Most of us are like crazy chickens, focused solely on attraction and conversion.
We fail to see the biggest resource in our business—returning clients. If you're able to keep your existing clients and they buy everything in sight, you may never need new clients again.
But what magic spell would cause them to buy everything in sight? Incredibly, the answer is “feedback”.
Join us as we explore
Part 1: How do you get feedback? And when do you get feedback?
Part 2: Why safety plays a big role in feedback
Part 3: How to copy with feedback
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I’d been driving for about 5 years before I got to Auckland, New Zealand
When we moved here, however, my Indian driving license wasn’t valid and I had to sit for both the written and driving test. And I failed the first driving test within minutes. We barely got on the road, and down a slope when the assessor failed me. Ten minutes later, we were back where we started. As you’d expect, I was perplexed and wanted to know what I’d done wrong.
He wouldn’t tell me. “I’m not supposed to tell you what you’ve done wrong,” he said brusquely. “You’re supposed to drive correctly and when you make an error, I note the error and fail you, if necessary. And you’ve failed this test.”
This is often how we feel when clients won’t give us feedback on our products, services or courses.
But whose fault is it? Is it the client’s fault or ours? In most cases, we’re at fault, and this is because of a primary reason. We fail to figure out the difference between testimonials and feedback. We use the words interchangeably, and it gives the client the feeling they’re supposed to praise you all the time.
Praise is hard, because you want to reserve it for special occasions and anyway a constant stream of praise feels worthless. So the first task is to separate the concept of testimonials from feedback. The client should know clearly—and unequivocally—that they’re not praising you, but giving you feedback. Then, they should know that you’re going to do something with the feedback.
So how do you get feedback? And when do you get feedback?
Let’s take a look at three main areas of feedback and see how we can ensure we get the feedback that we need.
The three areas are:
1) The safety issue—and reward issue
2) The implementation issue
3) The specificity of your questions
1) Let’s start off with the safety—and reward
There’s a video online called “Austin’s Butterfly”. It shows a group of very young children appraising the work of one of their classmates. Austin, who’s probably in first grade, and has just drawn a butterfly. There’s only one problem. The Tiger Swallowtail butterfly looks amateurish and the kids know it. At that tender age, they’re not about to let Austin get away with such a terrible piece of art.
Then something quite amazing happens.
The teacher takes over and asks the kids to give feedback. One by one they pipe up, with their critiques, so Austin can take a crack at the second draft. They point to the angles, the wings, making the wings of the butterfly more pointy. They go on, and on, and the illustration improves with every draft. Six drafts later, the butterfly looks like something you’d find in a science book. The finished butterfly is so stunning that anyone—you, me, anyone—would be proud to call the illustration our own.
And yet this article isn’t about whether we can draw butterflies or not, is it?
Instead it’s about safety. The reason why those kids walked Austin through every one of those five subsequent drafts, is because they felt safe. So what made them feel safe? And how do you get your clients to feel safe? Incredibly that safety didn’t start on the day of the Austin butterfly demonstration. It started long before the teacher walked into the room. Safety needs to be created miles before you get to your destination.
So what do we do on Psychotactics?
Notice the “What Bugs Me” on every page of the website? That “bug” is designed to create safety. Yet, you’ve seen organizations ask for feedback before. Why does that bug bring in over 200 clients writing to us every single year (that’s about 2500 bugs since we started). The answer lies in the statement that accompanies the bug.
The statement says: We’ll give a reward of $50 for the best bug of the month. Have we been diligent about this reward? No, I can’t say that we’ve been super-diligent in doling out the reward. But at a primary level, 99% of the clients aren’t interested in the reward at all. They’re just interested in us fixing the problem.
We have something similar in our membership site at 5000bc.
The moment you get into the Cave (which is our forum) you are faced with a question thats says: What makes you unsafe in 5000bc? And even a casual glance at that post-—and it is a post in the forum—shows you that members have vented their feelings and there’s been an immediate response. When you get on an online course, like the information products course, you have an Ask Sean—again in the forum, as well as the ability to contact us at any point in time.
But contacting us can be a little intimidating.
It’s easier to ask the question in the Ask Sean post. When you examine the posts, you’ll find that clients aren’t always asking questions. They’re often giving a bit of feedback and mostly testing the waters. Is it safe to give feedback? When I answer the question, I’m always aware of everyone watching. When you treat one person with disdain (no matter what the issue) you create a factor of lack of safety.
Without safety you’re not going to get feedback—not the feedback you’re looking for, at least.
The clients aren’t exactly looking for rewards either. Those kids in the classroom weren’t getting any candy for their feedback. Their candy came in the form of change. Their opinions were valued and they were instantly rewarded with another draft. When they made suggestions, another draft showed up. They wanted to be heard, to see change.
And this takes us to our second part: The implementation
The Article Writing Course has been held since around the year 2006—and in the early years, we’d have three or four batches a year—now we have just one. This means we’ve had several hundred clients on this immersion course—and several hundred chunks of feedback.
Because at the end of every course, we reserve a whole day—as part of the assignment—to get feedback. But why do clients give feedback? They do, because of the first reason: safety. They also want to make the course better—just like the kids in the classroom. The reward is the ability to be part of the change. It’s been almost 10 years. We should have stopped getting feedback by now, don’t you think? I mean how much feedback can you get on a course?
And yet here is the highlight of last year’s feedback—in brief
Action: Go over all the material and remove elements or testimonials that are confusing.
Action: Go over the autoresponders and fix them.
Action: Reconstruct the syllabus to move from learning components to actually writing complete articles.
Action: The weeks that aren't part of the main course need to be treated as “starters” or “dessert”.
Action: Create Level 2 Course
Action: Fix the notes.
Action: I could, however, mention how the 55 minute club works—in the sales letter.
Action: Be clear that the connectors are sub-heads and sign posting.
Action: Review all instructions to make sure there's no inconsistency. And consistent language.
Action: Get writers to post their goals on the forum.
Action: Syllabus goes first.
Action: Feedback: What do they specifically look at?
Action: Remove any connection to the 9-month course
Action: Tell participants in advance that there will be changes mid-stream.
Action: Live call not needed.
Action: Sean handles several projects at once. This is a perception and needs to be tackled.
Notice what you just read? It was an action list, based on a feedback list.
The clients came up with this immense list of things to be fixed—and spelt it out in great detail. We then compiled the list, and put in the action plan to fix the elements that needed fixing. Almost as soon as the clients came up with the feedback, we demonstrated we were not just asking for feedback, but we were going to take action—and we wrote what action needs to be taken.
The same applies to any feedback we get off the “what bugs me”
You probably heard about Rosa, didn’t you? If you didn’t here’s the story. Rosa goes and buys a product off our website. It’s the “Dartboard Pricing” series and she loves it, but has something to say. She says I need to have the books in ePub. Now this is a tiny nightmare, isn’t it? Because while it’s relatively easy to transform books into ePub, our books are filled with cartoons and captions. Those cartoons and captions need specific coding and yes, the nightmare is revealing itself, isn’t it?
But we got in touch with Rosa, said we’d work on it and then we posted Rosa’s feedback in the podcast. And shortly after, another podcast listener said he’d do the job (I’ll give you the link to this ePub genius at the end of this piece).
So he set about the task of fixing the books—one by one—but first worked on Rosa’s request. This week, I wrote to Rosa and told her we had not only taken her seriously, but we were going to send out the PDFs and the ePub documents, so she could happily read on her tablet or phone.
Do you think Rosa feels safe?
Do you think she’s bound to give feedback again?
Do you think she was rewarded, both by the initial response as well as the implementation?
But what if you can’t implement something?
Take for example, the courses we hold offline—at workshops such as the one in Amsterdam, or Vancouver or Nashville. The workshops are designed not t give you information, but to give you skill. Clients come up with all sorts of feedback, even during the workshop.
At the storytelling workshop in Amsterdam, Ellen—one of the participants, suggested a walking group. “We walk in the Netherlands”, she said. Now, if you get to our workshop, you’ll notice you’re not in the room a lot. That’s because you learn the least in the room.
We get groups to leave the room and sit by the pool, by the stair, in the lobby—just about anywhere they wish to sit and discuss the assignment they’ve been given. And yet, here was Ellen talking about “walking groups”. So we sent them off for a walk. And half of them took our advice, while half chose to sit instead.
So yay, the feedback went like clockwork, but it’s not always so hunky-dory—this implementation bit—is it?
And when you can’t change things, you head off the objections off at the pass. For instance, if you look at the feedback we got from the last course was “Sean is handling too many projects at once”.
Now that’s like saying “fire is hot”. The reason you’re even reading this article is because I like to write articles, but I also like to paint, cook, take photos, dance, learn languages, mentor my niece—and take a nap in the afternoon (that’s a project too, you know). So what would you do with such feedback, especially when you know nothing is going to change?
I mean I handle projects but then I know what to keep and what to drop. Yet, the perception may exist and a client that’s going through a rough patch may find an easy target—me—the guy with ten million projects. That client may not have any idea that I’m not dancing right now, or I’ve put my Japanese and photography on hold. They’re working off a supposition—their perception. And to make sure this problem doesn’t arise, we head it off at the pass. I bring it up early in the course, or the book, or the workshop.
It’s on a slide, or in an introductory page, or somewhere it cannot be missed. And it needs to be repeated several times, so it sinks in, because not everyone sees or understands everything the first time around.
If you cannot or will not implement something and you have your reasons for it, you need to be very clear why you’re avoiding that course of action. Rosa’s suggestions were doable, and we went ahead with the plan, but it’s also quite a task to convert every book on the site to ePub. If this were the case, and we couldn’t fix every PDF, we’d just have to head off the objection before the client bought the product.
However, to get back on track—the implementation is what matters
Implementation creates safety. Implementation tells your client that they matter. That their opinion is important. And if you can’t fix it, at least put out an action plan, so they can see that you’re hard at work. Then cross out the elements as we’re doing with this new Article Writing Course. Will we be 100% successful? No we won’t but we’ll keep at things until they get fixed. And then we’ll have another big list to go through.
So we looked at safety and reward.
Then we had a long dive into implementation and at least the need to communicate with the client; the importance of having an action plan.
Which takes us to the third part: The specificity of your questions.
The Secret of How To Get Clients To Keep Coming Back Repeatedly: Part 2
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