Make The Short List

In November I spoke at Engage, a luxury wedding business summit, in Grand Cayman. There have been thirteen sold-out Engage events that have taken place with stunning success since June 2008. I was honored to speak and wanted to share some top-level insights from my presentation - Managing the Client Experience: Making the Short List vs. the Shit List.

The Three Stages of Client Connection 

The first is EXPERTISE. You need to know your stuff, period. But, just because RedBliss has been in business for 13 years and we have created designs for Prince Harry, the SuperBowl and Oprah doesn’t automatically put us on somebody’s short list.

The second stage is EXECUTION. This is where the vast majority of businesses compete the most - to produce the best art and the most innovative designs. And outstanding execution will get you a gorgeous portfolio, published in magazines, winning awards and likely on a few short lists.  

However, are you competing on the client EXPERIENCE, the third stage of client connection? Are you delivering a great experience as well as great execution of a product or service? How do you make a client feel when they work with you?

Jake Barton, the head of media design for the 9/11 Memorial in NYC, recounted how he came into chance contact with a psychologist who told him we’re more apt to remember experiences when they’re attached to an emotion.

Kindness is Magic 

There is a growing detachment with one another due to less human interaction. Email, texts and social media messaging have replaced phone calls and lunches. And this detachment is magnified when there is a lackluster experience.

Identify your “touchy-feely” opportunities. For example, it’s so easy to get buried in email and text messages that pretty soon all formalities fly out the window. Step back and look at how you are communicating with clients. Do your emails have a greeting…every time? We have an event planner that we have worked with for over seven years and to this day, they still start every email with Dear Christine. How are you communicating with clients during every single interaction?

Perpetual Optimism Is A Force Multiplier

Energy matters. Are you positive or cynical, excited or annoyed when interacting with your clients?

Colin Powell authored a Leadership Primer presentation back in the 90s and one of his key lessons is Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.” He describes perpetual optimism as a belief in yourself, in your purpose, and in success. Demonstrating perpetual optimism with passion, kindness and confidence is a force multiplier, because it will drive your followers to share your optimistic beliefs.

For example, how do you handle a new lead? When that initial phone call comes in do you simply go through a checklist (size, location, timing, budget) or do you engage and share enthusiasm and optimism and really connect with a potential client? This translates to your website too…do I have to fill out a form before you will give me your phone number? If you have made someone’s short list and they want to call you, why are you making it so hard?

Put yourself in the movie. That is to say, are you doing the right thing? Or are you doing the right thing for you? 

Don’t Accept The Work If You Can’t Deliver A Great Experience

There is a heightened immediacy today for products and services, and it will likely never change. We call this “Warped Speed”, crazy short turnaround times.

What I’m going to tell you now, changed our lives…we stopped taking on projects with deadlines of two weeks or less.

The client experience is very different if we have to hound you for copy, approvals and guest lists every single day. Even if you CAN execute, is it at the cost of a good experience? Understand and define your time limits.

The Experience Determines If They Will Refer You Or Forget You

The client experience should be delivered with grace and gratitude. For those that embrace its value and actively work to provide a positive experience at every turn, will find a big competitive advantage in an increasingly detached society. Don’t compete on execution alone.  

Maya Angelou said it best: “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” 

The next Engage conference will be held June 8-11, 2015 in Nizuc Resort & Spa, Punta Nizuc, Mexico.