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Great Expectations

In psychology, the Law of Expectation states that 85% of what you expect to happen…will. The theory is that our subconscious mind controls our behavior, moving us in the direction of our expectations. In business then, if you apply this theory, you can consciously adopt a positive expectation of success (crucially it’s about our realistic expectations, not our wishes…no genie in the lamp situation I’m afraid)

For success in business, the importance of expectations goes further than that. It’s about the fundamental interaction of client and company expectations. Regardless of the size of your business, successfully setting (and managing) expectations is crucial to building trust, loyalty, and prosperous relationships. Your firm, your success, and your future depends on your clients after all, and with advances in technology client expectations are naturally evolving too, so it’s more important than ever to stay one step ahead of the game. Setting expectations will help with a whole host of business goals, not least enabling you to increase productivity and mitigate risk leaving little room for unwelcome surprises or negative outcomes. Sounds good right? But how best to do this?

Since our clients’ needs evolve at every stage of their interaction with your business, expectation setting should be tailored to each stage of the journey. Let’s break it down…

Stage 1 – Attracting Clients

When trying to attract your ideal client, it’s best to nail down your company’s position so that expectations are set at the get-go. Think about determining the type of businesses you want to work with and even the characteristics of your ideal client. Think carefully about your business ethos and stay true to this. Will your client be a good fit? Once identified, carefully tailor your marketing strategy to reach out to your ideal client. For example, make sure that your website and social media portrays what you are about and that it will appeal to the right people for you. Be very specific too, in documenting your services – the more specific the better! Detail what you do and how you do it. Include how you can be contacted and even your response rate as your availability is key.

Stage 2 – They’re On Board – Now What?

So you’ve attracted your ideal client and they are onboard the boat as it were. Hurrah! Now to formalise things. Create clear contracts and letters of engagement to set out your terms and remember to include client responsibilities as well as your own. Expectation setting is a two-way street; the client must understand what is expected of them in order for you to deliver back. Offer support and technology training where necessary – getting them up to speed with your workflow processes now will save time being lost later on. Make the most of face to face start-up meetings to confirm client goals and set out and record a clear and personalized action plan that you are both agreed on.

Be realistic here – don’t overpromise. But be prepared to be adaptable and flexible in your approach along the way.

Stage 3 – Along The Way

So the client is sailing along now – their projects are in progress and your relationship ongoing. Keeping a clear channel of communication open along the way is crucial. Be honest and transparent. Even with the best-laid plans it’s inevitable that things won’t always go exactly as designed, but if you can stay one step ahead – anticipating when things might not go as expected and keeping your client in the loop – then trust is maintained and the foundations of a great rapport already set can be built on. Flexibility is key here too. Listen and respond to your client and review workflow processes and terms of engagement as necessary.

Try to think like your customer too and what works or doesn’t from their point of view.

Stage 4 – Future Opportunities

Once your client relationships are cemented and goals achieved, keep looking ahead. Is there an opportunity to expand your services and set new expectations? Continue to communicate with review meetings and take client feedback seriously, reviewing your workflow processes as appropriate. Consider perhaps re-engaging your clients after a period of 12 months – you can offer new services and reconfirm your commitment to each other. Remember also to stay on top of technology to keep you up to date in the marketplace and offer new and improved solutions to your clients.

If you can do all this, then that is surely a win-win situation for your clients and your business alike.

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