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Saturday, April 05, 2008

Client surveys and marketing consultants

You will find some useful resources on the Cynosure Communications website, including copies of the articles Recession Marketing -- What Have You Got Lots of Now? and Cold Calls Make You Sweat?

Marcy Steinberg of Cynosure Communications sent this worthy response to my email to her requesting permission to reproduce comments posted on the SMPS Listserve. These are truly worthy observations about surveys and seeking client feedback for your work.

Thanks for checking in with me -- I really appreciate it. And I happen to agree with your opinion. I actually believe in training design staff on how to implement an ongoing client satisfaction program of their own, and it includes visits, not just phone calls. The training is not so much about surveys (hateful things) but about how to comfortably and effectively chat up a client so he or she will be open, and "gently blunt."

When we outsiders are hired, though, it is often when a firm has done very little of that kind of thing in a long time. And maybe they have gone through a change; the founder has retired; they have lost someone many of their clients loved; or they suspect a problem but aren't sure what it is and are timid about researching it themselves -- particularly with previous clients they haven't spoken to in a long while. So, after doing the first round of research for them -- all by phone, AFTER a letter has arrived from the principal, and NOT from a script -- I encourage the A/E/C firms to take over from there.

I do NOT believe in conducting such research FOR them every four years, as some
consultants do. If a firm continually uses an outsider, it can appear they are too lazy or timid to stay tuned to their clients themselves.

Oh -- when I say I do not use a script -- that is not quite true. For purposes of making the nice charts people like to see, and for being able to compare apples to apples, I do use a list of questions. I just don't necessarily stick religiously to it. This is qualitative research, not quantitative. Some of the folks I interview actually want talk at length about any number of things that may not even be in the survey. I go with the flow. And I call my client the moment I hang up the phone if the interviewee has just told me about a current problem that has been left unattended, or about upcoming work.

Anyway -- thanks for alerting me to your use of my material in your blog. I shall now subscribe to your blog -- it looks good. I also now REALLY need to get my website updated!!! Yikes. Haven't done that, since I took a break from my business for a few years, while trying out the "employee" role.

Be well


Marcy Steinberg Cynosure Communications 3321 W. 30th Ave. Denver, CO 80211 303-477-3095 720-940-9016 mobile.

I really appreciate these remarks. Marcy's approach, to me, is the correct model for an outside consultant -- if consultants do their work well, they should be able to put themselves 'out of business' with their clients -- guiding them sufficientlyso they won't depend on their services to do the work. Paradoxically, this attitude actually strenghtens the client/consultant relationship, as I've found in working with Bill Caswell of Caswell Corporate Coaching Company. He taught me how to hold regular weekly and bi-annual planning and budget meetings. We're having our major bi-annual meeting on Monday and I suppose we can now do these on our own, without any facilitation or external support. But I want Caswell to be there -- to reinforce the messages and ideas and add a trusted external perspective to our processes.

I'm wary, however, of so-called "coaching" programs offered by some big-name consultants. These are devices, I'm afraid, to generate ongoing revenue for the consulting organization while using much lower level talent than the consulting leader who attracted the interest. I pass on these offers.

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