For your business to be successful, it has to include an ongoing dialog between you and your clients. Unless your business, your offerings, and your processes are informed by what your clients want, you end up, eventually, with no business at all. More often than not, this is a matter of following the breadcrumbs. What you offer is snapped up by multiple clients right away = what they want. What you offer just lies there like an empty glove = not what they want. If it's the latter, then you either change what you offer, or you find new people to offer it to. There is much to be learned too in casual conversations with clients. You get to be a detective, listening closely, and seeking out clues for what they are looking for. You probe and question to find out more. Sometimes it's an experiment. If you're offering something really new and innovative, finding out whether it's something your clients want is a matter of running a pilot, getting feedback, modifying, and offering it again. One avenue for finding out what clients want is seriously underutilized. This method seems to be mysterious for many business owners. They sometimes don't even think of it. Or they think of it, and dismiss it. The mysterious method? Ask! Directly approaching your clients to ask for what they want is a valuable adjunct to all the breadcrumb following, clue hunting, and incidental conversations that can bring you necessary information. This is where social media can come in really handy. If you have a tribe that follows you, you can put it out there on Facebook or Twitter. It's a quick way to get lots of feedback in a short time. Got an email or mobile text list? Send out a request for feedback on a specific question. If you want direct feedback on an ongoing basis, conduct surveys. In my consulting business, I sent out a short survey after every project. That way, I could tweak my approach and offerings before they got too far off track. Surveys are best approached the same way you approach marketing: from the client's point of view. Ask about the client's experience of both what you delivered and how. If anything was less than outstanding, what was it and how could it have been better? Surveys are also a chance to explore what else the client might need. What else could be offered? Were they happy enough to refer you to someone else? If so, take names: find out who they would recommend you too, and contact the referral, if you have their permission. It's important that clients know that you're doing something with all this information they're providing. You can respond directly to the client and tell them how you're addressing their concerns. Some entrepreneurs are afraid to ask outright. They prefer to take the behind-the-scenes approach. It's almost as if by asking up front, they are afraid they are admitting that something is wrong. That kind of fear does not serve you, or your clients. You need to know what your clients are thinking and feeling about your business.
On large projects, ask at the midpoint how things are going. With what you learn, you can adjust and carry on. This kind of connection can be very affirming for your relationship with your client. They'll know that you really want to hear from them. It encourages them to say more. No one is perfect, and there is always room for improvement. If you take that approach, improvement on an ongoing basis, you'll always get better. You'll always have more to offer. And your clients will thank you for it. This mantra helps: progress, not perfection. One important thing to remember: you always have the final say in whether or not you act on the feedback. It's part of the dialog. You ask, you get feedback, you discern what's right for you and your business, and you take action. Then the conversation starts again. Ask what you need to know. It's a good idea.