You don't know what you don't know
I had arranged a meeting with a client to introduce their new key account manager. Moments before we were ushered into the meeting room, the key account manager quickly pulled me to one side and whispered: "what do they do again?"
I'll never forget it because it was a moment I had been in myself many times.
All too often my best intentions to learn about my clients and prepare for meetings disappeared in smoke because I was too busy putting out fires to figure out what caused the blaze.
Has that ever happened to you?
There are some other reasons to stay on top of what's going on with your client. A leadership shuffle, mergers and acquisitions, financial results can all have a big impact on your relationship. These are major triggers that could spell trouble for your current partnership and you do not want to be in the dark.
How do you get started researching your client when you don't have time to scratch yourself?
The easy way to do client research
A little effort now setup your client research and email notifications will save you from hours of work later when you need the information. There's no denying you'll need to invest some time, but once it's done it takes care of itself.
So let's get into three of my favourite ways you can simplify and automate your client research:
LinkedIn is the easiest place for researching your client. You’re able to build and engage your professional network, access knowledge, insights and opportunities. Here's what to do:
- Follow your clients’ company page on LinkedIn.
- Follow your main point of contact and any other important decision makers and influencers.
- What groups do they belong to – join them?
- What associations are they in – follow them.
- Look at job vacancies. What kind of roles (if any) have they recruited for this year? What might that tell you about them? Create a job alert to monitor new roles your client is recruiting for.
Once you've done all that visit the email preferences in LinkedIn to send updates from your network to your inbox.
2. Create alerts
There is a wealth of information online about your client. Set up an alert service based on keywords and it will monitor social networks, news sites and blogs and send you a notification when it discovers information. My favourite is TalkWalker:
- Talkwalker alerts
Social monitoring tool that allows you to track your client or any other topic and receive notifications when it discovers a mention. More robust than Google alerts because it includes Twitter, has greater filtering options, and Boolean operators can be used to narrow down the results and only see the most relevant ones.Track clients, industry trends, hashtags and more.
- Google alerts
Set up your search query, choose your sources and how often you want to be notified and Google will monitor the web for any interesting activity. The configuration options are limited, and the results aren’t always relevant.
- Warble alerts
Get once-a-day email alerts for Twitter. You can track keywords, phrases, #hashtags, @mentions and more.
3. News services
There are a number of apps that allow you to consolidate your news feeds and subscribe to content based on keywords, topic and interests. These are helpful to stay informed on current news and trends that impact your client and their industry. Nudge and Owler are my favourites.
Brilliant time-saving tool that looks up information based on your email contacts. Install the add-on and every time you open an email you'll see your clients' news, mentions found from across the web, tweets, networks and lots more.
Follow companies you want to research and Owler will send you the latest industry news and alerts. They have two email types: Instant Insights for big announcements like acquisitions and leadership changes and a Daily snapshot of curated news stories and blog posts on followed companies.
Next-generation news monitoring and research tool, Nuzzel creates a news feed based on what you, your friends and friends of friends. Simply connect your social media accounts, like Twitter and LinkedIn and you’ll get a daily digest by email. You can even create a daily newsletter with relevant articles with commentary and share it among your network.
One of the most popular news aggregators – simply search for your favourite topics or specific news sites, add companies and people you want to follow for a personalised news feed.
Researching your client is useless if you don't take action.
Use the information you discover as a springboard to greater insights. If you spot a headline that intrigues you, read it, and follow the threads to understand what it means for your client and for you.
An opportunity? A risk? Good news or bad news for your partnership?
Often these updates are simply a great way to network and engage with your client. For example, perhaps they won an innovation award. That might not have a direct impact on the solution you provide, but it does give you an excuse to pick up the phone and call your client to congratulate them and learn more.
If you find anything relevant to your teams - share it and let them know why it's important. Everyone at your organisation is a stakeholder in your clients' success - so make it easy for them.
Researching your client could be a full-time job if you let it, so keep it in perspective.
Stay on top of current news and events and dig deeper as the information and the situation dictates. Translate your discoveries into strategic plans that seize opportunities or mitigate risk.
And remember to enjoy the journey - learning is fun and your clients will really appreciate the effort you've made to understand them.