My lack of attention to my Hotmail account has burned me. On September 5, Steve Woodruff emailed me an invitation to participate in this month‚??s Branding Wire challenge. The problem? I only saw the email today, after reading some of the brilliant posts already out there.
So I called up Steve, explained my sad position and he was still gracious enough to extend the invitation. So here‚??s my response, which I hope doesn‚??t sound too much like what you‚??ve already read.
We are a small company based in Canada. We do just about everything IT: proactive work (such as network maintenance), monitoring of critical systems, emergency work (IT fixes, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week), new user set-ups, procurement of hardware and software (at a discount through our top vendors), consulting work (which can be anything from upgrading all 100 of your Windows computers to Macs, or something simple like what open-source software alternatives we would recommend instead of Photoshop).
We are also offering services in a new area called Green IT. It is all about transforming the way IT is used to help cut down on energy use and waste. Solutions could include datacenters with virtualized servers, remote access of datacenters (to keep the systems in a stable environment), or sending software electronically to eliminate packaging waste. We want to get more into this area!
It‚??s time to become established as an essential service provider of an essential service.
Your IT Service Provider, you probably know him as that quiet guy you periodically find in your office carrying some boxes, crawling into corners and has his shirt half tucked in. He‚??s a nice enough guy, but quiet. Reading the brief for this case, that‚??s exactly how I pictured IT Co.
The thing that you don‚??t give him enough credit for, though, is that he knows his stuff. And he he knows it way better than you can even fathom. Of course, you only learn this when he saves your business from an impending disaster. God Bless the IT Guy.
For the IT Co in this case, it‚??s time to start being a little bit more noticeable, a little more established and a little less reserved about what they can accomplish and what they know.
Ladies and gentlemen, it‚??s time that IT Co established their expertise ‚?? and started building word-of-mouth for their services. If ‚??customer don‚??t always understand the value of IT services,‚?Ě it‚??s time that they helped them understand.
‚?Ę Build better relationships
Call in for some pizza and run lunchtime tutorials at your client‚??s office. Prepare an IT 101 lesson plan and teach your clients and their employees the basics of how to troubleshoot on their own before they call you. Show them the easy tricks. Help them save money on calls and so forth.
And make it an open discussion. If things run off on a tangent, let it. Just answer their questions and give them an opportunity to tell you what they need to learn. And, remember, no question is too stupid. When the session is over, leave them with a recap document or get back to them with a PDF that summarizes the session.
‚?Ę Give away some smarts
Empower people with your knowledge. Create a series of white papers, post them to your blog and allow them to be downloaded for free. Ah, and speaking of your blog, get one. Go through the 4 Ps of Starting a Blog do it right from the start. Link to other services, link to IT definitions, become THE hub for all things IT.
Post videos, slideshows, invite guests ‚?? do everything and anything that puts your expertise up on a pedestal.
‚?Ę Become even more accessible
Respond to emails and comments as soon as humanly possible. Return phone calls before your client hangs up on your voicemail. Open a Twitter account, explain the value of the service to your clients ‚?? and use it as a living breathing resource of tips, links, fresh news. Feed their need to understand and learn about what you do. They‚??ll come to see you as being at the forefront of your industry. And, of course, Twitter is also a valuable way to help them get in touch with you.
‚?Ę Keyword targeted news releases
Announce your successes, new business contracts and growth to the world ‚?? and do it online strategically. This means thinking about what kinds of search terms you want results on. Find a natural way to use these terms in your press releases, and include links to your clients ‚?? which gives them some value as well.
‚?Ę Keep it simple
Remember, you said yourself that your clients have a hard time understanding your work. So keep things as simple as possible as much as possible. Never talk down to them and never talk over their heads. Explain things in their terms on their level. And this goes no matter which tactic you‚??re employing, whether suggested here or elsewhere for this case.
Thoughts on improving what IT Co is already doing
‚?Ę Monthly reports
Keep with the monthly reports, but please include an executive summary that highlights the three greatest advantages your client gained because of something you did for them. Highlight money saved, equipment salvaged, introductions you‚??ve made. Whatever they are, showcase the three best advantages to your service on one page. Keep it simple and clean ‚?? and do it every month.
‚?Ę Green IT
Every chance you get, emphasize the advantage of your Green IT service. Remind them on your stationery, highlight Green IT advantage in your monthly reports, tell clients about your successes with other clients, dedicate a section to this on your blog and/or website. Talk the talk and walk the walk every chance you get.
‚?Ę Non-profit clients
If your non-profit clients are like the ones I‚??ve worked with, they squeeze you for every dollar. That‚??s fine, but don‚??t be afraid to squeeze back a little to get full value out of them. For example, ask them for a testimonial ‚?? one that will speak to ALL potential clients. In other words, get them to describe in detail what your single biggest butt-saving act was and how it positively impacted their day-to-day business. Ask them for referrals, qualified leads. Work networking opportunities out of them, like invites to golf tournaments, fundraisers and functions. Don‚??t be shy; they‚??re not.
So there you have it, some thinking about IT Co. Let me know what you think and be sure to check out all the other great contributions.
And, the 3 guest bloggers this month:
BTW, Steve, thanks again for the invitation. Hope it‚??s the first of many.