Saturday, June 19, 2010

Making the most of every client interaction

John Jantsch offers tips on how to connect with customers so they refer your services to others.

The Referral Engine: Teaching Your Business to Market Itself 

The Referral Engine: Teaching Your Business To market Itself. John Jantsch. Portfolio. 233 pages.

I skipped his last book, a bestseller called Duct Tape Marketing, for reasons that are now unclear; perhaps out of loyalty to Garrison Keillor and A Prairie Home Companion. Regardless, I may have to go back and give it a gander, as John Jantsch's latest is a real gem. Under the guise of developing a system for generating business referrals, the Kansas City, Mo.,-based author also provides coaching on just about every aspect of entrepreneurial enterprise — but more about that in a bit.

First of all, Jantsch identifies humans' inherent need to refer and recommend. He writes: "We refer to connect with other people. Being recognized as a source of good information, including referrals, is a great way to connect with others. Think about how eagerly you responded the last time someone asked you for directions, offering up your favorite shortcut and tips for avoiding traffic. We all do it. Making referrals is a deeply satisfying way to connect with others — asking for referrals is just the other side of the same phenomenon. I think the growth of many popular social networks can be traced to the fact that people love to connect and form communities around shared ideas."

In order to have customers refer you to others, you must ensure that you delight them and surpass their expectations. Guys like Kawasaki and Godin have been pounding on that drum forever, but Jantsch updates the pitch quite nicely by adding his own perspective and experiences. Then he invokes using Facebook and Twitter, among other things — which should be a no-brainer these days, although they're surprisingly absent from many businesses. He also covers stuff like product development and innovation, as well as market differentiation — all vital elements in today's commoditized marketplace.

His coaching is pretty compelling, too, as he implores would-be tycoons to pursue activities that have meaning to them and can provide something of value in a unique and personal way to their customers whenever possible. This too may seem obvious, but when considering the things that motivate others to recommend and refer, the idea of connecting with meaning and relevance is quite important.

In addition to the inspirational stuff, Jantsch offers some really good nuts-and-bolts suggestions for getting closer to customers and eliciting their kudos. The suggestions apply to a variety of businesses, so whether you proffer products, services — or any combination thereof — there's an abundance of ideas for making the most of each client interaction.

As with most books that demand a lot from businesses and stakeholders, the question lingers whether they are willing and able to commit to follow the ideas and actions outlined to attain the goal of self-generating customer referrals. The short answer, at least to me, is "probably not," and that's unfortunate.

But the good news is that Jantsch offers enough ideas and inspiration so that even if one picks just a few things, that might be enough to make a difference — or at least to get started.

Originally published in The Miami Herald

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