McLellan: Breaking up is hard to do
Friday, September 27, 2013 7:00 AM
If you’re in my age range, that headline immediately gave you a Neil Sedaka-flavored earworm that you’ll spend the rest of the day trying to shed. Whether you recognize the signature tune from 1975 (and 1962) or not, you certainly recognize the truth in the statement.
Breaking up is hard to do – whether it’s a personal relationship or a business one. But when you have a customer who isn’t a very good fit, you cost your business a great deal if you don’t find the courage to make the change.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not talking about the customers who really challenge you to bring your best game or the ones who want everything just so. I’m talking about the customers who, if truth be told, you probably shouldn’t have taken in the first place. Maybe they’re too big or too small or perhaps they just aren’t really in the market for what you’re best at delivering.
I know it sounds odd, but it’s good marketing to fire your bad customers.
As you weigh this idea, keep in mind that a bad customer actually costs you more than you can possibly earn. For example, they cost you:
Brand integrity: It’s tough to deliver your very best for people who don’t appreciate it, value it or recognize it. It’s even tougher when they just don’t need it. You’re out in the marketplace, making a promise about how and why you do business the way you do. Your best customers let you honor that promise. Bad-fit customers force you to compromise, and remember, the world is watching.
Employees: Your team members want to deliver their best every day. Customers who don’t give them that opportunity or don’t appreciate it when they go to that level of effort can wear them down. Over time, if you let too many of those clients stick around, you’re going to find it’s tough to keep your best employees.
Reputation: Clients either love you or they don’t. And they’re going to talk about it either way. Which kind of buzz do you want to create? You can create raving fans or you can create people who are so-so about you and announce that to the world.
Opportunity: Which clients require the most time and attention? Yup, the bad ones. You’re always twisting yourself into a pretzel to try to please them and in many cases, still not quite hitting it out of the park. So while you’re busy investing an incredible amount of time just so you can deliver a satisfactory experience, you’re using resources that could be better spent making another right fit customer elated.
Referrals: All the business owners and leaders I know believe the ideal way for them to grow their business is through referrals. Hard to argue with that. Word-of-mouth endorsements shorten the sales cycle and often eliminate some if not all of the competition. We all know the expression “Birds of a feather flock together” is true. Which means if your bad customers make a referral, you’re going to get another bad-fit customer.
I don’t care how big your company is, your resources are finite. Don’t waste them on someone you can’t delight.
Expend every ounce of talent and time you have on the people who not only want what you have to sell – they need it. And they need it just the way you do it.
Everyone, you and your employees alike, deserves to do work they’re proud to deliver for customers who are grateful and fun to serve. Don’t let the short-term gain of a little cash in your pocket ever risk the long-term rewards of only working with those right-fit customers.
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