Why the competition is YOUR fault

Losing clients to the competition is your fault.

When your clients go to the competitors, it’s your fault.

That’s right.

I first heard that statement in Scott Stratten’s Unmarketing podcast and it’s been knocking around in my brain ever since.

I mean, what about the idea of competitors coming in and stealing your business? Making special offers that woo your clients over to their side of the fence?

The unfairness of it all.

The simple truth is that if you aren’t being awesome enough all the time, your clients are fair game and they should look elsewhere.

In this particular episode, Scott talked about Air Canada, saying,

“You had the hardest part done. I was a customer. I was a loyal customer, and I was part of your loyalty program, and I left. That is solely and absolutely only Air Canada’s fault. That was not because WestJet was good or better.”

So what can you do to make sure your clients aren’t seduced by your competitors?

1. Make sure you communicate with your clients, regularly.

That means (gasp) talking to them:

  • As they ask about your services (to show them what else is possible)
  • As they make their decision (to guide them towards YES)
  • Once they lock you in (so they know what happens next)
  • As you work (so they know when to expect to hear from you)
  • After you’ve delivered (so they remember you for the next job)

That sounds like a lot of communication, doesn’t it?

You don’t need to bombard clients but you also don’t want your potential and existing clients to wonder where you got to. Or worse yet, forget about you!

Kate and I bang on about this all the time on our own Hot Copy podcast: Have a systematic process through your projects, including your communication with clients.

Setting the right expectation is critical to positive customer satisfaction because the more uncertain your client is, the more anxious they are. And the more dissatisfied they will be, regardless of how good your copywriting is. I guarantee it.

You should also keep in touch through newsletters and blogs, email marketing (and not just about your latest promotion) or stay connected by being active on social media.

Respond. Engage. Talk.

2. Listen

You’d think that listening would be part of communicating but it’s the part so many businesses skip. It’s easy to get so caught up in the sending that you stop listening for replies.

Many unsatisfied clients will just leave and you will never even know.

As a customer, I don’t waste my time trying to get justice… I simply walk away and never come back. Okay. That’s not entirely true. I walk away and never come back and sometimes,  I also tell everyone I know.

When you’re very engaged with your client base you will be able to catch those people before they go. In many cases, you won’t.

A lot of clients will try and tell you they aren’t happy – if you listen.

Invite regular comments and feedback from clients and make it easy and inviting for them to respond. Pay attention to what they say and make an action plan to improve how you work.

Look at your email open rates. Are they even interested enough to click?

If you send a survey to gauge satisfaction, focus on just one issue to make your survey super short.

If you suspect they are finding how you work confusing or challenging, don’t be too busy to check in and help them. And improve your process so other clients don’t suffer the same confusion.

3. Solve real problems

This is at the heart of what we do, isn’t it? We create businesses to solve problems for people.

Your clients might come to you to solve big hairy problems or niggling dissatisfactions. Always dig into the triggers and motivations that are driving them to act and work out how you can be part of the solution.

Sometimes, that means sending clients to your competitors because they are the better business for the job. You might be surprised at how many clients come back simply because you had the courage to admit that you couldn’t be part of the solution – but you knew someone who could.

4. Make it easy to do business with you

When a new client signs up for a project I ask them to fill out a form and give me some information about their business – contact details for the project liaison, their postal address, relevant business ID numbers,  etc.

I used to ask for all the social media links as well but I took those off. Why? Because in 95% of cases, I already had that information. So I was asking new clients to type it in as a time saver for me.

That wasn’t making life easier for my clients!

Systems, processes and approvals are all very good. Checks and balances are great to help you deliver consistent service but if they become a roadblock to actually delivering good service and getting the job done, they will work against you.

Who else has raged at lines like, “I’ll have to get my manager to approve this.” Or “Enter your account number”… AGAIN?!? That’s what I’m talking about.

When you make it hard to do business with you, you are creating a slow drip of dissatisfaction. That’s exactly what your competitors should take advantage of.

5. See every moment as a chance to be awesome

Every time a potential, existing and past client contacts you – for any reason – that’s when you have to be awesome.

When you get an enquiry about new business. For marketing interviews to share your business and cheeky requests for free advice. When you’re feeling like you can conquer the world. When you’re tired and cranky. To super duper clients and the tricky ones. When it’s your fault and when it’s not. Especially when it’s not your fault.

We’re all human and I think it’s fair to say that it’s damn hard work delivering awesome customer service 100% of the time. But when awesome is your default, the slips are easily forgiven.

Then even when your competitors start sharing incredible deals and cut-price promotions, your clients will say, “Nah, I’m good.”

They will have your back because you’ve got theirs. And that isn’t about group hugs. It translates to your bottom line.

So now I throw this open. Do you agree? What great client-keeping tips can you share?


14 Responses

  1. I agree with the sentiment Belinda absolutely, but the problem is some clients are just out to find the cheapest service and they don’t actually care about whether you’ll do/have previously done a good job for them.

    I had an enquiry a few months ago from a guy who was using a cheap offshore transcription service and his transcripts were never delivered on time, but in the end he wasn’t prepared to pay more than the $5 an hour he was paying, despite the fact that I offer a guarantee to deliver work on time, every time.

    ps I would love to know what it was that Air Canada did to lose Scott Stratten’s business…?

    1. I don’t think it was one thing Bridie – it was a slow drip of small, shitty things.

      This podcast has the story [00:27:42.04] http://www.unmarketing.com/2014/01/29/017-air-canada-vs-westjet/

      The overall theme of his message (and mine) is that repeat business is the way to go but to keep customers you can’t afford to be consistently a little bit shitty without consequences. Like your customers going elsewhere.

      At least you didn’t lose that guy because of your service. You never ‘won’ him in the first place. It sounds like your man was not the kind of customer you aspire to attract though!

  2. I totally agree with you Belinda. For me it works to have a good system in place for following up on clients. I put reminders in my diary and ring, email or SMS the clients when I know it’s time for them to have a follow-up treatment or when I know they should have run out of their herbal medicine. The majority of clients really appreciate a gentle reminder. I never get pushy. To be honest I also don’t get too upset if occasionally a client goes to the competition. Not all clients are worth hanging on to 😉

    1. As a huge fan of systems – me too! It definitely helps me close the gap on inconsistent service and I don’t have to remember to do the communication and extras that make for memorable service.

      But you make a great point – sometimes, it’s not a sad goodbye.

      Thanks for stopping by Christina!

  3. Thanks for this post. I agree with everything, I particularly like the statement about being “awesome.” That works in our business, and it is easy to be awesome. The awesomeness starts with a customer enquiry and I convert. The only time I do not convert is prospective clients ask for a discount – the answer is simply “no”, those clients I don’t need. I do not worry about competition, I watch them, and ensure I do not make the same mistakes. Thank you.

    1. Thanks for stopping by Patsy!

      I find it easy to be awesome in the good times. But being awesome when I feel like crap or with a difficult customers can be … challenging. But that’s when it’s MOST important.

      The slow trickle of less than awesome moments is what can drive great customers to look elsewhere.

      Glad to hear you’re putting your awesome out there.

  4. Totally agree Belinda – great post. Love the the point about keeping in touch with clients after you’ve delivered a project. What would you recommend as the best way of doing this as a freelancer? A newsletter perhaps? Or just a friendly ‘how are things working out?’

    1. Thanks Jamie!

      I usually did a ‘check in’ to do exactly that. It’s a great way to see if they are still satisfied with the copy (although it can open a can of worms too!) and reiterate that you’re awesomely friendly 🙂

      You can do it a short time after the project is done but then again quite a while afterwards. In this case, you can be a bit more forward and let them know you’re ‘reviewing your calendar and would give them preferred bookings as a previous customers’.

      If you’re subtle, you can also get them to subscribe to your stuff to get more advice and tips.

  5. Great post, Belinda!

    I completely agree, it’s not about what you’re competitors are doing better, it’s about what you’re doing wrong. We all need to focus a little bit more on how we can offer great services to our clients and keep them coming back for more rather than think about what the competition is doing.

    Thanks for sharing!


    1. Thanks Melanie! I couldn’t agree more. So many freelancers and business owners get so caught up in looking over the fence that they don’t realise they’ve let their own service levels plummet… So the customers aren’t going because the competition are ‘stealing them ‘ at all!

      Thanks for stopping in and sharing your thoughts.

  6. This post is spot on Belinda.
    I particularly like your point about seeing every moment as a chance to be awesome. Based on some of my recent experiences you don’t need to be awesome with a capital A to be ‘awesomer’ than some others out there.

    I have a thing about contact forms. I’ve completed many a form and never heard back. Makes me feel very unloved!

    1. Right?! It’s a sorry state of affairs when you can succeed by just being not-shit but I know we both agree that that’s not the way to run a good business!

      And I completely agree about the forms. I often appreciate an email address or phone number as an alternative method of contacting someone… for that very reason!

      Thanks for stopping by Jan.

  7. I think point 5 is fundamental, because taking each and every interaction to go above and beyond is a great opportunity to exceed the expectations of customers and prospects. Like the article, keep up the good work!

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