Yes, if clients don’t give you information, it is your problem.
Has this ever happened to you? You have a client, and you rely on them to get your work done. They are supposed to supply you with the information you need, but you can’t get it from them.
You have to ask, cajole and convince so that you can deliver.
We call this execution friction.
It happens all the time, and the questions that reveal it are things like:
- what is my responsibility for chasing down information?
- what do I do if I can’t get my client to respond when I need them to?
- how do I get information from my clients?
Sound familiar? If so, read on – I’ll take you through BigBuzz’s experience and explain how to move beyond execution friction while using it to create incredibly sticky solutions.
BigBuzz Social media
BigBuzz (not a real name, but a real story) had a problem. Their core business is to post on social media. Their clients provide topics and information, and BigBuzz generates big buzz by posting it.
They needed the information on Friday and used to ask for it on Thursday. But they never got it in time, so they went to Wednesday, then Tuesday, and BigBuzz ended up spending all of this week chasing information they’d need for next week.
Without the input, BigBuzz couldn’t do their job; they’d have nothing to post.
Not just a social media problem
We’ve seen this with social media and marketing, but also accounting, bookkeeping, design, writing, content creation, website building, and on and on. Any situation where you need information from the client is prone to execution friction.
The friendly, albeit misguided, advice that people will whisper in your ear is to change the service level agreement, communicate more clearly or dump the client.
If you follow that route, you end up parsing the work more precisely in a mind-numbing exercise that drives everybody nuts. It also creates more work than existed before implementing the solution in the first place. Or you fire the client.
But you still can’t get your work done.
The real problem
We’re all for specificity and firing clients, but that isn’t the core problem here.
You can get as specific as you want, but the issue is that the client doesn’t know how to provide you with the information you need, or they don’t want to, and they don’t have time.
Clients hired BigBuzz because they don’t have the time or interest to publish on social media.
Clients wanted the peaceful nirvana of knowing that their social media presence was handled.
Then BigBuzz starts pestering for information: What should I post? What do you want to say? What are the topics?
The client company, already annoyed and without interest in social media, had to go back to figuring out what content should be posted.
The content didn’t go out, or it went out poorly, and everybody was unhappy.
The reason wasn’t service level agreements. The problem was that BigBuzz didn’t solve the client’s pain. The client and BigBuzz thought there they were (for a time anyway), but they weren’t.
The client still had to figure out what to post even though they hired someone to do it for them.
Clients would stick around for a while until they realized that working with BigBuzz was painful, and they would look for someone else.
There are oodles of opportunities in getting this right because most businesses get this wrong.
Most businesses define what they do in terms of their work rather than the solution they offer.
“I post for you on social media” was the work BigBuzz did. But this wasn’t enough. It didn’t solve the whole problem because the client still had to do too much work. They still had to think about something they didn’t want to think about. BigBuzz had defined the work, but not a solution.
How to solve the problem and create a sticky solution
Here is the good news: the most challenging part is identifying the pain. In the case of execution friction, you know exactly where the pain is.
Start asking why: why don’t they get back to you? Or, why is it so hard to get information from them?
BigBuzz’s clients didn’t get back to them because the person in charge didn’t know what to say. They said, “help us with social media posting”; what they meant was, “please make the entire process go away.”
So, dive into that friction, then think about how you can fix it. What process can you implement or framework can you design to reduce the pain?
Creating the solution takes some thinking. But, once you have figured it out, you will deliver nirvana, not just work. Everybody will love you and your work will be easier.
The BigBuzz solution
Once they got this, BigBuzz pounced. They realized that they could make everybody’s life easier with a content calendar process.
They came up with easy questions to ask the client to discover exciting topics. They changed the process from a weekly grind to a monthly phone call.
On the call, they identified topics and gathered language from the client on that phone call by letting them talk. BigBuzz asked questions, clarified issues and from that call created several blog posts and social media posts – enough for the entire month.
The clients loved the results, and BigBuzz went from trying to figure out how to get people to give them information to find people to write blog posts and post on social media. They couldn’t hire fast enough.
So what is the process:
- Identify your avatar. Yes, this is always the case. If you are in business and have an execution= friction problem, you know your avatar: your client.
- Get specific about the root problem. Why does friction keep appearing? What is going on? Not sure? Ask your client this is the most straightforward market research you will ever do. Pick up the phone and ask: how can we make what we do better? What is hard for you.
- Develop a solution to the root problem. Innovate, design, develop a way to do what you do to address their root problem.
- Test this with your client.
- Implement it across the board.
Not just for social media
This is true for industries across the board. I went through this exercise for an iron ore producer selling (literal) boatloads of iron ore. And, we have seen it transform companies in accounting, web design, public relations, and everything in between.