Brian Casel
Brian Casel
Founder Designer Builder

My customers' challenges

Brian Casel
March 9th, 2020

What's the point of exercise?

With practice and consistency, you get stronger. Then you can leverage that strength to move faster, feel better, and achieve more.

That's how I think about the practice of understanding your customer.

The better you understand them, the easier it is to relate to them, to find more of them, to build better solutions for them.

You're never finished understanding your customer. You just understand more and more about them.

Today I'm running another rep of this exercise in understanding my customer. I have asked a lot of questions. I have done the analysis. Now I'm verbalizing (err, writing) my understanding.

Who is my customer?

They're in client services. Probably in digital services (design, development, marketing). They have a team or intend to in the near future. They're in the process of scaling up beyond themselves.

But that only scratches the surface.

Here's what really matters:

Understanding their challenges

Their frustrations; Their nagging, unanswered questions; Their aspirations they're working toward; Their roadblocks.

Being able to list these challenges is one thing. Understanding how your customer thinks about their challenges is really what you're after.

Why does your customer see these things as challenging? Which words do they use they describe these challenges? How have they dealt with these challenges, or attempted to?

Every time I practice understanding my customer—especially when I write it down—I feel stronger at coming up with solutions for my customer.

So here we go:

The 5 challenges faced by those scaling client services

If you're in the business of scaling client services, the following five challenges should ring true. Even if you think you’ve figured these out, they return again as your business’ reaches new heights.

Hustling gets old

When you were a freelance consultant, you did it all. But as your business grows, doing it all doesn’t work like it used to.

This becomes apparent slightly too late and that can feel overwhelming. You know you need to figure out how to “remove yourself” from the day-to-day, but damnit, if only you weren’t so busy, maybe you’d have time to figure that out!

Clients are great or (really) bad

You’ve had some really great clients through the years. The ones who “get it”. The ones who pay on time. The ones who bring out your best work and remind you why you do this for a living.

Then there’s the rest of them. The ones who haggle over every billable hour. The ones who strip the life out of your creations. The ones who send shivers down your spine at just seeing their name in your inbox. You know the ones.

You try to be choosy with who you take on... Until another cash crunch hits. You try to set clear expectations but some people just don't seem to see or hear those.

If only your business could attract only the good clients in the first place!

Hiring is harder than not hiring

Your workload has doubled and you need some help. But the thought of hiring someone new only feels like more work. So you power through it, burning yourself and your team out by working overtime to meet the demand.

Or, you add new team members at an urgent pace. You rush through through the vetting process and end up with people who don’t meet your standards. Now you’re tangled in a mess of frustrating communications, unmet deadlines, and re-doing work.

If only you could calmly and strategically grow your team before the wave hits.

Clients can seem irrationally demanding

They don’t know what they want, but they know that your first pass wasn’t it.

They require you and your team to put in more hours than you anticipated—even though, technically, you’re still “in scope”.

They eat away at your time and patience with phone calls and meetings that last twice as long as they should.

Here’s the thing: In your clients' eyes, they hired your service as an alternative to hiring someone in-house. They demand a better value.

You might hate to admit it, but sometimes that demand is justified. If only you had a way to deliver that value without pulling your hair out!

When will this business pay off?

Year after year, you toil away, signing client after client, delivering service after service. You’re making a pretty good living at it, right now.

But it sure does feel tiring a lot of time. And you wonder how long you can keep it going. Is there a big pay day in your future? Will you have the freedom to ride off into the sunset?

Whatever that future payoff is, it's not visible through the fog that’s immediately in front of you.

You start to wonder: What makes this client service business valuable, besides… me? Could I sell my business someday? If so, what would it be worth? What could make it worth more?

These challenges are real, and they’re not unique. Everybody in client services has dealt with them and will continue to have to deal with them—certainly myself included.

They won’t ever be solved.

As long as client services businesses exist, so will these challenges.

I have tasked myself with doing work that helps people through. I offer guidance to navigate these challenges and tools to reduce or eliminate the blockers.

That’s my customer, their challenges, and mine.

Two of my favorite products I created to date are specifically aimed at this customer:

My Productize Course & Community—For those leveraging the productized service model (like I have multiple times) to scale and grow their client services business.

And ProcessKit—A software product I designed and purpose-built for running process-driven repeatable projects in a client services business.

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