This is a guest post by Elmer Boutin.
I read with great interest Eric’s post of January 31, 2012 entitled Do things when you should … not when you have to. I agree with what he wrote, and it really got me going about something I’ve been mulling over in my head for several weeks: An educated and knowledgeable client is better than an ignorant one – especially if you want to help them do things at the right time.
I have a day job, but I do consult with small businesses and nonprofits on a regular basis. When I started consulting, I would do most of the work and not show anyone how to do for themselves or why I did what I did.
While I understand some clients want and need someone to just do for them, I found I really liked teaching, and those to whom I took the time to explain things responded quite well. After consulting gigs where I taught the client in more of a mentoring-like setting, I found the experience exhilarating. Teaching allowed me to have a positive impact in someone else’s efforts by giving them confidence they could maneuver around marketing technologies.
Even better, those people now had the knowledge to make better and informed decisions about strategy and tactics in their online efforts. This actually makes my work a lot easier.
Recently, I was helping the owners of a restaurant in a touristy part of Texas. They wanted to get some social media going, but had no idea where to start. For our first meeting, I put together a presentation which introduced concepts and gave suggestions on where to begin their efforts. After they digested the information and were ready to proceed, we met again. This time, I sat behind them at their computer as we walked through setting up accounts on social sites, claimed their name and location on those sites and even set up “check in” discounts.
While I know it may have been overwhelming at first, they soon got the idea and by the end of the afternoon they were claiming their spaces and setting up deals without much input from me. We’ll need to meet again to go over more advanced concepts, but I knew I did well when they emailed me the next day with the great news that several customers had already checked in and took advantage of their 10% off deals. That gave me (and I’m sure them, too) a great sense of accomplishment.
By taking a teaching/mentoring approach, my clients have become smarter. They have the confidence to move forward, to work online for their business as well as they do offline. They are learning how to “adapt and overcome” to the constant change of the online landscape.
To get back to Eric’s idea: How do we get clients to do things when they should rather than when they have to? We teach them. If we’re going to expect our clients to make those timely decisions, we have to equip them to do so. We have to give them the background knowledge to be able to look at what’s going on around them and be able to ask the smart questions. We have to develop trust with them and establish that we are the experts in whatever field we consult on – and if we can do that before the first time the client calls, all the better.
“How do I do that?” you may be asking yourself. Here’s your tip on doing something when you should: If you just asked yourself that question, then follow Eric’s (and my) lead, start a web site and start sharing some of your knowledge. Go! Do it now! If you want some advice on how to do it, ask in the comments and I’ll show you where you can get information to get going. Read the post I linked to in the preceding paragraph and see how someone else established credibility in their field to the betterment of their business.
As you take on the role of coach/mentor/teacher, both you and your clients will benefit.
Elmer Boutin is a Marketing Technologist and has worked in web marketing for almost 15 years. His first experience was as a free-lancer doing web sites for local businesses such as car dealerships and an art gallery. Later, he ran an online rental property referral web site aimed at assisting military people find homes before they moved. He’s currently Webmaster at a Texas-based decorative surfaces manufacturer. You can read more articles by Elmer at http://www.
Image Credit: education By Sean MacEntee on flickr