Fierce honesty: The secret to long, lasting client relationships

Fierce honesty: The secret to long, lasting client relationships

Everyone wants to understand their prospective clients better. We all want to crack the code of what they want and how much they will pay for it.

But what if we have that wrong?

What if, the key to understanding prospective clients actually lies at the most unlikely of places: Your precious little feet.

Traditional marketing has gotten so wildly mis-aligned with reality that our poor little brains now wander through the world unsure of what is truly true anymore. We oscillate between skepticism and a deep need to trust what we see and hear. We WANT to believe the hype. But calling bullshit makes us feel like smartie-pantses. So we do that as well.

And what’s left for you, the entrepreneur, is a populous of potential clients and customers who both want to trust you, but who are also dying to poke holes in your well-curated value proposition.

It’s an imbalanced dance with a three-legged partner who has all left feet. And as we turn in circle after circle, we flood into our Facebook forums and Masterminds and networking groups, hunting for insight on how to be that rarefied business that get’s the balance just right. Where people trust you, and they just come charging in, wallets open, ready to throw money at you for every little thing you offer.

But we’re asking the wrong questions.

Instead of trying to figure out the hows and whys of cracking the compelling/magnetic business code, we should instead be asking:

How can we offer deep, fierce truth directly to the people who need it most?

trust fast -fierce honestySee, most of us spend a significant amount of time and energy building brands and businesses that WE would want to see in the world, instead of the ones that need to exist for the people we want to serve.

And then we fuck it up completely by employing the same bullshit marketing tactics everyone else does, and then mimicking the glossy, packaged behavior of the big, stupid, lying companies that drove us to entrepreneurship in the first place.

Why? Because we assume that if it worked for them, it will work for us. And sadly, it does. Big, ugly red buttons DO get clicked on more than small pretty ones. Creating a problem DOES get people thinking about needing an expensive solution. Enthusiastic, manipulative, shiny, ‘buy my thing and be just like ME‘ sales people DO make a fucking lot of money.

All true.

So why should you NOT do all that stuff if it works?

Because other things work too.

Things that don’t make you feel like you need to shower afterwards and that don’t just litter the world with more pointless, meaningless marketing-garbage.

And here’s the magical secret to the universe and all the riches and success you could ever want:


Drop your fucking ego.

Like right goddamn now.

You don’t matter when it comes to your client’s experience. They do.

[You get to matter later… we’ll get to that in a sec.]

In brand building, that means that you need to stop thinking about what you like or want, and start thinking about what’s best for the people you serve. What do THEY like? What do they need that you can provide?

This can [and should] affect every corner of your business. From your email interactions, to social media posts, to the fonts you choose, it’s not about your biases or convenience, it’s about theirs. It’s that simple. You work for them.

So, now that you think I’m actually telling you to bend over backwards at the expense of your own health sanity [I’m not saying that, just so we’re clear]…

The key to doing this effectively is to meet your needs first.

And meeting your needs means being exactly who you are.

If you don’t have an answer to a question, you say, “I don’t know, let me see if I can find out.” Because they need the answer and you can probably google it for them.

If you’re sick and have to miss a call, you say so. Because they are paying for your best. Not your worst. And you tell them that too. Because people need to be reminded that you are a human being, NOT a company, and so are they.

When I take on a new client, they learn three things about me before they ever sign a contract:

1. I will do whatever I can to help them in whatever way they need. And that means I will tell them no if I can’t help with something. Because sometimes the very best way you can have a client’s back is to tell them when you are outside your wheelhouse, or in over your head.

2. I only take calls three days per week, so I am very responsive via email. I set clear boundaries around how many emails are included in their contract, and humbly request that they are mindful of compiling questions and issues so that we can all keep track of things better.

3. I have severe endometriosis. It causes a fairly unpredictable and dramatic amount of pain that sometimes requires short project delays and call rescheduling. I tell them that this is rare, but probable over a project that lasts several months. And I reiterate that I have a team of people here to pick up the slack if I am indisposed.

And here’s the result of hearing those three things:

1. My clients feel confident asking me for all kinds of things and come back again and again. Because they know I will tell them ahead of time if there’s a learning curve for me on whatever they request, and they know that I will charge accordingly, or will send them elsewhere if it’s not my thing.

2. I currently manage 29 active clients and many more inactive ones (that often need smaller maintenance-related things). And I think I can safely say they would all be shocked to read that number. Because the result of carefully managing my inbox and call schedule, and not over-booking myself is that they feel as if I successfully deliver exactly what I promised. Because I do.

3. I loathe telling people about my health. If I could hide it completely, I would. And I used to. And when I did, the guilt of excuse-making and backpedaling to cover my frailties was far more crippling than the pain itself. And I had some very confused, disoriented, and sometimes angry clients who just couldn’t get how I could be so competent one day and so flaky the next. And I realized that as much as I cherished my privacy, and didn’t want to be defined by an illness, that way of thinking was NOT serving my clients. Now, instead of it defining me, eating me alive, it’s a simple and brief conversation. And when I crap out for a few days, I get emails and calls and sweet cards wishing me well from clients, instead of the ‘where the fuck are you?!’ ones I used to get years ago.

Being fiercely honest with your clients is about giving them what they need so that they can trust you as quickly as possible.

Because more trust = longer, lasting, repeating client relationships.

Because more trust = more authority capital.

Because more trust = more money for you.

Gloss and shine will only get you so far. Truth, authenticity, and genuine respect for the people you work with can take you all the way home.



This is the fourth of six posts I am publishing here on Makeness as part of The Bravery Blogging Project we are hosting.

To learn more about the project, participate in it, or read some of the remarkable posts by others, check out all the details here.

Should you be kind enough to share, please use the hashtag #braveblogging to help participants and readers connect with each other.

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