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Web Dude
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153 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Today one of my buddies calls me up. After a little Brett Favre bashing and an incredibly thorough discussion on how nasty the Pats are going to be, plus the + and – of having Mike Vick on your team, we got down to business. The Red Sox landing Vic Martinez was hugggeeeeeeee by the way.

“Hey man, I’m looking to make some business quick. I’m good with work for about the next month, but then I’m looking a little light. I gotta keep my guys going, and Karen really wants to take off to Vegas for a week in September. I really want to take off for a week with Karen. How can I drum up some business quickly, I need some new clients.”

“Well, what’s wrong with the ones you’ve got?”

“What the f*%k are you talking about man? I need to make some money quick. Need some new guys.”

“No you don’t bro. Milk your own cows.”

And boom goes the dynamite.

You’re a farmer. You get up in the morning, and instead of walking out to your barn full of heifers, you go to the neighbors 30 miles away. You’re gonna milk his cows. But his cows aren’t like your cows, all friendly and such. Yours are skeptical of this stranger in the shed. They jostle around, and you only get a quarter of the milk you could of if you were home. Next morning, you do the same thing. A week goes by, and the nut house dudes swing around and have you committed.

What’s wrong with that picture?

I don’t care what business you’re in, if you have been around for longer than a year, chances are high you have some cows. And they are full of milk. They just wanna get some udder love baby, and you can reap the cash.

But no no no, you want to go out and milk some other cows.
Cows you don’t even know.
Stranger radar, stranger radar!


If you overlook your past customers and clients when you want to drum up some new business, you should be punched right in the face. Right in the effin nose.

This is a group of people who you have already invested time converting from prospect to customer, someone who already trusts you (or they wouldn’t of ordered from you in the first place), someone you already (hopefully) have a positive relationship with.
This is the easiest group of people to convince to buy from you again since they already paid you once! They like you, they trust you, and they have already done business with you.

You can make sales as easy as you want, or you can chuck this resource out the window, and start the process over every time you finish a job. Hmmm, have a full pipeline with happy clients, or continue the prospecting game? Tough decision.
How can I implement this right now?

Set up a client database. Right freaking now. If you aren’t marketing to your previous customers, you are throwing away money.

Don’t ignore your cows, or you will lose the farm.

Learn and earn,

[FONT=&quot]Justin

[/FONT]
 

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Valid point, and if you;re not marketing to your existing client base, shame on you.

But here's a question...What happens when the utters dry up?

:whistling
 

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ha! aah ha! haaaaa!

now that my friend was a good one couldn't have put it better myself.
:notworthy
but what he says is right we need to tend to our own flocks and they will tend to us!:thumbup:
 

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DavidC
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2,550 Posts
Valid point, and if you;re not marketing to your existing client base, shame on you.

But here's a question...What happens when the utters dry up?

:whistling
To continue the analogy............

On the farm a number of cows are dry at any given time. The farmer continues to care for them and eventually they return to the milk parlor. But the analogy gets trickier, at some point the farmer calculates that it will no longer be profitable to care for and milk a particular cow and it ends up at Mickey Dee's drive thru.

It is a good point regardless, reworking your customer base. It helps keep us afloat in tough times. Another often over looked source of business is the file you keep of the jobs you tried but didn't sell. Call them up and see how the job went. We pick up a few jobs each year from this source.

Good Luck
Dave
 

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Workin' Hard & Havin' Fun
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1,763 Posts
A dry, old cow might be a lead passed along to another contractor with a modified skill set.

i.e. we do bigger construction, and might pass along a client that needed maintenance work done...
It beats shooting them just to keep the analogy going!

~Matt
 

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Web Dude
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153 Posts
Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Haha first, I appreciate the thanks, I'm glad you guys are diggin what I'm writing.

Secondly though, we have the mindset all wrong, and it's probably my fault. Your cows are your most treasured asset, and there is no such thing as a useless cow, or a dried up udder.

I'm writing up a piece on customer appreciation, and now I'll definitively post it over here. Your cows are your most valued asset. If you think a cow is just an udder to be milked, forgotten about, then milked again when you need the cash, you're going to find you have a pretty useless farm.

You gotta feed the cow.
You gotta shelter the cow.
You gotta make sure the cow is healthy and happy.
Otherwise, you're going to get little or no milk.

You have to create relationships with your customers. I mean real relationships, true friendships.

How many guys in your area offer the same exact stuff you do? 15? 20? 50?

What are you doing right now to guarantee your cows aren't gonna jump on the next shiny tractor?


The whole point of my previous post was to impress upon you guys one reason it's important to have a client database. It's definitely the easiest and cheapest way to market. But you have to have the relationships in place.

BUILD REAL RELATIONSHIPS WITH YOUR CUSTOMERS.


When I was in high school, I was the ground guy (read gopher) for my girlfriend's Dad. He was a contractor who did mostly one story additions. I remember the first job I was on, about three weeks into it, I was backing up the big ass Chevy rack truck, and I ran over their HOs cat. I **** you not, I killed the cat. Completely an accident, but I though holy crap I just cost us this job.

I was moved off the job for like 2 days, but the HO kept asking where I was. She was a really laid back younger lady, and she was amazingly quite cool about it. Anyways, we get the job done at end of the summer (kitchen remodel, new bathroom, new dining room, sauna, finish the basement), and she throws the company a thank you party. Dave, the guy I worked for, got 8 referrals from this party alone.

Why did a woman throw a party for the same people who crushed her cat? And why did she refer us to her friends?
Because Big Dave was a people person and had a business philosphy I follow very closely now. Make your clients your friends, don't just see a paycheck. And we all got it.

They were always asking us to have beers after work on Friday, cracking jokes, generally having a good time. Even though something pretty ****ty happened, we had a whole summer where we were in their personal space getting to know them, and building a relationship with them.

What are you doing to build bulletproof relationships with clients?

The biggest mistake I know of in business is to just see the sale. How much money am I going to make this time?

DO NO DO THAT!!!

Sure, this couple might be worth a 40k job right now, but what is the lifetime value of them worth? How much business can they bring in for me? How many referrals are they going to give me? How am I rewarding them for those referrals?

A Customer Database is the tool in your arsenal. Use it to its maximum potential.

Do not think about your cows as hamburger. Don't even think about them as business partners.
Think of them as friends and treat them as such. My cows know how valuable they are to me. Some of my cows are my most trusted business associates, and some really good friends.

The Wrap Up

Do not use your database to just shoot of marketing crap. Give value. Use it to keep in touch. Build bulletproof relationships. Let me make this promise to you right now: If you build real relationships with your customers, you won't ever be beaten on price again. Ever. In the history of Ever.

Treat your cows like the gold that they are. No more one and done.

Thanks for reading the mind dump, wait until you see the article I'm working on.

Learn and Earn,

Justin
 

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Justin good writing

Business has slowed up for me. We haven't missed to many days but the bookings are thin.

Yesterday I dropped in on a favorite customer, God how I hate doing that.

She has some upcoming work,-had a good chat.

I'm going to made a few more friendly"I was in the neighborhood" calls.

I've been spoiled these last many years,Way more business than I could handle. I always turned down more work than I took.

I guess I better just get over it-- Excuse my grumbling--Got to go shake a few trees, ha ha ha.

MIKE:party:
 

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Last year I spend a record amount on marketing, this year I decided that I was going to not only market to new customers but intensify my marketing with established customers.

It's a little hard to really say what effect the current economic conditions has had on my sales. But even being down a little from last year my bottom line has improved.

If you think about how much companies spend advertising, just tiring to get you to walk through their door (or re-enter) their door and then screw it up once your there. Instead of focusing on running their companies way they are suppose to run them.

Just think how much cheaper things would be if they just didn't drop the ball once they got you there
 

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Builder/Remodeler
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3,712 Posts
I appreciate the message and agree that past and present clients are often an undervalued asset for many business owners. If your business is more than 5 years old and you're not doing a significant portion of your projects for past clients and referrals, then something is wrong.

How you define 'significant amount' will depend on your service and market. My own projects are 80% referrals or clients I've already built for. To really get your head around this take all the clients you've ever worked for and give them a lifetime value--either in real dollars or number of projects. Just tracking the average lifetime value of your customers will get you thinking about ways to keep those folks doing business with you year after year.

As a writer, picking an analogy can help get your message across and make your writing more interesting. But it's a little hackneyed when you try to make every little aspect of customer relations relate to life on the farm. The nail gets a little bent--and the livestock starts to distract the focus from your message.

To say 'make your clients your friends' is also a stretch--and if you extend the 'friend' analogy to how you relate to clients in the same way you've forced the 'cow' on caring for them, then that message is wrong. It's a risky approach to take if you don't clarify it--particularly to someone who's new to running their own business.

Yes, being able to connect with your clients is a significant competitive advantage. It's a cliche, but very true, that people like who they are 'like' and could care less about how much you know, until they know how much you care. But at the end of the day, the basis of the relationship is an exchange of value. Adding too much of the 'friend' dynamic can be a distraction from that.

I can remember more than a few past clients over the years that took advantage of my friendly nature. I'm a pleasure giver, and I want to see my clients happy. No one likes giving bad news, and unfortunately as contractors we sometimes have to do that. If you see your clients as friends, it's too easy to give away the store in order to keep your friends happy.

In the end, you must strike the right balance between being 'friends' and being 'friendly professional'.
 

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Web Dude
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153 Posts
Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Thanks guys for your support, I'm glad you like the information I'm sharing!

@ Chris

I appreciate the critique and I take it to heart. All writers should have editors, and I'll take what you said into account.

Edit: I just wanted to say I love the videos on your website. Well done, very classy.


Hopefully this clears up what I mean by making a client a friend, and I like what you said about "friendly professional".

Making a client a friend isn't about appeasing them. It's about creating the relationship.

The relationship may start out based on the exchange of value (you can do the work that they want done), but how does that separate and elevate you from any other contractor? It doesn't, because I am sure that there are other contractors in your area that would be happy to do the same job.

It's about bulletproofing your relationships with them. Are all HOs going to be a joy? Absolutely not. Some of them are going to be a real PITA and that's just the breaks. However, when you strive to find other things to connect on, you stop being an employee of theirs and you start being a trusted adviser. You still get payed, but which one carries more weight?

When I say treat clients as friends, I don't mean drinking buddies. Sometimes you have to tell your friend bad news, and sometimes you are going to disappoint them. Is it going to be easier to explain to someone that there's a delay or a problem if you have that rapport built, and they trust and like you? Absolutely.

Also, if you can create a relationship where you are no longer seen as a contractor but as a friend, how iron clad are you referrals going to be? Who is the HO going to look for whenever work needs to be done? What are they going to say to the contractors that are knocking on their door looking for business?

Of course you are in business to make money, and there are boundaries that come into play, and I am in no way advocating lowering your bottom line to make somebody happy. The overall goal of the article is to show how important your previous clients are to your business success. If treated right, they are a sure way to making more money. If mistreated, you're missing out on opportunity.

Thanks again guys, I hope I'm more clear this time around!
 

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DavidC
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Well J Sullivan, I think it was the herd that took your farm analogy to the field and spread it. For me, as a part time farmer, it was just plan a fun way to cover a good topic. You keep planting the seed and we'll fertilize it.

Good Luck
Dave
 

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Clients referred to as cows

Well, it depends from which angle you look at it....
A cow is typically an object of value: for example to the farmer, it provides milk so it is his source of income which makes it very valuable.

So a cow is a valuable asset.

But I can see where a customer would not want to be referred to as a cow because they might find it offensive....but is that really the most important concept to get out of Justin's story? No it is not.
The important concept is that we should take good care of our customers: that's the idea, so give the guy a break....he made an excellent point that most businesses forget about their clients after the sale and even neglect prospect buyers at time.

I agree with his philosophy and it should be implemented, everything is relative depending on how you look at it but at the end of the day the client just wants to be given the best possible treatment and if they rather go with businesses who might not refer to them as "cows" but who treat them horrible....so be it.

But the content of the message is what is to be heard, not necessarily the flaws of the delivery.

thanks
 

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Builder/Remodeler
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...I agree with his philosophy and it should be implemented, everything is relative depending on how you look at it but at the end of the day the client just wants to be given the best possible treatment and if they rather go with businesses who might not refer to them as "cows" but who treat them horrible....so be it.

But the content of the message is what is to be heard, not necessarily the flaws of the delivery...
Both the content and the delivery make overly simplistic statements about the care and feeding of a life-long client (as do yours as well).

You say his philosophy should be implemented? How specifically? It's a non-statement and pointless rhetoric unless you put some meat on the theoretical cow (and saying "it's all relative" is a very passive argument).

Yes, we can all pay lip service to valuing our clients and taking care of them--but this is a contractor forum. How specifically does a contractor do that--and from where do you draw your wisdom in that regard?

My comments, both before and now, are directed at the message and not the messenger. J. Sullivan's thread on "Catching vs. Throwing" websites was very good. This one is a little weak.
 

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The Old Master
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Mr. Sullivan

Great Article: But I noticed a trend in the replys. You remarked about taking care of your cows.

Now when you disect the posts, some call ... Cows Clients!

I has always been my opinion that the person who pays a tradesman is a customer. The person who pays an attorney is a client and a person who pays a doctor is a patient.

When tradesmen talk about clients vs customers and talk about techs
instead of journeymen, carpenters, electricians, mechanics or plumbers it perturbs me to think that the trades are giving in to appliance, office machine, eletronic repair TECHS. After all when a customer is calling for a leaking pipe, just think what they think when you say I'll send a Tech Right Out. They might think they are getting a typewriter repair man to fix a leak.
 

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Mr. Sullivan

Great Article: But I noticed a trend in the replys. You remarked about taking care of your cows.

Now when you disect the posts, some call ... Cows Clients!

I has always been my opinion that the person who pays a tradesman is a customer. The person who pays an attorney is a client and a person who pays a doctor is a patient.

When tradesmen talk about clients vs customers and talk about techs
instead of journeymen, carpenters, electricians, mechanics or plumbers it perturbs me to think that the trades are giving in to appliance, office machine, eletronic repair TECHS. After all when a customer is calling for a leaking pipe, just think what they think when you say I'll send a Tech Right Out. They might think they are getting a typewriter repair man to fix a leak.
:rolleyes: What??? :rolleyes:

I don't get it. I call all of my customers - clients.


To me:

A customer goes to a coffee shop or a dry cleaner or a grocery store, etc. buys what they are looking for and walks out. It's more anonymous and all parties are perfectly fine with that.

A client is someone you form a professional relationship with and being that a new custom home or remodeling project can take months or even years of working together I think most are looking for someone who will treat them more like a client than a customer.


Regardless, I think you are splitting hairs here and I doubt anyone really cares if you are calling them a customer or a client.
 
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