Share Your “Here’s-How-I-Wowed-My-Client” Story…

The “APPETIZER” Series: The original version of this piece first appeared as an Appetizer course in The Well-Fed E-PUB in December 2015, and was one I wanted to run as a blog post (with minor alterations) in order to get input from many voices.

So I’m on the phone a few weeks back with one of my long-time commercial writing clients (a husband/wife graphic design team). We’re reviewing feedback from their client on the first draft of copy I’d turned in a few weeks earlier.

One of the items their client wanted clarification on was a claim I was making about the impact of a particular resource (an online encyclopedia the client sponsors) on both teacher and student performance in the classroom.

They wanted to know what I was basing that assertion on. That’s easy, I said: In the annual report I had done for this same client the prior year, we did a small feature/success story on this particular resource, and the classroom teacher I interviewed for the story shared its impact, and that revelation made it into the story.

In working on this new project (a rebranding initiative for the client), I needed to refer to this resource and why it was important. As such, in order to refresh my memory about it, I dug up the earlier project, and found the reference.

Given that part of the rebranding process entailed gathering information on the difference that this client’s organization made, I felt it fitting to reiterate what the teacher had said.

Once I explained to my copywriting clients where it had come from, there was a silence on the other end of the line, and one of them said something in a soft voice. I missed it, so I asked if he could repeat it, and he said, “No writer does that.”

I laughed, and asked what he meant, and he replied, “I’ve just never had a writer go that extra mile to add color to a new project.”

Naturally, we writers live to hear stuff like that, but at the same time, I thought to myself, “It’s really no big deal.” And it wasn’t. But, the fact is, it’s not very common, either.

In truth, I did it, first and foremost, to refresh my memory about the resource in question. But, once I got there, I saw the possibility of spicing up the current project with some interesting tidbits from the earlier one.

Since my goal, when doing any project, is always to make it as interesting as possible, and to increase the odds that that piece I’m creating—whatever it is—will get read, it was a no-brainer to include it.

Bottom line, I walked away from the exchange with yet another “shareable” clue as to how you can easily set yourself apart from the herd, and build gratitude, respect, and—most importantly—loyalty, with your clients.

Have a similar story of standing out in a client’s mind?

Did you think it was all that big a deal, or just what you consider baseline professionalism?

How hard do you think it is to go that extra mile?

If you have that “extra-mile” mentality, how did you develop it?

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8 replies
  1. Lori
    Lori says:

    I try to do that every time. Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s not possible. Depends on the project.

    First time I remember going the extra mile was an article I’d written on some concept that Enron had introduced into risk management. This was at the same moment Enron was imploding under scandal. But I called them anyway, explaining the article. The PR contact listened, but she said they had no comment at that time (understandably — she was probably packing up her office). So I wrote it up with an “Enron declined to comment” explanation. My boss was thrilled — I’d actually tried!

    In that instance, it was a simple phone call. It impressed the editor and maybe a few readers.

    To me? It’s the minimum we should do for our clients. If I see a study or a chart or even an idea I’m not going to write about, I send it along. I’ve given clients advice that they’re free to take or reject, but that will position them better or help them avoid embarrassment.

    For me, standing out starts with listening — really listening — when a client speaks. I have some clients right now who say I “get” them. It’s not hard if you stop thinking about how you’ll do this project and start listening to how they’d like to have it done. It’s also not hard if you put the time into understanding who they are and what they do and where they’re trying to go.

    I guess that’s an extra-mile mentality. For me it is.

  2. Peter Bowerman
    Peter Bowerman says:

    Love that story, Lori!

    Perfect example of something that took very little effort, but stood out in the client’s mind. I mean, even knowing going in the chances were slim you’d get a reply, why wouldn’t you try something like that?

    In your words, I get loud and clear, the idea of being a partner in your client’s business, not just a “service provider” or “vendor.”

    And, interestingly, it’s sharing with them the stuff that you know you’re NOT going to use in your writing that can be most impressive to them; it shows them you’re thinking beyond the parameters of the project and about them and their company.

    Thanks, as always, for weighing in!

  3. Cathy Miller
    Cathy Miller says:

    It’s interesting how a client’s definition of “extra-mile” is “no big deal” to a professional writer. It’s also a sad commentary to realize clients are surprised by it because they so seldom encounter that “extra” effort.

    I recently finished an ebook for a client. I felt it was important I included outside, credible resources for his approach to the topic so it didn’t come off sounding like a purely self-serving sales pitch. When he received the draft, he seemed awestruck and said, “You have validated my life’s work with the research you shared. I can’t tell you what that means to me.”

    Like you and Lori, I really did not see it as a “big deal,” but rather doing my best work for him.

  4. Peter Bowerman
    Peter Bowerman says:

    Thanks for this, Cathy, and SO true! It IS a sad commentary on the state of “service,” that things that we consider “all in a day’s work” are deemed extra-special efforts by clients. But hey, that’s the reality, and it only makes it easier to shine. And that’s a good thing.

    To my mind, this is very much akin to the whole reliability/dependability issue. We’re living in a time where so many people have such a casual relationship with their “word.” Point being, if you DO indeed do what you say you’re going to do, and when you say you’re going to do it, given how relatively rare that is in this day and age, you’ll stand out. To us, it’s an easy no-brainer, but it WILL impress clients.

    Bottom line, it’s really, truly not that difficult to impress a client, and we’d all be crazy not to take advantage of that fact. And this is especially true for those in the early days of their business, who might not have the big portfolio yet, but they want to grow and thrive. Here’s one serious shortcut.

  5. Star
    Star says:

    Under promise, over deliver–was always my motto. I am amazed today to see that it is not always the mantra. I get so many crafts people who want top dollar from me for house projects and leave the premises unraked or even unblown (leaf blowers and men, a love story). A couple walked off a job when I, shocked, gimped to the door to say please don’t cut down my trees! They were cutting down my trees! This was not the plan, needless to say…Back in the day, I used to keep up with clients–send them clippings I found, urls, tidbits of interest. One thing I did not like being asked to do for the same money was gather the art.

  6. Peter Bowerman
    Peter Bowerman says:

    Thanks Reba, yes it is! And given how rare it is for people to even get what they DID pay for, you’ll really stand out if you give them more.

    Thanks, Star, as always! And yes, it’s my mantra/motto as well. Sure the nay-saying side of me might say, in response to that motto, “Oh, you’re just afraid to own what you’re good at.” But over time, I realized that focusing on being a writer, and claiming ONLY that skill, and then delivering it with a side of solid marketing advice, was a surefire way of satisfying and impressing clients.

    And don’t get me started on home-service-related folks and how often they disappoint. We could ALL talk about that till the cows come home and never get back to the subject at hand…;)

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