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EPISODE 25: Create An Unforgettable Client Journey

by Mar 16, 2021Podcast, Writers

In this episode we will cover:

  • Your client’s journey, from onboarding to offboarding
  • Why optimizing and streamlining the client journey is important
  • How to evaluate the client journey within your business
  • Finding what works for you and for your clients

Is your business set up to guide clients along a clear path? Or is everything from onboarding to offboarding a bit like navigating a maze?

We’re talking to writers here, but creating a streamlined client journey is important for any business. You want your clients to feel heard and supported. You want them to feel like working with you is a privilege they’d want to experience again, not a challenge they’d rather avoid.

And how do you get clients to feel that way? You create a system that supports them through every step of their journey.

 

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • The steps in a client’s journey, from the onboarding process to the offboarding process.
  • How establishing systems can keep you from getting overwhelmed and dropping the ball.
  • How to evaluate and improve your existing systems {and how to create them where they don’t already exist}.

 

It’s time to create your own systems. After all, no one else is going to do it for you. 

If you need a little management help, we recommend checking out Dubsado.

 

TRANSCRIPT

Jessi:
Welcome to the Brand Your Voice Podcast, where we’re digging into how you can create personality-driven content that connects and converts. I’m Jessi…

Marie:
…and I’m Marie. We’re the co-founders of North Star Messaging + Strategy, where we support business owners in outsourcing content without sacrificing authenticity.

Jessi:
Every brand has a unique voice that sets it apart. We're digging into how to capture the way your brand communicates from the words you use to the stories you tell. So you can create more compelling content that strategically helps you meet your business goals.

Marie:
And if you choose to outsource that content, you'll be able to do so with confidence, knowing your brand voice is in good hands and you can reclaim your time. We're so glad you're here and hope you enjoy this episode.
All right, welcome to Episode 25 of the Brand Your Voice Podcast. Today we're continuing on our ongoing series specifically for writers just like us. But really if you're a CEO of any type of company, I promise that you can get some great value out of this. We're talking less about messaging and content creation right now, and more about the nuts and bolts that have made us successful as content creators, and passing that along to sharing the wealth. So this episode is all about the process of creating an unforgettable client journey and just how important that is for really any business. But I think a lot of us, especially those of us who start off as, or who identify as like freelance writers, or freelance content creators, freelance copywriters, we often don't think of ourselves as a business. And so thinking about creating a client journey is something that's maybe a little abstract or maybe sounds even a little too rigid, but we want to shine some light on how you can do that, or some other things you can think about today as you go through that process.

Jessi:
And if you've been in business a little longer with your writing and copywriting content creation, however it is you serve your clients, this is still something that's really important to go back and evaluate and reevaluate and tweak because it is something that does change over time. So starting off, this is something that took us awhile to get the hang of our early days. Like many people who identify as freelance writers early on were not that systematized. We were trying to find clients trying to find work, getting the work, scrambling to do the work. And it often felt like we were all in a constant treadmill. And we weren't really thinking about these things like client journey. And it led to some interesting consequences early on.

Marie:
Yes, absolutely. I remember it. So we had, instead of using like an email service provider that we would check regularly, I remember we had set up her email with something called squirrel mail. And kind of, I mean, we've also had like day jobs doing something else. And so I remember at one point we logged in and there was like an inquiry email that had been in there for months, I think was like six months. And we were like, huh, hi. Are you still looking for a stock half a year later? Which, okay. I like mock us back then, but like, to be honest, the same thing happened to me during a particularly busy month in the business in 2020, one year ago. So like when this happens, it may continue to happen. Right. But it's assigned to that. If you're a dropping bowls, like a drunk juggler, that means that there is probably a process improvement or there's a process in place that you have neglected.

Jessi:
Yes, absolutely. And so we want to talk about this specifically as it pertains to the client journey. Obviously there are a ton of different processes and systems in your business, but as a writer, you often end up working pretty closely with your clients. And it's so important to be creating a customer journey that feels very high touch, even if you don't always have the bandwidth to be super high touch all the time. So thinking about where you can create those high touch moments becomes very important, I think, with any done for you service. But of course I know writing Marino's writing. So that's what we're going to talk about, because this is super beneficial for you and your business in the long run.

Marie:
Yeah, exactly. And also when you have a really nice client journey process, you're wasting less precious brain space brain activity on reinventing the wheel each time and just kind of going with the flow and being organic about it. You know, you're able to actually just say like, okay, here you go. And maybe sometimes these things are automated or maybe you have a checklist, but like, if you thought about it before, you don't have to like rethink about it every time. And when your clients are feeling loved and cared for, which is what happens by the way when you have a system like this, they trust your competence. They're willing to pay your rates. You are presenting yourself as an expert business. And so they're less likely to push boundaries because they respect you.

Jessi:
Yep. Absolutely. And as your writing and content creation business grows, as you bring in more clients, as you add different revenue streams, there are going to be more balls in the air. So if you don't want to end up the drunk juggler dropping balls everywhere, the more successful you get, the more of these systems are going to be things that you need to rely on in order to continue growing in order to continue seeing success and seeing success and having that success not be at the expense of your energy and your ability to create.

Marie:
Exactly. So we're going to give you a series of things to consider. If you already feel like you have a system in place, great. If you are thinking about this for the first time, great. Just sort of take this at wherever you are currently. So we're going to go chronologically here, but what is the first touch, right? It's actually, probably before you have any kind of real interaction with a prospect, so this would be like your website, your social posts, your emails, that content you've put out there for the world, right. For those prospects to see what impressions are they getting from that? What are the messages they're getting from it? Whether or not you realized you were putting them out there, right? There's certain times there's maybe a certain word choice that actually kind of devalues you or doesn't resonate for them, or is really hitting their empathy point is spot on. Right? So that's where this all begins is like really that plus you can't really control when somebody is like, Oh, you should hire Jessi. She is, you know, I'm going to refer you to her. You can't control what that person's saying, but you can control how you present yourself to the people who might end up becoming referral partners and referrals for you.

Jessi:
Yep, absolutely. And so then once they have that impression, when they first talk to you, have an actual conversation with you, odds are, they have heard about you in some way. Either they're following your content, there's a refer, they may, if you're on one of the freelance websites, they may check your profile. Whatever it is, they have some sort of preconception of who you are and how you can serve them. And so the next thing that happens is you get to know them. Maybe it's through a sales call, maybe it's through emails, maybe it's through a bidding system... whatever your system is for starting the conversation about potential projects, think about how you want that to look and what you want that process to feel like.

Marie:
Exactly. And also like what are the expectations you're setting with them from the get-go even something as simple as a bid process, really. it's a place for you to set expectations, just to set boundaries, to let them know, to expect you don't have to have, you know, a 30 minute call with them to have a heart to heart, to have that. Although of course you can do that in a call to. How are you communicating your value and your worth, the ROI of what you're producing for them? And also this may be a little bit tough sometimes when you're not able to actually really interact with them, but how are you deciding if someone's a good or bad fit for you? Just because they've put out an RFP that's of interest to you, or just because they have indicated that they are interested in hiring someone with your skills does not mean you have to say yes. It doesn't mean you have to proceed. If you are getting red flags, then you know, you're under no obligation to continue moving forward.

Jessi:
Yeah. There have been many times over the years that we've run our business where someone may look like a good fit on paper. And then we realized that there's not a values fit there. Or someone may look a little, like not a normal thing on paper. And then we hop on a call with them and realize, Oh no, this would actually be a really interesting, fun way to branch out and we're totally a values fit. And so I think when you are thinking about those initial impressions and those initial conversations, it's really important to pay attention to how you are able to identify whether it's a values fit and see if there are any red flags and what is your system for doing that? And then making decisions based on that also, how do you handle it if you are at capacity? Do you know if you're at capacity or if you are not at capacity and you have a lot of space, how do you put yourself in a situation where you're not starting 10 new projects on the same day? So how are you handling those initial conversations with clients in a way that values what they need, allows you to identify whether you're a good fit, and allows you to begin projects with those who convert in a way that really nurtures each project and your own time.

Marie:
Exactly. So let's say that you do have capacity. They are a good fit for you and everything seems great. So when it's time to move forward, what are your next steps? Do you have like an order that these things happen in? And honestly, I would suggest that you let them know this during the sales call, during the pitch, during the proposal, whatever it is say, you know, if there's space for it, obviously I know RFPs can be a little, you know, you have to fulfill their questions and their needs. But if you can set the expectations early, right. So, okay, great. You're going to be getting a contract and then once you sign that, I'll send over the invoice and then once that's done, I'll give you an invitation to go ahead and schedule your kickoff meeting. And then maybe behind the scenes, you have a little trigger that tells you, you know, you just know that like, whenever somebody signs a contract, you go and buy them a gift. Or you send them whatever, right? Like, or you start researching, you start doing the process of outlining or whatever it is that you want to do. Do it, right, at that point. So like have a little checklist for you and let them know what to expect. I mean, obviously if you want to surprise them with a gift, you don't have to tell them that the rest of it, you know, let them know what to expect in terms of like what's needed from them.

Jessi:
Yeah, absolutely. And during the project, you know, obviously there are a ton of different types of writing projects out there that exist. And you may have clients where the product is a long-term relationship and the projects are pretty much the same over and over again. And you may have clients who are long-term clients, where the project is completely different for month to month. And then you may have one-off projects where you only work with a client on a single project, and then you part ways. In each of those situations, what does actual relationship work once they're onboarded, once they've paid their invoice, once they've signed their contract, by the way, think of how much of this you can automate, because the less that you are actually manually doing, the easier you make your life.

Marie:
Putting in a little plug for Dubsato, by the way. We'll put that in the show notes.

Jessi:
Use something that allows you to automate this process because it makes it so much easier. But once they are onboarded, once that process is beginning, how are you continuing the relationship with them as a client? In our case with North Star, we have an initial strategy call. We have our brand voice intensive, where we gather the information that we need to be able to replicate their voice. We send them a content calendar that says, this is the content we're creating for you. This is when you're getting a draft. We let them know that they have two rounds of revisions within a one week period. All of these pieces of information are set in place, not just when we're initially having a sales conversation with them, but they're reinforced after the contract is signed after the invoice goes out and after the work actually begins.

Marie:
Yes, exactly. So now let's say we're at the part where the project's winding down. This is the off-boarding portion, right? So what happens at this point? Is there a wrap-up call to see how the project went, how you could better serve them? Do you send them a testimonial request? Do you send them a feedback form for them to just be really honest about how things went for them? Because sometimes people will be more comfortable sharing that in a typed form, even if it's anonymous, then sitting on a call with you and being like boo this didn't work for me. Like some people who are really non-confrontational may not want to do that, but they will be willing to write out something. Right. Um, do you invite them to your year-end party? Right? Like we have a client who's in real estate and this is one of the things that she does, right. She invites, I mean, obviously coronavirus, not withstanding, but in general, there's like a party. Do you send them flowers? Do you follow up with them later? Like three months later, six months later, 12 months later to just see how things are going, do invite them to become an affiliate partner or refer for you. Like there's a lot that you can do. So again, just having, even just like a checklist written out somewhere can be the biggest help because honestly, you know how it goes, right. You wrap up a project and you're like, cool, well, that's done onto the next thing. And we don't think about like taking care of, you know, at the end of the project, just as much as we did at the beginning.

Jessi:
Which really isn't a missed opportunity because often it is those clients who we've served really well in the past, who become clients again in the future. Or some of our best refers still to this day. Some of the highest quality leads that we get come from our past clients who say, Oh, you know, you have to work with them because of the experience I had with them. And because we've maintained that connection and that relationship piece is such an important part of being able to maintain that successful business.

Marie:
Yeah, absolutely. And then there's a final step, which I think we often forget even more than the off-boarding step, which is let's evaluate this on our end, within the company, within the business. Once it's wrapping up, right. Do you want to work with them or someone like them again? And what does that mean? Someone like them is that someone in their industry is that someone who has their temperament is that someone who has their values, right. What worked about the project for you and what didn't work for you. You already kind of know what worked and didn't work for them if you followed up with them, but also think about what worked for you. Is there a way you can improve your process? Is there a way you can improve your skills, right? Maybe you felt really unsure about this one little section. Do you want to keep offering that particular service? Or maybe you want to double down on it. Maybe you want to center your entire business on it because it went so well. Right. So just track. When we talk about tracking data in the series of podcast episodes, that's another bit of data you can have. It's qualitative a lot of the time, although things like profit margins totally are in there, and that is quantitative. But a lot of it just like, how did you feel about it? That's valid too, right?

Jessi:
Yeah. You know, early on in our business, when we didn't have a set process, it really often did feel like that metaphor that you hear sometimes about the duck who's, like, skimming across the Lake, but its legs are going crazy underneath the water or going frantically under the water rather. And I think that often there's this sense if you're a writer and a content creator, that things are always going to be frantic and that doesn't have to be true. And it's an opportunity for you to advocate for yourself and create systems for yourself because no one else is going to create them for you. Which leads us to your homework. We've thrown a lot of ideas at you. We've thrown a lot of questions that you can ask yourself. And I think the easiest place to start sometimes this with what you already have. And the truth is even if you don't think you have a system, you do, it may just have some holes in it.
It may just not be the most effective system towards supporting you. So your homework is to track your process. The one that you have currently, you know, holes and all, for your next lead, who becomes a client, who you serve and then who the project wrecks up for. Keep track of everything you do for that client from first contact to the end of the project, and use this as a foundation for creating a repeatable client journey that works for you. Once you have that process written down, look at it, say, okay, well this part of the, you know, sales call, this actually didn't work for me. I actually hate doing in person sales calls. And I want to switch this over to a different system, or maybe it was an email chain of, you know, 50 emails that became really overwhelming before things moved forward. And maybe you hate that and want to move over to sales calls. Find the places in the process that you love, places in your existing process that you hate, and start systematically working through them to create something more streamlined.

Marie:
Thanks for joining us for this episode of the brand, your voice podcast. Make sure to visit our website northstarmessaging.com, where you can subscribe to the show on iTunes, Spotify, and more.

Jessi:
If you found value in this episode, we'd love for you to leave us a review on iTunes and share it with your friends. Thank you and happy content, creating.

For additional content strategy and branding tips, check out northstarmessaging.com/blog. Also, please tag us on Instagram and let us know you’re out there! @northstarmessaging 


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