Give your all to build trust with clients

score Question:
I've thought about using the Internet to reach my customers, but I'm concerned about getting requests and needing to answer them from potential customers all over the world. Is there any way I can show my wares more directed toward localized customers?

Muc has been written about using the Net for customer solicitation, so I'm not going to address that. But I will cover an alternative I found interesting.

Patrick Benkowski, owner of Custom Design Associates in Greendale, Wisconins, created a novel method of getting his package of services to the client. He created his own line card for the computer.

He presents a professionally packaged floppy disk to his clients or prospects that contains information on Custom Design Associates and a small Internet-based application. when clients install the disk, it loads an Inernet shortcut onto their computers. A click on the shortcut takes the client to CDS's Webstie, where a number of links await.

At these sites, he lists services that are availalbe to the client. You could list products or services and details about each line you carry. If you're selling products, the manufacturer or supplier may help fund the site on a cooperative promotional program - and many do offer co-op advertising benefits.

This is a great example of permission marketing and proves that a little ingenuity can lead to effectively cutting edge publicity. "When they grow tired of the links, its easy to to uninstall, but I've already made my mark with the potential customer," Benkowski says.

Let's look at some specific ways to develop and sustain a sense of trust with your customer or prospective customers, whether it's via the Net or face to face.

  • Promise a lot and deliver more. Don't believe for one moment the old saying that you should "underpromise and overdeliver."
  • be punctual for every appointment and each commitment, and deliver on every promise you make.
  • Prepare extensively for every customer interaction. Show up to every meeting with accurate, timely, relevant answers and knowledge. Anticipate their questions and be prepared to answer in as much depth as required.
  • meet every commitment 100 percent of the time. If you, your company or your team makes an error, admit it. There is nothing worse than dodging responsibility, blaming others or failing to admit to a mistake.
  • Never allow your customer to be blindsided. Give them as much notice as possible about anything that affects them.
  • Take time to educate sales, customer service, delivery and support people, as well as anyone else who interfaces with the customer.
  • Never let your customer feel that you are taking them for granted. Make them feel that they are the most important people to your organtization.
If you put these suggestions into your long-term marketing plan, you'll find increased sales and better customer-company relationships. But this needs to be an ongoing program; you just can't do it once and forget about it.

Bill Bryan is a counselor with the Service Corps of Retired Executives. SCORE offers counseling, workshops and seminars on small business operations. You can reach Bryan through SCORE, 515 N Court St. 815-962-0122, for information and appointments.

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