How to Get Your Clients to Do Your Selling for You

How long will it take? How much will it cost?

Two questions asked about every project you take on as a service provider.

The answers, of course, depend on the details. But one thing I’ve discovered over the years as a marketing director and, now, as a marketing consultant, is this: be as accurate as you can in your estimates, but don’t cave in to the impulse to please your client with an overly ambitious project schedule and less-than-realistic budget.

In other words, under-promise and over-deliver.

Manage Expectations for Realistic Deadlines and Costs
It’s all about managing expectations. The reality is most clients who hire you don’t understand the level of detail your service entails. That’s why they’ve hired you in the first place. They don’t know how to do what you do as well as you do it, they want you to take that task off their hands, and they want you to do it as quickly and cost-effectively as possible.

It’s up to you to clarify, up front, what that means in terms of your time and the value of your service. If you overstate what you can accomplish within a given deadline, even if your intentions are good and you really want to hit that target, you’ll ultimately disappoint your client and weaken the bond of trust that’s essential to any long-term business relationship.

Plan for the Unexpected and Keep Your Client Informed
Now, I’m not arguing here to be so cautious that you pad your project deadlines to the point of inconvenience or price yourself out of the market you’re trying to serve. All of this is a matter of knowing your client’s needs and negotiating the best arrangement for both parties.

But I do find that it pays in the long run to add extra time and expenses into your project estimate for inevitable unforeseen delays and associated time required to solve problems along the way.

Keep your client informed of your progress and time used as you move through the project, so they always know where you stand in terms of your estimate, without asking. And for every project, track your time, both for billing purposes and to learn from experience, so that your next estimate is all the more realistic.

Once You’ve Set Realistic Expectations, Exceed Them
When you deliver a great product or service to your client, within budget, ahead of schedule, that far exceeds their expectations, you’ve scored a bullseye.

So, set yourself up for success by planning for enough time and a large enough budget to make that happen. You may scare away some clients who want more than you can deliver for less than you’re willing to take. But you’ll build a loyal customer base who will do your word-of-mouth selling for you. And that’s the best kind of marketing there is.


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