Knowing Your Clients’ Industries Builds Their Trust In You
by Sarah Warlick, writer and copy editor
Clients expect you to understand your own industry, but you can really impress them by showing you know about their field as well. Sure, you studied accounting, law, engineering or IT in school and your years of professional experience have made you a real expert, if you do say so yourself. That’s fantastic and something to be proud of, but it’s also some what of an anticlimax. The accountant who knows accounting. The attorney knows law. Big whoop. It is a big deal, but it also isn’t, if you follow me.
Your clients count on you to know all the ins and outs of your field so that you can help them save money, plan appropriately and remain compliant. But to get their undying loyalty, the key is to know their industry inside and out. Having a real understanding of what’s happening below the surface in their market segment will gain a new level of respect from your clients.
That’s partly because of the flattery factor. Everyone likes to feel their own area of knowledge is central, fascinating and worthy of study. It’s more fun to talk with others who share your level of understanding on a given topic, too. But by really grasping the industry trends and the more subtle dynamics of your clients’ professional milieus, you’ll be able to show them financial projections, detailed business plans and smart long-term strategies that couldn’t come about if you were limited to a more general understanding of their work.
Obviously you can’t know all there is to know about every industry out there. Chances are, though, that many of your clients fall into a few industry segments. Your firm probably makes legitimate claims to specialize in serving a couple or a handful of specific industries. You may already have that expertise I’m suggesting you attain. What’s important is that you let your clients know about this differentiator. They may assume that you know enough to get by but have no idea you really “get it.”
Keep up with the industries that are important to your clients by reading industry news and attending their conferences when possible. You’ve got better access to this kind of information than ever before, with the proliferation of curated sites and online journals for every market segment under the sun. Set up a reader notification for terms and industry news, frequent the forums where your clients and their industry leaders lurk, generally stalk the industry as though you were an aspiring job applicant or a serious investor.
Then let your client base in on your expertise with blog posts, online conversations and targeted newsletters to members of the industry in question. Tweet important news and follow important leaders. There’s no reason that you can’t also be a thought leader in a few other industries outside of your own (that happen to be those your major clients are in).
The rules are the same as they are when you establish yourself in your own field: be polite, listen well, speak wisely and contribute regularly. Beyond those basics, have a blast! It’s fun to engage with others who share your interests, and diving into the conversation in another industry will lead to newfound respect among your current clients as well as the rest of your audience, who will now see you as the ideal service provider. After all, who would they rather entrust their business to than an expert in their own field?