We have a few core values at StringCan, but one of my favorites is that we “go the last 1% for clients.” I’ve found, though, that there are different interpretations of this idea. Here’s some more information to help illustrate the importance of the last 1%, what it truly means and how it can wow customers.
The Genesis Of The Last 1%
The first agency I was with had around 10 employees when I started working there but had grown to 70 employees by the time I left. When I realized I wanted to build my own agency, I dissected everything about the prior agency so I could use those learnings in my new venture. I also interviewed numerous prospective customers I hoped to work with before I wrote the business plan for StringCan, so I could proactively figure out what they loved about agencies - and what drove them nuts. One of the main issues I uncovered had to do with clients’ expectations. They would hire an agency for a project, the agency would go to work for a while, and then meet back with their recommendations. All too often, those recommendations were not what the client wanted. I had seen this in my prior agency too. We’d work really hard to present something we loved to the client, just to find out they didn't love it back. So, when I launched StringCan, I had all this in mind. I met with one of my first customers who was a big marathon runner. I run 5Ks, and marathon runners have always intrigued me. There’s such a process to completing those 26.2 miles, and half of it - at least - is mental. When I watch a race and see someone collapse right before the finish line, it breaks my heart. That concept clicked for me; that’s the last 1%.
What Is The Last 1%?
The last 1% is the final part of a project before the finish line. On a practical level, it looks a lot like getting the details right - but it’s also more than that. For example, when you’re close to wrapping up a project and in the weeds, it’s easy to miss important nuances. Maybe a customer likes to have their company name spelled out, rather than the acronym used. Or there might be certain colors or fonts they love, or scheduling preferences they have. Don’t lose sight of these things, even in the last 1% of a project. That’s when they matter most. When StringCan started, I shared this philosophy with every team member. We all agreed that, although completing something 99% is probably good enough, the last 1% is where the magic happens. Think of it this way. If you do 99 things right for a client, but mess up one thing (say, you spell their name wrong), they’ll often remember that one thing. So make sure that every bit of what you do is with intentionality.
The Last 1% Starts In The First 1%
Two common misconceptions about this idea is that it means we “go the extra mile” for customers or that we expect perfection. Neither is true. We simply aim to finish what we started, with great care and up to the client’s expectations. But here’s the catch: you can’t go the last 1% if you don’t plan for it when the project first starts. The main secret to fulfilling this core value is having regular, honest client communication from the beginning and asking hard questions. Here’s how we do it. We’ve developed a set of questions to better understand clients and their needs from the very first meeting. We find out what their desired outcome is, whether they want to read something before we present it to them, what format they prefer, how involved they want to be - and so on. Before we get to the starting line of the marathon, everyone agrees on the direction we’re heading. Then, we build metaphorical water stations along the route. These are check-ins, which we often do weekly, so we can set small goals and find out in real-time whether we’re on the right track for the client. If so, great. If not, we can easily course correct. This also helps us pace ourselves through the project, conserving energy and utilizing it adequately so we still have fuel in the tank when we get to the end.
In addition to sticking to your core values, a key to wow customers is to get down to brass tacks from the get-go. Ask clients where they are today versus where they want to go. This way, if their main goal is to improve their trade show exhibit, you won’t spend months building a digital marketing strategy that misses the mark and frustrates the customer. At StringCan, we’ve completed hundreds of strategy projects for organizations of all shapes and sizes. One of the best pieces of feedback we get is that our client communication is extremely thorough and we’ve delivered a project that aligns with their expectations and goals. You can enjoy the same with your customers if you adopt a mindset of always going to the last 1%. Want to work with a team that will ask the hard questions and get to the point of what you really want in your marketing? Let’s talk!