By remarkable here I mean marketing that people actually feel compelled to talk about, to refer and recommend. I just finished reading a book called the “purple cow” by Seth Godin. I guess his ideas make sense (since he has made me remark on the book) but I wondered what the implications of this are for the IT consulting industry. The book has an interesting chapter towards the end titled “Brainstorming” – that I think is the jist of the book in terms of “how can I apply this to my business”. Below are a few ideas I could come up with.
- The Cliche, of course, is over-deliver and delight your customer. Makes sense, but the approach is usually constrained by cost and implementation constraints.
- Make sure you are visible. We’ve made a lot of web applications for our clients where we take absolutely no credit for having built the application on the screen. Make sure you have a footer, a help icon,
- Offer your clients incentives to talk about you. This won’t work if they weren’t happy to begin with but offering a discount, free service vouchers, flexibility or other things your customers value can trigger the behavior. It also helps them realize this is important for you – a fact that might not be so obvious to them
- What boundaries can you push? Quality, Over delivery, Timeliness, customer intimacy…
- Project Post Mortiem meetings are a good way to get pointers on what you can do to improve the service levels and give you a reason to ask the customer directly whether and who they would refer you to.
- The customer isn’t always right. This is one of those things that is very different in B2B vs B2C. B2B has stronger person to person relationships and strong relationships can not be formed without both sides openly accepting each other’s shortcomings.
Other ideas that a bit more generic in nature but are still relevant:
- Employees can be a great source of remarks. Make sure your employees are on board with remarks. Reward and recognize.
- Rock star Attitude: Make your team think and act like rock stars. If they don’t, no one else will.
- Help them fulfill their problems, even if that means referring them to other companies
- Guarantees and Warranty: 30 day defect free, always fix our issues..
- How to correctly thank customers
- Understand what is important to them, cost, risk, time to delivery … not all customers are the same. Then push the boundary of that.Discounts if projects complete on time.., fast growth etc. Reliable, durable, flexible
- Personalize, make sure you know who you are talking to, their kids, their education etc.. Look them up on LinkedIn, what is going on in their company…
- If you have an application with a steep learning curve, make sure your customers see the time spent to learn it as an asset, not a liability.
- Find your niche. This is one of those things that sounds like good advice but IT services being a commodity business in most cases doesn’t provide much room to differentiate oneself. Nevertheless, good advice and something one should try and do. A good place to start looking is in complimentary services to your service. e.g. if you do software development, helping customers do hardware purchase or license purchase can help set you apart.
- Crazy sampler: Get your A-Team to provide 2 weeks of free service to your customers.
- Humor: Ever met a really funny nerd? Should get people talking…
I find no shortage of ideas in the area. The challenge, as always, is to stand out and do it cost effectively. The last 10% of quality in any dimension is the hardest (most expensive) to achieve and while customers want extra-ordinary service, they aren’t always willing to pay for it. The trick is finding that sweet spot of achievable excellence in a particular dimension.
These are mine reflections on his examples but I’d love to know if you have any thoughts on how IT consulting services can be tuned such that customers feel compelled to talk and refer us.