Money can't buy you love, but you need to feel (and keep) the love of your clients in order to make money. Below is a list of recommendations to help your small business flourish and maintain the client relationships you have worked so hard to build. Hint: Communication is key!
Developing Client Lists
1. Know Your Market
Understand how your services relate to the people you want to reach. Knowing this helps determine the best places to reach them, even down to using the right social media sites.
2. Foster Your Network
Reconsider what makes up your network and then change it to increase your client base:
- Does it reach out across many different industries?
- Have you artfully incorporated relatives and friends in your network?
- Does it include community leaders?
Building a solid client base depends upon a strong, vibrant network.
3. Practice Patience and Restraint
After meeting a contact, bolster their memory. Never assume you made such an impression on someone that they will recall you a month, a week or even a day later. Send an email; the content should be friendly, open and encouraging, but not overbearing. Building any meaningful relationship takes time, so trying to "rush it" likely will only push away a viable potential client.
Learning when to back off is a fine art. If possible, incorporate in the email a unique detail from your initial discussion. One of the greatest strengths of small businesses is the ability to connect on a smaller, one-to-one basis with clients. Emphasize that with all your communication.
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Maintaining Current Clients
1. Communication is the Key
Keep in touch with clients. Update them on industry trends potentially affecting them, as well as your take on upcoming issues. Let them in on your visions for their (and your) success, and then explain your take on achieving it.
Social media is a great common connector, so use it wisely to keep the channels open. However, making a person-to-person connection means much more. Be a person, not a talking head on a website. Humanity trumps digital every time.
2. Become the Go-To Person
Develop skills and knowledge that makes you an authority. A reputation for expertise means the ability to provide valuable resources to clients unobtainable elsewhere: your knowledge. Provide guidance even when there is little chance it will mean any business gain for you. Doing so almost always pays off down the road.
3. Redefine Your Concept of "Client"
Clients are much more than a roster of potential purchasers of products and services. Retaining clients requires fostering the relationship aspect over the short-term money making possibilities of a set of individuals. Instead, recast the relationship more as a long-term partnership. Then, be prepared to meet client needs by adjusting your business services.
4. Take Care of Clients at All Levels
Making the commitment to retain your clientele means onboarding all members of your team in the effort. Make sure employees have the same commitment to clients care. All it takes is one bad experience with someone in the office to send a client looking for services elsewhere. Take the time to train them not only in how to provide superior services to clients, but also how to properly greet them, treat them and deal with them.
Never let your clients think you take them for granted. Under promise and over deliver, especially with deadlines. Imagine how thrilled your clients will be when you consistently have things done a day earlier than expected. It shows dedication and commitment.
Treat clients well, and reward loyal ones with something they value, even if it is just a handwritten thank you note. Make sure every client is one of your most important ones; because they all are.
5. Pay Attention to Feedback
Ask for feedback. Bad feedback hurts the ego. However, constructive criticism is a powerful tool for assuaging the anger of a dissatisfied client as well as providing a clear channel of responsiveness. Great feedback is the most effective and cheapest way of "advertising" available; Not to mention a great way to understand what's "working."
Related Article: How to Turn an Ordinary Client into Your Biggest Fan
While some businesses handle client relationship matters organically, others require a framework for success. Luckily, there are some options available, particularly customer relationship management systems. Typically cloud-based, these help businesses "...manage and nurture their customer relationships" according to the Guardian.
A CRM system stores client and potential client data in a format accessible by a number (or just one...) individual. They also monitor things such as customer satisfaction, and may provide overviews of sales and such. If you choose this option, commit to it and use it exclusively.
Dedication Pays Off
Spending money on leads, marketing campaigns or even CRM systems can be valuable tools to success. But, unless you make the effort to nourish these relationships, your monetary outlay will provide minuscule results. Developing a valuable relationship with each and every one of your clients ensures a small business' success during various economic climates.
Ultimately, when you stick by your customers, they stick by you!