Archive for the ‘Project Management’ Category

3 Tips to Keep Your Clients Happy-The Platinum Rule (Part 1)

Monday, February 14th, 2011

From early childhood on we’re taught the Golden rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” When you think about it, that’s really the height of egotism. Why should we assume that others want to be treated the way we do? Instead, Dr. Tony Alessandra (author and speaker) proposes the Platinum Rule, “Treat others the way they want to be treated.” Eureka.

That fundamental concept of looking beyond our own needs, wants and preferences to those of the other guy is the key to success for anyone in a client service business. Sounds good in theory, now how do you do it? Based on 30 years of client service experience, lots of listening to clients and supported by the insights of authors specializing in client service (David Maister, Charles Green and Robert Galford,  Jagdish Sheth and Andrew Sobel and Thomas K. Connellan and Ron Zemke)* there are three ways for those in PR, advertising and web marketing firms to live the Platinum Rule:

  1. Minimize the risk; maximize the reward
  2. Cultivate the relationship
  3. Sharper your communication skills

We’ll save #2 and #3 for future blogs, but let’s start with a closer look at the blinding flash of the obvious suggestion to “minimize the risk; maximize the reward.

Imagine you are the person turning to your PR, advertising or web marketing agency for help. What are they thinking and feeling (deep in their gut) as they entrust their new product, new service or new program to you? “Will those marketing guys and gals get ‘it’?” “Could those marketing experts really be as committed to my product as I am after I’ve worked night and day on this product for the past twelve months?” “Will this agency help my program be as successful as my competitor’s’ agency has helped them?” “Will they be worth the money we’re investing?” “Will my boss think I made a good choice?” “Will they help me get the promotion I want after this program launch or will I be fired?”

Ultimately how well the agency does can make the marketing or communications manager look like a star or can doom the product and the manager to failure. The decision to work with the agency isn’t just a business decision it’s a personal decision. So your job is not only to do your job, but to reassure the person asking for your expertise. You need to minimize the inherent risk (unexpected costs, wrong direction, communication missteps, product failure) and maximize the reward (product success, nailed messaging and break-through market perceptions, new opportunities, business growth) they’ll get when you brilliantly complete your work.

To minimize the risk and maximize the reward, you need to be part detective, part shrink and part psychic. Detectives sleuth out the context and understand the big picture (the client’s internal business pressures, market landscape, trends and opportunities) while still observing the details (meting deadlines, no big mistakes, staying within budget). Shrinks listen. They ask questions (open-ended, hard, unexpected and probing) that help them — and the individual — understand reality in a new way. Psychics see what’s not visible (potential market scenarios, possible audience impact or potential new audiences, unanticipated challenges). All three focus on how they can help solve the client’s problem or hone insights unobtainable without their unique outside perspective. They clearly move their clients beyond where they could possibly be without their help.

Being a detective, shrink and psychic will help you minimize the risks and maximize the rewards, and will keep you focused on what the client wants and needs to be successful. You’re on your way to delivering client service according to the Platinum Rule!

A closer look at ways to cultivate the relationship (part 2) and sharpen your communication skills (part 3) in Wednesday and Friday’s blogs.

*Maister, Green and Galford wrote Trusted Advisor, Sheth and Sobel wrote Clients for Life and Connellan and Zemke wrote the Knock Your Socks Off Service series.

Just One Thing

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011
What’s your “one thing?”

May 2011 bring you just one thing. Focus and specifically focus on what really matters!

Today’s world conspires against being able to focus.  Text messages, Blackberry messages, IMs, Pings and e-mails.  Phone calls from clients, friends and family.   And our too-long to-do lists.  I’ve cautioned in previous blogs about too-long “laundry list” to-do lists. But today, in this new year, I’m proposing that you answer one question in order to determine how to spend your time.

What is the single most important thing you could accomplish today that would help you be successful? (Of course…it helps to have previously defined what success is.)    But once you’ve clarified what success means to you, would writing a blog, networking with 5 new potential clients, sending out a proposal, planning new service offerings, doing research, updating your website or simply de-cluttering your office be the most important thing you could do today?   The tough part is narrowing down your “would like to do’s” to that one, single most important thing.  Your day will still be busy with other meetings you need to attend, calls you have to make and deadlines you have to make.  BUT, you’ll be sure to accomplish the one thing that matters most!

Once you’ve got that one thing — just one thing — figured out, then you need to quickly set aside prime time (not later when you get to it or tonight after you’ve finished all your other work and will most likely feel too tired to think straight), identify what the first step will be and anticipate what the subsequent bite-size steps will be.

Then do it!

Remember you get to identify a different “just one thing” tomorrow.

Einstein persevered

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

Albert Einstein once said, “It’s not that I’m so smart; it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”

While I’m fairly certain that Albert Einstein was, in fact, that smart, he raises a good point.  In an era of non-stop 140-character tweets, beeping e-mail, pinging IM’s, and buzzing text messages, we’re being trained to have shorter attention spans and barely any patience.

This is reality — not news — as my 17-year old daughter noted.  While maybe not news, I still feel bombarded by the growing number of ways in which everyone is being trained to talk and think in short, quick bursts.   Millenials never knew anything different.  But many Gen Xers and Baby Boomers are being reprogrammed as technology evolves.   (Apple’s iPad is the latest example.  Steve Jobs launched his latest wonder reclining in a leather arm chair — but this new product makes it easier and faster to flit between book, e-mail and internet searches.)

But while we are moving more quickly, and our brains crave more frequent stimulation, we still, like Einstein, need to s-l-o-w down and tune out all those noisy distractions in order to focus on a problem, mull the possibilities and come up with that solution, that idea, that way of phrasing a message that will prove to have been worth the added time.

  • Don’t rush to ask for help on a problem because you couldn’t immediately figure out a solution and you’re distracted by the new e-mails piling up in your inbox. Persevere, and then if you’re still stuck, absolutely talk the problem through with someone else.
  • Don’t hit send immediately after replying to a valued client’s question just because the digital clock on your laptop is reminding you that seven minutes have gone by.  Breathe.  Read the e-mail aloud.  Then save it as a draft for sixty minutes.   Then read it again — but this time as if you were your client opening the e-mail.
  • Don’t let the barrage of text messages and IMs rush you when you’re drafting an important proposal.  Instead, draft the proposal and let it sit for 24 hours (really…24 hours!).   More than eighty percent of the time you will make worthwhile edits.

I wonder if Einstein’s solutions would have been as brilliant if he’d interrupted his thought process to tweet or respond to a text or search for another song on his iPod.

Resolute — Not a Resolution

Monday, December 21st, 2009

My office is filled with great ideas.  My desk is piled high with articles I’ve saved that are worth referencing in the workshops I lead. The must-read books I’ve collected over the past month or two are lined up on what is supposed to be my work space (next to the oversized workshop materials from sessions I led in November and December).   I just added one more title to  the growing list of smart, new workshops-to-develop posted on my bulletin board.   My current projects are no farther away than my elbow.  Yes…my office is overflowing with great ideas but the net effect is brain (desk and office) clutter with no clear action plan.

Rather than procrastinate (so tempting when there are other things I could do…), I’m dedicating time this week to converting that excited but overwhelmed sense of potential into a prioritized and workable plan.  What better way to prepare for the new year — not as a resolution, but resolutely acting now so that I am ready-to-go in 2010.

  1. Surface Sweep — Today, not tomorrow or next week, I’m organizing the surfaces in my office so that I can see and think clearly.   I’ll evaluate what needs to be filed or tossed.  (Putting stuff back in the same place is not an option.) I’ll decide which book I’m reading next and shelve the others according to whether they are about leadership, management, communication, creativity or business trends.  (Keeping my office library well-organized means that I can find the books I need when I need them.)    I’ll sort through the files and piles on my desk, so that the only thing in view relates to current project work.
  2. Prioritize — I’ll create a list of all the great ideas on one piece of paper vs. post-it notes or piles.  Once captured, I’ll need to decide which of the many ideas will have the greatest impact.   Which ideas will have shorter-term benefit and which are longer-term initiatives that need to be started now in order to pay off by June 2010?  What are the top three (vs. a laundry list of ten, twelve or twenty)?
  3. Make it Happen! — What’s the first step for each of the three most important projects?  What are the do-able “baby steps” to keep the momentum going?  And my commitment to focusing and prioritizing won’t be done until I schedule those first steps — and the subsequent baby steps — on my calendar.

There’s still more I would like to do and will do, but just imagine the impact of the three projects I’ve now scheduled to make happen.  No more time to write this blog….I’m resolute about ending this year uncluttered and focused!

Just Do It!

Thursday, September 24th, 2009

“Just do it!’  The often-quoted Nike tag line captured our attention because it is such a compelling call to action.   Here are three ways in which we need to “just do it” in order to successfully complete our projects.

  1. Just capture all the to-do’s cluttering your brain.  The first step is to create the list and only after you’ve got it all down in front of you can you prioritize, realistically assess the importance, urgency, amount of time needed to successfully complete the task and determine if you need any additional resources.  The first step is to know what needs to get done!
  2. Just break down the big, daunting project into bite-size, do-able chunks and then jump in.  The sense of completion you feel after you finish the first chunk will ease you into the rest of the project.  The second step is to battle the tendency to procrastinate because the project feels overwhelming or we don’t know where to begin.
  3. Just transfer all the high-priority and now do-able tasks to your calendar so you block out time to get the work done. If something unexpected pops up don’t give away the time you’d set aside for the task without finding another time slot on your calendar.  Re-think how you schedule your time so that you leave chunks of time open for doing your work. The third step is to schedule the time to get it done!

Just do it…with the confidence that you’re in control.