I’ve had clients who came back after a long hiatus. I’ve had clients who brought me on board when they switched companies. I’ve had clients who sent new business my way.
All three have one thing in common.
Maintaining business relationships with past and current clients leads to more business.
All I had to do was stay in touch and provide the best service.
No cold calling. No ads. No awkward networking events.
Many small business owners say that the bulk of their revenues comes from repeat business and referrals from past and current clients.
And how does this happen?
They go out of their way to keep clients happy.
You’ve heard the secret to this many times …
It’s worth repeating …
It’s easier and cheaper to keep clients than to find new ones.
If it’s a no-brainer, then why do so many companies devote a lot of energy in getting new clients? While they’re doing this, they’re not always delivering the best customer service to the clients they have or putting effort into connecting with past clients.
I’ve heard many stories about contractors who respond slowly or disappear. This is money they could be making without doing any marketing or sales.
Staying in touch with past clients
It doesn’t matter if the economy is good or bad. Continuously keep in touch with your past clients. They may not be using your products or services because it’s a rough time or they don’t need it … at the moment. The good news is they already know your small business. And they know what you can do.
There’s no having to prove yourself. Just consistently connect with them so you’re top of mind by the time they need you again. Better yet, go the extra mile to do something for them without expecting anything in return.
When the things improve or they need your business, you’ll be in a better position because you consistently worked on building business relationships.
7 ways to go the extra mile for clients
Successful business that go out of their way to make clients happy incorporate it into their company’s culture. They make it an everyday thing and have processes in place to ensure they’re well-served including past clients.
Here are 7 ways to surprise your past and current clients:
- Give them free products or services.
- Take them for coffee, lunch, or dinner.
- Stop by to see how things are going.
- Send a basket of treats. (Keep allergies and dietary restrictions in mind. If in doubt, send a gift card.)
- Connect with them through social networks. (Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs, etc.)
- Share their content and social media updates.
- Refer business to them.
Remember this is a long-term process like content marketing. You won’t see instant results. Right now, you want to foster those relationships. By the time your customers need your business, they will remember you. And this pays for itself faster than acquiring new clients. (If you haven’t already, figure out how much your client is worth.)
5 ways to boost your relationship with current clients
All of the suggestions for past clients work for current clients. You can do a few more things to maintain your relationships with them. This list also has a few ideas for those who might be on their way out or going through tough times.
- Allow partial payments with rest due by X days or date.
- Accept payment within 60 days without penalty instead of 30.
- Compromise by accepting smaller orders or working fewer hours.
- Complete projects faster.
- Add that something extra with their product or service.
And a little extra: Connecting with prospects
It’s all in the perspective. In connecting with prospects, focus on building relationships not on getting their business. Anytime you communicate with them, approach it as if you’re building the relationship not making the sale. This simple change in your mindset helps you sound more genuine.
4 ways to build relationships
Not sure how to switch your approach from selling to building? These four ways will help.
- Send an email newsletter: At least 80 percent of content should be useful and relevant to readers. No more than 20 percent of the content should be self-serving.
- Connect on social networks: Social networking provides ROI, or return on influence, for businesses. Mention prospects in social media. Share their updates. Genuinely, not gratuitously.
- Share resources: Send links to informative articles and other valuable resources of interest to your clients.
- Establish expertise: Publish blog posts on your website, leave thoughtful comments in prospects’ blogs, answer questions, and submit articles or blog posts to other sites that target your market.
Implementing and seeing results from these suggestions will take time. Time you might not have. But how much time do you put in obtaining new business? As a starting point, spend 10 to 15 minutes a day on social networks and sharing information.
While you may not see much change in your bottom line right away, this will pay off when your customers need you or they refer other businesses to you.
Like this? Check out how to keep and win back clients.
What other suggestions do you have for helping clients? Tell us in the comments.
Image credit: Province of British Columbia
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