vs. that undesirable sales pitch.

Speak to your audience in a clear and concise content presentation that is easy to understand and identifies specific problems that your various customers experience, and identify how you and your products or services can solve those problems and make their life easier/better. Your readers should readily identify with the problems and solutions that you present as their own! Differentiate yourself from your competition by showing them why they should pick you or your products or services as the better choice, the better solution for them.

Specific Customer Problems & Solutions

To illustrate the foregoing, I will share with you who my typical and potential clients would be based on the services I provide and what solutions I offer that will help my clients realize best possible results with their textual content or copy. This is a general overview rather than an exhaustive itemization but the following will give you a sense of where your focus needs to be in terms of customer/client services or product development and sales and how you should represent them in your website content and online and offline marketing efforts accordingly.

Authors:

Whether a first-time publishing author or a seasoned pro in the publishing sphere, my author clients will approach me on several different fronts:

  • they want a solid start to their publishing endeavors right out of the gate with a clean, error-free, fluid, consistent, highly engaging and polished publication product that provides a first-rate reading experience for their potential customer market.
  • they want their readers to build in numbers through solid reviews, extensive sharing of their marketing copy and consistently growing readership through their product excellence, marketing and advertising efforts and consumer referrals.
  • they are experiencing difficulty producing unique and highly engaging content that differentiates them from competitor authors (of which the numbers of new authors has grown exponentially).
  • they have a general difficulty with the writing essentials of the English language including typos, spelling and syntax errors, incorrect grammatical applications, errors or oversights in capitalization, flagrant misuse of punctuation, poor structural/developmental or substantive content presentation that results in inconsistent, choppy, confusing storylines, inconsistent character development and more.
  • they have the drive and prolific writing dynamics which result in exceptional reader experiences and they have an unquenchable desire to reach the bestselling author distinction but need guidance in terms of how to achieve that desired and lofty level of publishing supremacy.

As a textual editor, proofreader, formatting and writing analyst, I provide the essential services which resolve the types of issues described above and/or help the author move ever closer to the bestseller circles through superior publications quality and reader experience. Be clear on this point: an editor or proofreading professional does NOT rewrite the author’s manuscript in part or whole. Our role is one of defining technical issues and suggested revisions to address those issues.

Editorial Services

Through a three to four-round content analysis process, it is my function to identify errors and omissions that are intermittently evident through my client’s book or novel manuscript and suggest correct applications and/or wording alternatives that would otherwise enhance the reader experience. The level of my participation in the overall editorial process depends on what my client is seeking as necessary from their perspective and/or my own perspective once I have had an opportunity to peruse the submitted manuscript copy.

In addition to the editorial aspects of publishing services I also provide manuscript formatting consultation and services to ensure that each manuscript submission is fully compliant with publisher guidelines. Where manuscripts are submitted with conflicting format issues that result in a poor reading experience, the publisher will reject the submission until such formatting issues have been fully resolved.

Copywriting Services

One of the critical elements of book or novel publishing is the ‘book description’ which is otherwise known in the publishing industry as a marketing tool known as a ‘sales pitch blurb’. This descriptive element on the author’s retail page is one of the first things a visiting consumer will review when determining whether to make a purchase. There is also opportunity within the ‘front matter’ and back cover for similar marketing copy which is designed to enhance and further the purchasing decision process. Where an author client does not feel they have sufficient skill in the marketing content writing side of publication, I provide copywriting services accordingly.

Business Professionals

Business professionals, whether a company owner or senior/marketing executive, will approach me to seek my advice and editorial/copywriting services for their communications and marketing content, advertising copy, website content, brand development, recognition, increased website traffic and engagement, enhanced marketing strategy for increased sales volume, optimized internal and external communications and more.

The challenges that business professionals faced can be multifaceted and not necessarily skills-related. Time restrictions for a company executive may ultimately be the biggest roadblock for them to effectively and efficiently produce the right type of copy presentation that drives business decisions, employee adherence to company models or guidelines, sensitive communications.

A business professional also needs to ensure that whether in-house or outsourced, the company’s marketing and advertising copy is exceptional in its delivery and revenues are enhanced as a result.

As a content/copy editor and writer/copywriter, I employ similar services as described above for author clients but more heavily focused on the textual content or copywriting disciplines to achieve mandated results for business professionals.

In closing, there are parallels to be drawn with my editorial and writing/content development services on behalf of clients. Each in their own way aspires to arrive at a superior product or service level which in turn helps them to achieve their own respective objectives in terms of product development and sales. 

Irrespective of overall project objectives, you will want to deliver the best possible product or services experience to your own clientele or customers. Maintain a clear focus on what the client wants and needs to resolve their problems whether specific to the individual or company you service or more industry centric as a whole. Develop your content, marketing and advertising copy and communications to the highest standard and presented to the client from their own perspective.

Effective Problem Solutions & Customer Trust

Offer highly relatable solutions to the problems specific to each client and you will see positive change in your overall customer experience and revenues. People respond to those product and service providers that they establish trust in and know will have their best interests at heart. Results driven customer services focus wins the day.

Subscribe to the Lasting Impressions Editing Newsletter

© Don MacIver, Lasting Impressions Editing 2017; All Rights Reserved

Tips for Building Strong Client Relationships


michael-dam-258165Your clients are your business so it stands to reason that part of being a successful business person is building a healthy relationship.

Our associations are a two-way street where building, maintaining and strengthening our relationship is important. Frustration leads to disconnect. Preservation of relationships is good business sense and helps foster respect and the provision of referrals and even future business potential with the same client(s).

A solid relationship means a much more enjoyable process and is an essential component to success whether from a personal or professional perspective. The Golden Rule: Treat others as you would have them treat you. Maintain perspective by placing yourself in your client’s shoes.

The Foundation for Client Relationship Building

  • Contract: Establish a clear and concise contract with your client. It is essential to any service provider/client relationship that a clear and concise awareness with each client is established to ensure that they understand what your role is and is not. Setting out a clear set of key service touch points is essential – define agreed upon services in advance and pinpoint any relevant limitations as to the extent of the services provided. A contract protects the interests of both parties and should automatically improve your relationship.
  • Get to know each other: Discover each other’s interests.
  • Ask Questions: Asking questions develops greater understanding and avoids problems later on; do not make assumptions. Ensure that clients are part of the process through their own observations.
  • Be Decisive: As the service provider, carefully and objectively weigh the various elements and scope of the work being considered; decide what is within your level of expertise and which areas extend beyond what you are comfortable with. Be honest about not having the qualification for a requested service…willing to say no when it is prudent to do so. Saying yes to those elements of the project that are comfortable will ensure that your client’s overall challenges are made easier, less complicated. The more services you can package the greater your overall value to the client will be.
  • Problem Solving: Invariably, challenges arise over the course of a contract; the unexpected occurs or becomes evident. We are hired to solve problems and the more issues we can resolve the better the experience will be for you and your client. As concerns arise, alert your client to those issues to seek their input. Offer to help resolve those issues. By virtue of the terms of the contractual agreement in place, you may already have a degree of flexibility to resolve such issues automatically, being careful, of course, where any additional cost factor is imminent.
  • Clearly Defined Role: Our value to our clients is enhanced the more we are able to help them solve problems but our role in the relationship must be clearly defined. Maintain professional boundaries that we are careful not to overstep so that the ongoing business relationship is not compromised.
  • Stay On Point: Maintain focus on the contract and all relevant deliverables and timelines. Doing so helps to solidify the relationship. Deliver what has been promised and then some. When the client has a sense of getting even more than was expected your relationship is all the stronger. That extra attention has to be tangible.
  • Initiative & Flexibility: There is often more than one way to approach services and related problems. Position yourself as a learner, open to new ways of addressing challenges. Each different project may have similarities in the process yet also present a number of variables that dynamics of the new client relationship will necessitate a different approach to resolving. Be mindful of such variances, explore them and be prepared to review them with your client in order that mutual agreement to solutions is obtained.
  • Work on Your Relationship: As with personal relationships, the business relationship with a client requires an ongoing process of development and enhancement. Avoidance of issues and enhancement of your relationship can be costly not only in terms of each other’s perspective but also whether you have a future business relationship.
  • Honesty & Integrity: Refrain from overstating the truth about your product or services. Be completely honest about those services that your business cannot provide for your client and they will appreciate that honesty; a strong foundation for a lasting relationship is developed as a result.
  • Remember That Clients are People: Be sure to focus on early conversations with your clients; their name, likes and dislikes, interests, things that your client has shared that are distinctive to them as a person. Be conscious of indicators through conversation that will help you serve the client’s needs.
  • Be Courteous, Professional, Friendly: How many times have you felt frustrated when you asked a clerk or manager about a product or service and their response was rude, assuming and standoffish. Do not allow a background negative issue to cloud your potential to help a potential new client. They had nothing to do with your past or present issues.
  • Negative Body Language: People will sense or outright recognize how you feel being around them. Maintain a professional and open posture when conversing; avoid crossing legs and arms, slouching, yawning, rolling of eyes, muttering as though irritated. Smile and maintain eye contact to assure your client that you are fully interested and engaged in their needs and that you want to help them resolve their need or problem. Because every person’s situation is in some way different or unique, treat them as such. Be yourself, be attentive and ask questions relevant to what the new client is saying. Don’t try to fast-track your conversation. Make a genuine connection and the rest will fall into place as it should.

Recognizing the Value of Each Client 

Developing solid footing with new clients and maintaining that relationship is critical to sustaining a healthy and growing business. We want to ensure the successful completion of every single client project and, where applicable, pave the wave for a healthy and ongoing relationship into subsequent projects or ongoing services.

Keeping Your Client Informed: Clients expect that they are kept well-informed throughout the process of their project services. They don’t want to be left in the dark, receive ambiguous reports that leave them unclear as to the project status or any issues that arise. Effective communications are essential to a strong working relationship. This has to be your top priority in serving your clients well. Provide regular updates and advise them regarding issues that arise.

Be Resourceful: Share information with your client that they will deem useful. Always seek ways to add value to the client services specific to each client’s own needs. On the other hand, avoid superfluous detail, irrelevant issues, gossip and stay clear of providing offers that you know will be of no interest to them. If you come across as opportunistic your clients will resist and develop a negative perspective of your motivations.

Anticipate Problems: Promptly advise your client when problematic issues arise that could compromise or otherwise negatively affect the project you have been hired to do on their behalf. Never attempt to sweep such problems under the rug and hope they will somehow quietly disappear. Being evasive with a client can be seen as defensive or unaccountable and may seriously compromise your relationship.

Recognize Client Loyalty: When fortunate to have established a long-term relationship with a client, recognize that ongoing business association as truly valued and exceptional. Never take such a valued relationship for granted and assume that will always be the case. Honor that exceptional relationship through client rewards; special attention and client benefits such as discounts or other benefits not extended to other clients. Develop new ways to extend your appreciation and thanks for their continued and valued association.

Realize that as your client relationship continues to nurture and grow, mutual respect and appreciation becomes the trusting binder that solidifies a relationship. You will become, in essence, a partner to their enterprise, an ambassador to their cause. Your relationship will continue to grow and their level of comfort recommending you to associates and business or industry partners will be more and more forthcoming.

Address Client Concerns Objectively: Be sure that you are aware of client concerns raised either about project process or direct concerns they have regarding your approach to a project issue. Don’t skate around the issue, don’t become defensive and don’t pass off your client’s concern(s) as irrelevant or insignificant to the success of their project. Examine client issues from their perspective as well as your own.

As an industry professional you have been approached by your client, or they have been referred to you, for the expert services you have to offer. You are indeed an industry professional and as such have a responsibility to your clients and to yourself to not only fulfill all aspects of your contract with them but to maintain your own professional integrity in the process.

Decision to Continue vs. Discontinue a Client Relationship

Decision Whether to Sever a Client Relationship: This is one area of being a business owner that can be especially difficult to deal with; on one hand, you may have an issue with your client’s perspective on a given concern with your services to them, while on the other hand, you may be putting off the inevitable solution. If you feel strongly that your client’s concern about any issue is not justified and more a matter of a perceptional issue, how long do you continue to fend off a major confrontation?

There are two sides to every issue of course; your client’s primary concern is to please absolutely everyone on this earth who may be a potential customer of their own. On the other hand, you, as the servicing business professional, approach client issues on the basis of which solution is best for your client. There are times when a client issue just will not go away for whatever reason. You have done your utmost to meet and exceed their expectations yet there is a perceived lingering issue that your client just cannot get past.

At some point as a business professional, you have to either come to a clear resolution to the problem at hand, failing which, after all reasonable attempts to find resolve are exhausted, you have to make a decision; to continue or discontinue your relationship with that client. The client needs to understand the extent of the impact their issue would have in terms of their overall project objectives and if their concern would appear ill-conceived in any way, perhaps closing off the relationship would better serve each party to the contract.

Such is the day no business professional wants to experience and it means the loss of business of a valued client yet to belabor an issue unnecessarily by either party is disruptive to the forward progress or continuity of the project. The consistent flow of the project is altered and the service provider/client relationship is perhaps irreparably compromised. At what point does one or the other party (or both mutually) decide that you are deadlocked over an unfortunate issue that defies reasonable solution to each party’s satisfaction? At some point, sooner than later, a decision has to be made.

When a Client Relationship Ends, Let it Go: Above all else, as a business professional, establish good business practices and principals, make carefully considered business decisions and stand by those decisions. Don’t waffle back and forth in attempts to regain a wayward client relationship. If either party to the contract steps away, then accept that decision and respectfully let it go.

As a business professional, you cannot become defensive or aggressive at a point of difference of opinion or perspective. Be flexible, be reasonable and accountable, but when the relationship is failing and would appear unsolvable, respect the other party and sever the relationship. Be courteous and appreciative even in this event because you never know when a former client will approach you again after a passage of time to reflect and reassess. “Don’t burn your bridges” by shooting arrows of frustration and anger. 

“We build too many walls

and not enough bridges.”

Isaac Newton

~

Photo c/o Michael Dam, Unsplash.com

Subscribe to the Lasting Impressions Editing Newsletter

© Don MacIver 2017; All Rights Reserved

 

%d bloggers like this: