Building a client list may be hard work, but maintaining those clients is what leads to success. Nurturing your business relationships by staying in touch with your customers will build rapport that leads to future assignments and referrals, both key components of a successful business plan.
In this issue we will discuss how to build the framework for those relationships resulting in a stronger network of clients.
Sales 101 teaches us that it takes five "touches" to prompt an individual to action. Develop a system to reach out to your customers periodically through announcements, newsletters, thank you notes, and referrals. This will keep you in the forefront of your clients' minds as a dependable and professional resource they will return to time and again. Here are some ways to "touch" your clients.
Announcements/Mailings. When something exciting happens in your business, announce it to the world. Send an email, postcard, or press release to every current and potential client to reinforce your presence and professionalism. These brief announcements may include creating a new website or blog, completing a large project (only use a customer's name with their permission), joining a professional association, hiring a new associate, completing relevant educational milestones, and receiving honors and awards. Go ahead and "blow your own horn."
Thank You Cards/Notes. Since the advent of email, the practice of handwritten notes has fallen by the wayside. Don't be one of those people. Do not underestimate the power of a short, handwritten note thanking your clients for their business and expressing your interest in working together in the future. It shows your commitment to the individual client that is lost in the daily stream of emails. Many clients have assistants who screen their Inbox, and your client may never see your note. Also resist the temptation to compile a mail merge document that simply changes the name of the recipient. The insincerity of a form letter is transparent and should be avoided.
Newsletters. A newsletter is a great way to stay in touch with clients and further promote yourself as a professional resource with skills to offer. A quarterly mailing (snail mail or electronic) offers a way to showcase your skills and current happenings. Keep your newsletter to one or two pages and break it into sections that can be scanned easily in a few minutes. Consider including areas for Helpful Tips, Upcoming Events, and Testimonials from satisfied customers (with permission).
Holiday/Anniversary Cards. Sending holiday cards is one way many businesspeople keep in touch during the year. Instead of sending your cards in December, why not wait until after the first of the year and send a "wishing you a prosperous new year" card? This eliminates the risk of offending those who do not celebrate certain holidays, and keeps your "touch" out of the hundreds of others they may receive at that time. Anniversaries also offer a great alternative to traditional holiday greetings. If your client's business is celebrating an anniversary or other milestone, make that your touch point. Your client will be impressed that you are informed of what is going on in their business. A note of caution: When sending holiday or anniversary cards, simply express your best wishes. DO NOT PROMOTE YOURSELF OR ASK FOR WORK. Show humility and selflessness.
Refer Business to Your Clients. Possibly the best way to get into the good graces of your customers (other than doing great work, of course) is to refer business to them. Remember, networking is a two-way street. Don't expect your clients to flood you with referrals if you do not try to reciprocate. When you refer your client to someone, send a call or brief note informing them you have referred [Ms. Smith of ABC Company] and to expect to be contacted. This heads-up greatly increases the chances your customer will take the call, and gives the relationship a boost from the start.
Acquiring clients is one thing-building lasting relationships is another. Work on strengthening your relationships with your existing clients and reap the rewards. After all, wouldn't you rather work steadily with five clients who know your work and reputation than fifty who don't even know your name?