Retaining clients you enjoy working with is not only great for the financial side of your business, it makes your day-to-day job easier as well. When you have a consistent pipeline of projects, you can focus on the work at hand rather than worrying about how you will make it through the next few months.
Focusing on retaining the clients you have requires much less effort than going out and landing new ones. When you are able to create long-term value for clients, its beneficial both to them and to you. Here are five tips to improve your client retention strategy.
1. Set Expectations from the Start
When a client decides to work with you, it means they have some initial level of trust in your skills and abilities. It’s up to you to prove them right. Building a strong relationship begins by simply getting to know your client. What is their preferred communication style? What factors denote success for them in a project? What are some of their personal interests outside of work? The more initial effort you put into getting to know your client, the better you will be able to meet—and exceed—their needs down the road.
During your first meetings, talk about what would make your client’s experience great. Perhaps they would like to see a bi-weekly status report of your progress. Others may value quick back-and-forth communication throughout the day. Seek out the keys to creating a positive experience and build a plan for how you can incorporate those needs.
2. Build Trust
A truly trusting relationship comes with time and honesty. When proposing a new idea or walking through your creative process with a client for the first time, remember that they are not familiar with how you think. Thoroughly explain where you are coming from and why you are making certain recommendations. Before taking action, run your ideas by your client and ask for their comments or thoughts.
Over time, your client will grow to trust your judgment and more actively seek your advice. Remember, every interaction with a client is a chance to grow your relationship and plant a new seed of trust. Your clients are an integral part of your work—make sure they feel valued and respected.
3. Ask for Feedback
Asking for feedback may call to mind a generalized post-project survey. But as a solo business owner, you should be constantly asking for feedback in a much more personalized way. For example, check in with your client after sending a deliverable and note where they have comments or requested changes so you can avoid making similar mistakes in the future. Or, if you are trying out a new communication technology for the first time, talk to your client about whether or not it’s working for them and be flexible about adjusting to their needs.
As you get to know your clients better, you’ll learn where their individual pain points are. Keep detailed notes on your client interactions so you can avoid receiving the same feedback over and over. When a client feels heard and listened to, they will be much more satisfied and likely to continue using your services in the future.
4. Aim to Exceed Expectations
While it can be tempting to overpromise something to a client because it will make them happy in the moment, overselling yourself rarely leads down a productive path. In fact, over-promising can spike your mental stress and damage your company’s reputation. Instead, aim to exceed expectations in little ways when and where you can.
For instance, be honest with your client when discussing timelines. Rather than getting pressured into delivering something before it is ready, set a realistic deadline and, if you are able to, deliver a day or two early. Your client will be happy with the early delivery and with the better quality of work they receive. Other ways to surprise and delight your clients may include introducing them to someone who can help meet another need they have outside your area of expertise. You might leave them a shining review once you finish working on a project together. Or, send them a hand-written card or thoughtful gift around the holidays. Think outside the box and put yourself in your client’s shoes—what would bring a smile to your face?
5. Consider the Future of Your Relationship
The end of a project does not mean the end of your relationship with your client. As you get to know your client throughout the life of the project you are working on together, consider the different business needs they might have and how you can meet those needs. Are their ways you can expand your current service offerings given your skillset? For instance, if you were helping your client with a specific marketing campaign but noted their social media presence could use some help, consider talking to them about how a revised social media strategy might help. Anticipating your client’s needs will help keep you front of mind and show them that you are listening to them and care about the future of their business.
What strategies do you use to retain clients? Share your ideas with us!