How to turn your existing tools and knowledge into killer resources for your customers.
“It looks like he’s been eating 25 crickets a day for the last couple of weeks. We dusted them on Monday, so you’ll want to do it again on Thursday. I’ll make sure you get a copy of the feeding log in your packet so you can keep track.”
That’s a common interaction at my company, an amazing pet store in Portland, OR. We keep track of what all the animals eat so we can make sure they are getting enough of the right nutrition.
When one of these animals goes home with an excited new pet owner, we take a lot of time explaining everything they need to know to make sure the animal is healthy and happy and that the new owner has the best possible experience.
One of the ways we do this is to equip them with lots of tools like care sheets, handouts, and forms to keep track of important indicators of health. The nice thing about all the materials we send them home with is that we didn’t have to create them from scratch; they are the same tools we use in the store to train new staff, monitor the animals, and document any changes.
I’m a big fan of turning existing internal resources into a kind of enhanced experience tool for my customers. Elsewhere, resources like the feeding logs aren’t something that would normally be given to new pet parents. Most people don’t even know about them.
Stuff like this is usually only used by the ultra-nerdy (affectionately) or the professionals.
There’s a reason those groups use tools like feeding logs: they help make sure everything goes right and they make it easier to do a good job. They make success consistently attainable.
You use similar tools in your work. You have checklists, systems, trainings. Even if you are a one-person show or don’t have lots of processes, you have knowledge that you repeatedly apply in the same ways.
Many of those existing tools and bits of knowledge can be great resources for your customers that will help enhance the experience both of doing business with you as well as help them get better results in their projects.
Getting those tools into the hands of your customers can also make your job easier, less stressful, and net better results all while further elevating the perception of your expertise and value.
Going through the process of making some of your systems customer-facing has a lot of benefits:
- For your customers, there’s just something cool about seeing how the professionals do it. They get a glimpse into your world, kind of a mini-behind the scenes tour.
- Internally, it forces you to really cement the processes, tools, or systems. This can be helpful for maintaining consistency, training new people, or building your manuals.
- These tools also make great subjects for creating content (blog posts, newsletter, social media, handouts) and encouraging interactions with your business.
- They can help set the tone for working with you. By sharing information about your industry or process and maybe getting customers to do a little pre-work you encourage good follow through.
“But my secrets!”
Businesses in the same industry mostly do things the same way. You may have a few tweaks, but the core is very similar. There just aren’t that many secrets.
Try Googling your field and a specific process. I’ll bet you get A LOT of results that are slight variations on what you do.
Most of the information you are going to share with your customers can be found in some form or another online already. The benefit of presenting this information in a packaged form is that you get to showcase your skills and knowledge — you get to be the resource, the expert.
“Other businesses will copy me/steal my processes!”
As in the above point, you probably aren’t doing things very differently than others.
More importantly, very few businesses would be willing to change their processes, create new programs, rewrite their manuals, or retrain their staff. They either aren’t motivated enough or there won’t be enough upside to change.
“If I give customers my resources they won’t need ME!”
Your customers are coming to you for your experience, knowledge, and expertise. These resources help further your reputation with prospective clients, not derail them from coming to you for help. Additionally, they help create a great ongoing experience with your customers.
Imagine you are starting to work with a freelance writer. As part of her new client process, she sends you a worksheet to help brainstorm ideas for blog posts — the very same sheet she uses to organize her own writing process.
It includes exercise to help you come up with topics, fill in supporting details, and create related social media posts. What a great tool!
Her services aren’t devalued by supplying the worksheet. It’s actually the opposite: you’re more excited to work with her, you feel ownership and control, and you are able to get to get better results (awesome blog posts) faster.
The tools you supply to your customers will do the same thing.
You will find that once you have one or two of these resources available for your customers you will use it all the time. I challenge you to create just one of these so you can see how often you put it into the hands of your customers.
I’m going to walk you through creating your first resource in just a few steps:
- Identify opportunities to turn an existing asset into something for your customers.
- Decide format and distribution. Is it a pamphlet? A spreadsheet? A checklist? How do you get it to your customers? Hand it to them? Ask them to download it?
- Create the darn thing. Outline, fill in the details, formatting, final draft.
- Use it! Time to start getting your awesome new resource out there!
Let’s get started!
1. Identify Opportunities
This is often the most challenging step. The difficulty lies in the Curse of Knowledge. It’s very hard for us to know or understand what other people don’t know. What to you is common knowledge may be a complete mystery to someone else.
Start by looking at some of your most-used resources, tools, and processes. Also think about the most frequent questions you are asked, or the concepts you most frequently explain. Those are all good starting points.
Here are a few other prompts:
- Answers to frequently asked questions – most people answer the same few questions over and over. Write down your standard answers and your customers will think you’re reading their minds.
- Favorite internally used tools – software or physical. What’s your favorite industry website? What’s the most-reached-for tool in your toolbox?
- Trainings you give to new staff – what do you make sure your people know before they start? Your customers want to know too.
- Notes or handouts from education (seminars, classes, expos) – give your customers some insider knowledge.
- Best practices in your profession – standards that outsiders might not know.
And a few specific ideas to get you going:
|If you have a...||You might give away...|
|Marketing company||A new client evaluation that helps you understand their needs. As a free tool, it helps them evaluate their own situation and understand where they need the most help.|
|Chiropractor||A series of pamphlets explaining how to do the exercises you recommend for specific conditions. You are already showing these to people and probably giving them resources created by someone else. Make your own!|
|Landscaper||A seasonal checklist outlining all the things that need to happen to prepare for the upcoming season.|
|Interior Designer||A list of your top magazines, websites, and online tools. Go through your browser history, make note of the most frequented sites, and create a great resource.|
|Fitness coach||Any kind of pre-written plan you distribute to new clients like equipment suggestions or premade workouts.|
To you, these probably aren’t amazing, game-changing resources. They are things you use daily to do your job.
But to your clients, these are inside secrets, tools of the trade, and a chance to do things like the professionals.
2. Decide on a format
This largely depends on how you interact with your customers. If you primarily see them face to face, some kind of physical handout might be best. If you deal mostly online, a PDF download might be in order.
My suggestion is that you start with a Word or Google Doc document that you either hand out or have people download. Checklists or resource guides are always popular, and can be created quickly by you.
Here’s a sample template to get you started: click to download.
The key point here: don’t get too hung up on perfection. It’s better to have a simple checklist you make in Google Docs NOW than to have a beautiful interactive iPhone app eight months from now.
Your finished handout should be high quality and well thought out, but it doesn’t have to look like something out of a graphic design competition.
If you are comfortable putting it together yourself, go for it!
If you think your best effort isn’t quite there, get some help! Go as far as you can with it, then enlist someone with a knack for making things look good. I guarantee someone in your circle can put a few finishing touches on your work to make it pop.
4. Use it
You’ve put in all this effort, now use the thing! If it’s a download, put it on your website or mention it on Facebook. If it’s a handout, give it to everyone you talk to.
Don’t be shy about getting this resource to your customers. You’ve created something valuable, so give them the chance to use it!
You can probably distribute your resource in multiple ways:
- As a handout you give to potential customers the first time you meet.
- In exchange for someone’s contact information — a lead magnet.
- Via a link In your email signature.
- Through a partner business. If you are a massage therapist, team up with a chiropractor and recommend each other.
- As pamphlets in your store/office.
Ready to get started?
I hope your gears are turning and the ideas are swirling around. As with most things, the trick is getting started.
Take a few minutes right now and jot down some ideas about what resource you can create for your customers.
If you get stuck, post your business and one or two ideas in the comments. We’ll brainstorm together!