Call it public relations or just good business practices, but treating your clients as part of your regular business network– not just as cash cows– can be a wonderful strategy.
Not only will clients feel that you care about them, they will also feel more inclined to recommend you to their colleagues for future projects or sales opportunities. The time you devote to nurturing those client relationships becomes a kind of investment that can lead to returns later down the road.
If the rapport is particularly strong, you can also ask clients to be active promoters of your services by having them write recommendations and testimonials that you can later use for your own marketing efforts. In other words, maintaining good client relations means more and better business for you.
Here are five tips for strengthening your business relationship with clients:
Keep track of everyone.
You don’t need a sophisticated CRM, client information can recorded on a spreadsheet that details existing and past clients, as well as their projects or sales history. It includes the client name, the project description or sales history, client contact information, such as e-mail address, telephone number, social media accounts, and a “client notes” column. There is no doubt that a CRM would be beneficial and used properly is a very powerful sales tool.
The notes column is where you can write in comments about each client, listing personal details (interests and hobbies; family details), as well as your impressions about each one (were they difficult to work with? Did they have trouble communicating over e-mail and prefer in-person meetings?).
Drop a line to your clients.
When is the last time you were in touch with an old client? It doesn’t take much effort to send off a short e-mail message or to make a quick “touching base” phone call. More often than not, your client will have some thoughts about a prospective project or may send a few leads your way.
During any meeting or interaction, avoid the aggressive sales pitch, and focus the conversation on the client by asking questions about their business and work (be sure to review your “client notes” from your spreadsheet for any useful “intelligence”). Understanding their business plan and how you can help them accomplish it is crucial.
Get the big picture.
Take a holistic look at your clients needs. First-time clients may have selected you to solve specific problem or provide a particular product. But you can often generate more business by suggesting new ways to help them. If they have a business and are growing, they may have needs that you can help them fill.
Make it easy for clients to get updates on you.
Maintain a blog and write about your experiences as it relates to their industry; write about the industry you’re in; address common problems your clients might have and write about potential solutions.
Push those blog posts and any other relevant content out to your clients via a newsletter or regular e-mail updates. Fire off this communication campaign on a monthly or bi-monthly basis. If you have a big roster of clients, use an e-mail marketing service like MailChimp, AWeber, or iContact.
Aside from blogs and regular updates, you can also show your engagement to clients through your social media channels. Make sure you have a presence on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn and find out if your clients have the same accounts– and interact.
Don’t be stingy.
If your client mentions a problem, be generous with advice. You don’t have to conduct a full-on consulting session, but if you’re meeting over coffee, you can give a few pointers. The goal is to be to go to resource for your clients. Developing a relationship when your client is comfortable enough to contact you without fear that the call will become a sales event in invaluable.
Sometimes doing a little pro bono work earns bigger rewards over the long run.