In my monthly newsletter, I ask my readers for topics they’d like me to discuss. In July, Bob B. asked the following:
How about retaining/managing existing clients? All too often we forget about the “Bird in Hand”. So once our existing clients are identified as an important part of our marketing, some specifics might be very interesting and helpful.
I wonder how this might vary by industry… even for industries with a low frequency of expected repeat business, existing clients are surely a valuable source of referrals. Maybe where the likelihood of repeat business is low (wedding panner, ortho practice), the emphasis should be on referrals and where the likelihood of repeat business is high (dentist, pizza restaurant) the emphasis should be on both?
I’m going to unpack this suggestion (thanks, Bob!) by answering the following individual questions:
- How to best manage existing clients
- How to engage with clients (for future sales)
- How to maintain valuable client relationships past the engagement
How do I manage current clients well?
I agree with Bob that we often take for granted the bird-in-the-hand who has purchased our product or services. Clients who stay with us for a considerable amount of time (months or years) are some of the most valuable business relationships we have.
And yet we often don’t treat them that way; we often take them for granted. Here are a few techniques for managing your existing clients or customers is to ask them the following questions.
- After a milestone has been reached (one year, for example), look back at all of your accomplishments and list out what goals were reached, as well as those that were not.
- Start off a meeting with the announcement: “It’s been a year (or two years, etc.) since we started working together. Let’s review what we’ve accomplished. From a big picture perspective, where would you like to be one year from now?” (Take good notes here!)
- Send a summary email and start off the next meeting with it, reviewing the accomplishments and goals for the coming year.
- Revisit those goals every 3 – 6 months, to show if you’re on track, or if you’ve decided to change course.
- Ask for a Customer Testimonial! These are great to have on your website, and help customers to remember how you’ve helped them in their business.
In my experience, the best way to retain your existing clients is to remember their needs, share your accomplishments, and continue to ask for their feedback. You can also ask them for referrals (and put in place a referral program)!
How do I market to my current clients (cross-selling)?
As Bob said, existing clients already know, like, and trust you, so they’re the best target market for selling more of your product or services, or cross-selling products and services. What are the best ways to do that?
Here are some marketing ideas to get you started:
- Refer to your other products and services in your monthly newsletter. (If you don’t have one already, we should definitely talk.) This is an ideal way to let current clients know the depth and breadth of your offerings, and how you can expand your assistance to them.
- Bring it up to them in a meeting, in the context of what they currently use. Your product or service should be complementary, and help them to move forward, so it makes sense to bring it up as a consideration (do they have budget? If not, then to consider for the next fiscal year.).
- Create an email campaign for your offering, and include current clients on the list of who you send it to. Your email should already be whitelisted on their server, so they should get the email and, if they know you already, they’re more likely to read it.
How do I maintain valuable client relationships past the engagement?
This is one of my favorite things to do, because my past clients are the best referrals. Here’s how you can stay in touch with previous clients:
- Include them as part of your list selection for your monthly newsletter (as mentioned above).
- Send them an email notifying them of your referral program.
- Reach out to them once a year, to see how they’re doing and to ask if there’s anything you can do for them. Note: being as helpful as you can, even outside of your normal course of business, is a great way to be remembered. (It will also make you happier, helping out another person when you can!)
Interested in learning more? Feel free to contact me and let’s talk!