[Classic Hagerty] *Really* connecting with your clients

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I’ve got something a little different for this week’s note, below, that I think you’ll really appreciate.
In fact, this is Troy Lakey, Nate’s C.O.O., writing you. Nate is taking some much-deserved time away with his beautiful family this week, in Hilton Head for an annual gathering with their extended family.
So, with his permission, I’ve commandeered his space here this week, to send you some of the powerful, actionable advice for growing your tax or accounting business that you’re accustomed to receiving from him every week.
I’ve taken this opportunity to reprint for you a note that Nate wrote just three years ago, immediately on return from an amazing trip that he and his wife, Sara, had made to Ethiopia, to adopt their first children (of now four that they’ve brought into their family from Africa), Eden and Caleb.
The following note from Nate is worth your time for a couple of good reasons:
1) Because the business and marketing applications he made here are every bit as applicable now as they were when he first sent them, if not more so, given the direction that the online sphere has continued to quickly develop these last few years. Nate’s observations were characteristically spot on.
And, 2) because in this note on vivid display is a distinctive, deliberate habit Nate applies to his communications, that I have long admired … and which I believe every smart business owner should be seeking to adopt in their own business communications, in our current economic and cultural environment.
The trait I’m speaking of is that of allowing a genuine, transparent sense of real personality to come through. It is unmistakable in this note, and worthy of emulation in how you communicate with your clients.
So please, read on, enjoy, and benefit.
[From Nate’s pen]:
Arriving in Addis Ababa was a bit of a shock, at first.
Three things stuck out, really, at first, as our driver drove us away from the airport to our guest house:
1) The smog and pollution were unreal–I never took the plunge, but my wife went running one day from our guest house, and she could feel the black dust coating her lungs on every step–and that was in a relatively remote area of the city…the main thoroughfares were shrouded in a dense swirl of diesel fumes, smoke and grayness.
2) The poverty. I’m ashamed to admit that this was my first venture to a developing country, and though I’d seen the pictures…I wasn’t quite prepared for the blank stares of hopeless beggars and neglected children lining many of the streets on which we comfortably rode.
3) The traffic patterns…our driver (quite skillfully) wove between cars and navigated the multiplicity of potholes and gullies. At one point, we entered an intersection at which three MAIN roads converged–and there was NO traffic signal of guidance. I’m talking about the convergence of about 16 lanes…but the drivers seemed to *make* a way. In fact, during my entire trip in and around the city, I only saw one accident. Freaking miraculous, if you ask me!
There were people EVERYWHERE. Really, do Ethiopians spend any time indoors? From the looks of things…not much! But, if you’ve ever been to Africa (or spent good time with native Africans), you know how beautifully they love and serve guests, and how they put an emphasis on personal connections and relationships with one another…which leads me to some critical lessons for your business:
1. How seriously do you take creating an atmosphere of trust and (even) affection in your business? With the skyrocketing advent of Social Media, our world is growing more and more connected. A thought for you: How often do your clients hear from you? And…is it anything other than sending a bill? 😉
Really, you can even turn your invoices into a relational touch by adding some sort of more personal note, so the “medicine” goes down easier (which is what one of my recent Private Clients did, with nice results). But you need to be doing more than sending bills, or even marketing pieces: you’ve gotta be creating an atmosphere of trust by forging more personal relationships with your clients. The workers at our guest house in Addis Ababa (all native Ethiopians) were extremely forthcoming about their personal lives and never hesitated to give us the “inside scoop” about what *real* Ethiopians thought about adoption, tourists, etc. All of which made us very comfortable, and found me sending emails to other adoptive families breathlessly recommending they choose to stay at this guest house–even though it’s much more expensive than other options.
Do you *like* referrals? Then, make it a point to create this environment at your firm … even if you believe that you’re the most socially boring individual on the planet. And, of course, there’s plenty of tools to make this easy for you.
2. There is an inherent human desire for connection to something *larger* than your own little world. Which is why it’s such a good idea for you to establish rapport and community, even among your own clients. The other families staying with us at the guest house quickly became close friends for us–we shared a common bond, of adoption, and of going through similar “adjustment” issues with our newly-adopted childern.
Your clients are, similarly, going through parallel events–whether it’s families facing a financial crunch in this economy, or small business owners staring at declining sales (or even booming sales)–there are groups within your client base that would significantly benefit from connecting more deeply with one another. You can start a Mastermind Group of business owners in your firm, or host a complimentary seminar or teleconference for families (with a selected JV partner, or conducted by yourself)…it almost doesn’t matter *how* you choose to connect your clients and prospects with one another–but that you do it.
In this economy, and this crazy culture, your clients are looking for places to plug in. Why not you and your firm, be that place, huh? Talk about “clients for life”…
I hope you enjoyed revisiting this post again, or reading it for the first time — and I hope that you’ll begin applying some of these ideas to your own business right away. You will see a difference in your bottom line in the coming years, if you do.

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