Independent counselors: find your business bright spots

Working in the service industry as independent counselors do, we’re sometimes the worst judges of what makes our own service special. What do we do best? Why should someone choose us over the competition? What’s our competitive advantage in a landscape with multiple options for families looking to hire a consultant? We might think we know the answers to these questions. But the truth is that we don’t get to decide what makes us remarkable. Our customers do. So here’s a better path to finding your business’s bright spots.

Listen to your customers when they thank you.

Now that the seniors on your caseload likely know where they are headed to college, have they and their parents expressed their thanks? And if so, what exactly did they thank you for?

Did they point out how encouraging you were? How much their student enjoyed meeting with you? How well you kept in contact with the parent, or established realistic expectations, or exposed them to the wonderful schools they’d previously never heard of?

When a new family calls after being referred by a current or former customer, ask what the referrer had to say about their experience. Whatever the answer, it’s what a satisfied customer appreciated enough to remark to their friends about. That kind of free feedback is more valuable than that from any paid focus group.

If your customers are regularly expressing their thanks, it’s likely in praise of similar behaviors or outcomes. Whether or not you think those characteristics are what you do best, it’s clearly what your customers seem to appreciate about you. That’s your business bright spot. And unless that bright spot is an element you really don’t want to embrace, it’s worth following that strength.

Identify what your customers appreciate most about what you do for them, then find ways to magnify that strength. How could you deliver even more or better versions of what they’re predisposed to be delighted by? How could you incorporate those elements into your website and your literature and your promises?

Sometimes the people viewing us are in the best position to see the bright spots.