I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. As an independent business owner, I want to challenge you to stop being the Chief Everything Officer of your business and start dreaming (and operating) like an honest-to-goodness CEO. Yes, it’s possible for you, and part of the way you make that possible is by proactively seeking out news, trends, and data.
But I know you’re insanely busy, and that’s easier said than done for many of you — even with the best of intentions. That’s why I’m back as your Empowered Independent Business Owner Beat Reporter 🕵️♀️ to shorten the distance between you, and the client trends and behavior data you need to make smarter decisions inside your business faster.
Earlier this week, HoneyBook (in partnership with Visa), released new clientflow research that pulls back the curtain on what your clients really want from you, so you can exceed their increasing expectations in 2023 (and beyond).
Here’s the high-level stuff you need to know first …
We surveyed 1,500 clients who spent between $500 and $30,000 with an independent, service-based business in the last six months. Basically, the people you want to become clients!
As a quick refresher, clientflow is the entire experience a client or buyer has with your brand — from the first time they show up on your website to the very last touch point they have with you at the end of your relationship with them, assuming there is one.
In short, it’s the thing in your business you may be deprioritizing right now, because you may not totally realize how broken clientflow can seriously drag you (and your clients!) down. On the flip side, you may also not realize what you’re missing!
Because when your clientflow game is strong…
I think we can agree those are all good things.
We partnered with Visa to conduct this research because, let’s face it — it doesn’t matter if this isn’t your first time hearing me bang the clientflow drum, or you’ve never heard the term before as an independent business owner.
We all want the same thing: to meet (and exceed, fingers crossed! 🤞) the expectations of our clients. Of course, there are two things we need to keep in mind when we say that. First, you can’t even dream of exceeding your clients’ expectations if you have no clue what they are — enter stage left, this outstanding research.
The experience your client has with you will only be as good as the weakest link in your clientflow. That means it’s not enough to consume this data; you have to take action based on what you learn from it, and what you see as broken in your clientflow systems and processes.
This Independent Business Gal Friday right here (yours truly) is armed and ready to give you the inspiring and wildly valuable clientflow intelligence you need to implement powerful changes in your business that are truly a win-win for both you and your clients.
However, it’s up to you to do the work. Knowing the data isn’t enough. Seeing the trends isn’t enough. You have to take action.
OK, let’s dig in! Again, you can access the full clientflow research report here from HoneyBook and Visa, but here are a few of the highlights from this report that caught my eye!
When it comes to the clients you’re trying to win over for your business, there’s no contest as to what the most important stage of their journey is (in their eyes) …
It doesn’t matter if you’re B2C or B2B, your would-be clients overwhelmingly agree (19% and 28%, respectively) that the most critical stage for them out of the entire process is research and information gathering — before they ever decide to talk to you.
Look at your brand experience with the mindset of a prospect who isn’t ready to fill out a contact form:
Your buyers today want more control over the sales process than ever, and they’ll be more likely to go running to a competitor if you don’t make it easy for them to learn about you, what you do, how you work, and so on, on their terms.
Look, it’s no secret checking the “good communication” box with your clients is one of the most powerful ways you can prevent a happy client relationship from souring. But our new clientflow research says you need to be sharpening those “You can count on me!” communication skills before someone even signs on the dotted line:
86% of buyers we surveyed said a quick response was the reason why they selected their service provider. This is data supported by research from Harvard Business Review, which found brands that responded within an hour to an inquiry more seven times more likely to qualify that lead.
You either need to create or closely review your current process for handling client inquiries:
And remember, a process is only a wish if you don’t document it, and create/adapt your systems to streamline it and support it.
OK, now that we’re all on the same page about how important speedy communication is even before someone becomes a client, let’s talk communication channels. According to our research, your potential clients do have clear preferences when it comes to how they’d like to hear from you:
While email and phone are the clear frontrunners (something to keep in mind), you don’t have to guess where a particular prospect falls in this communication spectrum. You can ask directly in the lead inquiry form on your website for someone to select how they prefer to hear back from you!
The key here is to be mindful, whenever possible, of what your clients actually want from you and how they prefer to do business. (For example, credit card also came out on top as the preferred payment method of those surveyed for this report!)
When I took a step back and looked at the data contained within our clientflow research report, I realized something. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about credit card preferences, communication channels, response time, your front-facing brand experience, or how much information you share.
The question you should be asking yourself across every aspect of your business right now, in light of this data, is the same:
Is your booking process effortless or friction-filled? Do you create confident buyers with proactive transparency around topics like pricing, or do you create insecurity by withholding information? Are you responsive the moment someone reaches out to you, or do you accidentally play hard-to-get with prospects with lengthy wait times?
If your answers to these questions are leaving you more demoralized than inspired to take action, don’t throw in the towel. Take a deep breath and realize every single successful independent business owner out there started in the same spot where you are right now — learning lessons (sometimes the hard way) and uncovering gaps in their business through experience.
As I said at the start of this, yes, it’s up to you to do the work.
But the fact that some of you reading this may need to take action isn’t a sign of your failure. You don’t know what you don’t know … until you know it that is, particularly when it comes to the needs of your clients. And now you do.
When it comes to your business, there is power in process, friends. And this is your call-to-action to make 2023 the best year you’ve ever had — because you’re in control of your destiny.
© 2023 Natalie Franke