Can They Pass the “Communication Test”?
Today, I have a tale of two clients to tell you …
“Do you hire outside writers?” I asked Shawn, the marketing director of a small, national non-profit organization.
“Yes. Sometimes. Are you a copywriter?”
“Yes. I have a complete information packet I’d like to send to you. Would that be ok? I just need your email address.”
“That would be great. Send it over. I’d love to review it. In fact, I’ll look at it today and get right back to you. We have some important projects coming up.”
Music to my ears!!!
Being a good boy, I emailed it to Shawn right after we got off the phone.
Then I waited …
Nothing. No reply. No acknowledgement.
Nada … for two weeks.
So, I sent Shawn a reminder email.
So, I called Shawn back. Left a voicemail.
Then, I waited another two weeks.
In a moment of final desperation, I called Shawn one more time.
“Oh, yeah, hi Joshua … I LOVED your information kit. Let’s work on a project together.”
Wow … total surprise. I eagerly and willingly jumped on the project.
We discussed the project, set the fee (which was low, but, as Shawn pointed out, it was for a very noble cause … ), and then I got started.
I won’t bore you with any more details … but just know that the project took many months to finish. Each time I needed something from my buddy Shawn, he took 2-3 weeks to get back to me.
In the end, I only received half my fee, and they killed the project. It was a nightmare.
Now, let me tell you about another client …
During a quick call with Cheryl, the VP of marketing for Sony Media, she told me that yes, they do hire outside writers, and yes, she’d like to review my information packet.
I sent it over within a few minutes of our call.
I was surprised when less than five minutes later I received an email back confirming receipt and telling me she needed a week to review it.
A week later, the phone rings. “Hi Joshua, this is Cheryl.” Very nice!
Cheryl explained that she had a project for me, but it would be a few months since she needed to wait for her budget to reset. She promised to keep in touch as we got closer.
And she did!
I ended up doing three major projects with Sony that summer, totaling over $40,000 … and costing me a little more than three weeks of my time. Cheryl was lightning fast at getting me information and was very easy to work with.
Do you see the difference between these two clients?
In short, the first client failed the “Communication Test.” The second client passed it with flying colors.
It’s no coincidence that the company that failed the test paid less, disrespected my time, and was frustrating to work with … while the other company respected me, paid me well, and raised me to a new standard of accountability.
The “Communication Test” is simply this …
They get back to you when they say they will, and they respond to your requests promptly.
You can tell within a few exchanges if a client will pass the communication test. The pattern you see in the first few emails or phone calls will tell you all you need to know.
So, what can you do to attract golden clients that can easily pass the communication test?
Have your own protocol and clearly communicate it.
When clients approach you, they should know exactly what to expect. You should have a document that outlines how you work, that tells them your system.
“When you work with me, here’s what will happen … First, we’ll review the project. Second, finalize the agreement. Third, I’ll do research. Fourth, you’ll get some big idea notes back from me. Fifth, …” etc.
Spell it out for them. Let them know you have a plan. Establish expectations. And, of course, you need to stick to the plan!
When you do this, they’ll see you can be trusted to do what you say you’ll do when you say you’ll do it.
Think of it as a “Systems Overview,” and be sure to include it in your information packet and on your website. You should also have a one-page version of this that you can email new clients to help establish the relationship.
Here’s a suggestion … If you don’t know what your “System” should look like, why not collaborate with other writers? Post some questions in the comments, and let’s get a dialog going.
Tomorrow, I’ll talk about the third key indicator, the “More or Less Paradox.”
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