The Ultimate Hack for Improving Client Engagement

Luuuucy… You have some splainin’ to do!!! (Did I just age myself with this reference?)

I’m about to hop on a call with a client that may or may not have done their work for the meeting (ahem).

I ask myself: “Where are they in their business? And what’s on the schedule for today?”

But first, let’s rewind a few months.

I used to track my client engagement on a spreadsheet that I called Actions2Scale (fancy right?) in google drive. It had all the components I needed:

      • Meeting dates
      • What was accomplished during each meeting
      • What the deliverables were
      • Any notes my client or I had

The problem was that as a consultant, there are a lot of tangible worksheets and documents that my clients and I share, and since my average client is with me for about 7 months, this spreadsheet inevitably grew long, confusing and not easily searchable. Not only that, but with the mish-mosh of documents in google drive – we could never find anything quickly!

Since most of my clients are visual thinkers, I thought I would give Trello a shot. And boy am I happy I did! Here’s what it looks like:

ScaleTime Roadmap Trello

1. Creating a Visual Roadmap

The first thing I do with my clients now is create a roadmap with all the modules of our engagement on the first few lists.

Keep in mind that pre-Trello, there was no visual roadmap for the client to know where we were going. No matter how much I listed out the milestones and talked about the direction of the engagement and what we were going to do next, there was NO VISUAL REMINDER.

It was like being on a road trip with my client, who kept innocently asking “are we there yet?” every 5 minutes.

In their defense though, it wasn’t their fault!

The problem was they didn’t know what had already been done, and what was still left to do. For the productivity geeks out there – I implemented some kanban-esque methodology. Fortunately, in Trello when we are done with a topic I can change the color (nifty right?). Take a look:

ScaleTime Trello Program

2. Forget About Client Amnesia

Client amnesia is a common condition in which the client can’t seem to remember the amazing work we’ve done together.

Symptoms include saying things like “I love this system – it literally takes me 2 minutes to do a proposal. Oh, was it you that helped me implement this?”

This used to raise my blood pressure and frustrate me to no end. Now, I just point them to the Trello board as I gleefully put my feet on my desk. After all, it’s a great way to show a historical record of everything that was accomplished. All without saying a single word. Not bad if you ask me!

3. When Clients “Hijack”

This doesn’t happen as much in my practice anymore (thank the lord!), but in the past I had clients take over the session with “emergencies” or what they thought were urgent questions. In other words, “Drop everything and help me now!”

Ever since I started using Trello however, clients can see for themselves when a task moves from this month to next month for example. Suddenly the urge to hijack a session is trumped by the urge to complete what they started.

Tweet this: A client’s urge to hijack a session is trumped by the urge to complete what they started.

It’s a beautiful thing, really. The psychology of wanting to see the white cards turn blue ( labeled complete) and knowing that this particular urgency will be covered in a systematic way puts a cease and desist on wasting time. (Can I get an amen!?)

4. Say Goodbye to Inbox Flooding

With Trello, there is simply no flooding of inboxes with back and forth updates, deliverables, homework, pre-work, or any kind of work really. It’s all in a nice checklist where clients can reference their tasks whenever they want, from anywhere in the world.

I’ve actually had clients text me in their PJ’s just to tell me how much they enjoyed checking a few items from their list.

Do NOT underestimate the need to complete things!

5. Delegating Tasks Has Never Been Easier

My clients can now share their board with their staff to strategize or delegate the work, and make sure everyone is on the same page.

Nuff said.

6. Get Organized!

Out of all the benefits, one of my favorites is never hearing this question: “Where is that document again?”

Whether your documents are located in dropbox, a company server, or google docs, you can link to them inside the topics in Trello. Everything has context and searchability.

Yeah baby!

To sum up, here are all the benefits of using a project management tool to manage your client engagement:

      • Clients have a visual roadmap
      • Client Amnesia cured
      • No more session hijacking
      • Inbox flooding eliminated
      • Easy to delegate tasks to team members
      • Great way to organize documents

So let me ask you… How are YOU tracking your client engagement, and giving your clients direction in the process?

I recommend Trello (obviously), but I’m also open to learning about other options that would incorporate some or all of the concepts I discussed in this article.

I would love to hear from you either way!

Invest in Your Business

“Juliana, my business is like my baby!!!” I hear so many friends, colleagues and clients say to me.

But then, when it comes to opening that wallet and buying that baby toys (electronics), learning tools (professional development) play date activities (networking/conferences) or diapers (because you know, S**t happens), all of a sudden there’s a million things more important than “the baby”.

“I don’t have the money right now”
“I can do it myself”
“Is it really worth it”
“I would love to, but …”

Hmmmm.

I know, I know – sometimes there isn’t enough cash-flow for toys and diapers.

But let us help you in making the decision on things you should not skimp on — especially when there is cash flow and you are ready (or your baby business is throwing a tantrum because it really needs it).

First: The diapers

You have to protect yourself from unwanted messes. For many reasons people do not register their companies right away. You should, so that you can protect your personal assets. If for whatever reason you are not ready to take the leap and register the business, you should at least have a service agreement and a contractor agreement.

  • The service agreement protects you from your clients doing crazy stuff or potentially not paying half way through a project. I heard a story last week of an architecture firm that did not have the right contracts in place and  not only did the client not pay, the architects had to finish the project and then pay the client for the work done. Do not let that be you.
  • The contractor agreement prevents you from your regular service providers or contractors from potentially taking advantage of you or not complying with work that is supposed to be done.

Business Development

The main reason small businesses fail in the US is that they do not have enough sales. Whether you are starting up or have been open for 10+ years, the investment in business growth is imperative. If you are bootstrapping or in survival mode, dedicate some budget for networking – hit the streets and hustle. If you know how much a dedicated and amazing sales rep costs (ALOT – BUT SO WORTH IT) and your business can afford it, do it.

Organization

Would you let that baby do whatever it wants whenever it wanted? No! Neither should your business. Whether its:
  • Digital – from managing your inbox to connecting your several workstations to a wireless server
  • Spacial – are you working on the dining room table? is your inventory a muck?
  • Organizational – employee sizes big and small should be leveraging everyones strengths and weaknesses, “I can do everything” is not the answer and neither is “all hands on deck,” but  no one knows what’s going on
  • Operations – having efficiency increases your capacity and your ability to sell more

A Website

Everyone is so excited about social media and digital marketing and seo — you know, the sexy stuff. Many people forget all those things point to a website. If your website sucks you won’t be able to seal the deal. It’s like wearing a beautiful gown with granny underwear, you can’t do it. You shouldn’t. Your website is your 24 hours sales person, treat it well.  You don’t need anything overly complicated:
  • Your info
  • Nice design
  • Call to action  buttons ( because you want your clients to contact, call, or most importantly, buy).
  • And make sure it is responsive, so that anyone, anywhere, on any mobile can view it without squinting and irritation.

HEEEEELP!!!! I’m drowning and I can’t come up for air!

I love it when people are soooo proud because they can do it all. Chances are you are not doing it all, and there are things slipping. Worst of all, is that no matter the facade, your colleagues, your vendors, your loved ones and worst of all your clients, can tell. Business owners wearing 20 hats are surely to burn out quickly.

“But Juliana, I’m just starting … I can’t afford it”
Really? Really?
You can’t sacrifice X bottles of wine to get you 4 hours of admin help or a bookkeeper? (Replace wine with your favorite vice).
  • Would you tell your baby when it’s kicking and screaming, that you are not willing to show it the love it deserves?
  • Take out the calculator and figure out which task or tasks are:
  • a) driving you the most crazy b) you are not good at c) you really need d) could help your business the most or e) all of the above and how much it is going to cost you.
  • Then figure out how much money you can make if you spent that time producing and selling.
  • And lastly, make the sacrifice.

Now I have a quick question for you:

Have you ever passed up an opportunity to invest something in your business that you know would have improved on it? and Why?  Share your story in the comments.