Client Education: The Missing Key to Growing Small Business Profits
Note: This was originally written for a computer reseller and consulting newsletter, so you’ll see reference to technology and VARs throughout. Don’t let it stop you from reading. The information inside is valid for any and every kind of small business — retail, b2b, even independent salespeople.
When John discovered one of his best clients bought an expensive backup solution from his toughest competitor instead of him, he couldn’t understand what had happened. For 5 years he sold and services the client’s computer systems, and a maintenance contract was still in place. John was sure the client had been happy all that time.
So what happened?
John’s asked what happened. Had service gone downhill? Had one of his technicians done something offensive? Why didn’t the client even call and ask about the service? John had to pick his jaw up off of the ground when the client told him the reason why:
“I didn’t know you could do it for me. I thought you just sold and repaired the computers, and [the competitor] told me I needed to do more to protect my business.”
This might seem funny to you. You might even believe that your clients fully understand all of the things your business can do for them. Over a decade of in-the-trenches technology marketing experience tells me otherwise.
Let’s talk about how you can put this knowledge to work in your business, ensure a situation like John’s never happens to you, and pick up some of the lost profits you are letting slip through your fingers.
The best free way to grow your small business
The difference between small and huge profits in the computer reseller business is often a matter of how well you educate your clients. There are three reasons for this:
Your clients do not know all of the solutions you provide. I’m endlessly amazed at the number of resellers who believe their clients will ask them about all of the solutions available or even know the right questions to ask. What happens in the real world is that, when a client buys a few computer systems from you, they put you in the “computer system place” category. Unless you take the time to educate about additional products and services, most clients will not go out of their way to ask.
Your clients have problems they do not know you can solve. Taking Clients have many problems you can solve. But with many of those problems, they have no idea that your business can help to solve them. It is up to you to identify the problems, let the client know you understand them, and tell them what to do about it.
*Your clients are paying you to be the expert. They do not know everything there is to know about computers, and they do not stay on top of every new development in the industry. You must anticipate their wants, needs, problems and goals. Then connect the dots between what they want and what you offer to fix it. Recently, a computer reseller client of mine added 27% to his net monthly profit simply by noticing a common problem his clients had and automatically offering it as an “add-on” for every job no matter what they were buying. A certain percentage say yes, and my client deposits bigger checks as a result.
Make the shift from peddler to trusted advisor
At its core, this article is about making the shift from being a simple “peddler” to becoming a trusted advisor to your clients. The only way to survive and grow in the face of cheapest-price competition and big-box retail competition is to make the shift from a simple peddler to a trusted advisor providing more than just inexpensive technology.
How do you make the shift?
First and foremost, do what I call “keeping your opportunity eyes open.” Simply, that means constantly identifying new ways you can help your clients get what they want. When you spot problems and goals they have that your solutions can help with, educate them about how to do so. Tell them what it is costing them to not address it, why you are the only logical choice to help them, why price shipping is foolish, and how they can fix it now.
The tools you can use to educate your clients include:
- E-mail newsletters
- Print newsletters
- Signs in a store
- Material included with every purchase
- Recorded messages
- Web sites
- And dozens more…
Here are three examples of educational marketing material has been used by my computer reseller clients:
An independent computer retailer created a series of one-page information sheets targeting his best buyers. A specific example: “7 Ways To Speed Up Your Gaming Without A New System” that talked about memory, video card, and other upgrades he sold.
A VAR targeting small businesses created a 5 page report all about “How To Get More Productivity Out Of Your Employees” that talked about LANs, Small Business Server, monitoring software, and more.
A computer repair shop sends out a monthly newsletter with a feature called “Best Questions This Month.” In it, the owner answers questions his customers asked individually during the month. Not coincidentally, the answers to many of those questions tie into solutions he provides. For example: He’s added a nice chunk of profit to his bottom line by addressing concerns about spyware and viruses, then pointing to his removal and safekeeping service.
A simple formula to educate your clients
Here is a simple formula you can educate your clients with. Follow the structure, and, with a little practice, you will be introducing new solutions in a way that primes the pump for a sale before the client even discovers what they are.
Let’s get to it…
State and agitate the problem. Identify the problem your solution will solve. State the problem and amplify the pain it causes the client. This puts them in a state of mind where a solution being offered is welcome relief.
State the benefits of the solution. This is much different than stating the solution. You want to tell them what it can do for them and their problem before you tell them what it is. What will they get when they put the solution to work?
State the solution. Tell them all about the solution you offer that will solve their problem. If it is something they can easily get elsewhere at a cheaper price, you must package it in a way that makes it unique.
Tell them how to get the solution. You have the client excited about the solution, now tell them exactly how to get it. Make it simple and clear. The next step could be getting more information, having a consultation, seeing a demonstration, or making a purchase. Whatever it is: 1) tell them what to do, 2) tell them to do it now, and 3) tell them what they will lose if they don’t do it now.
A better educated client base translates into more profit per client, larger orders, and increased client loyalty. To grow your business in the face of increased competition it is a necessity. Focus on helping your clients get more of what they want, and your profits will follow.