September 20, 2016
Turnover is expensive. For Human Resources Managers, this is common knowledge. It’s cheaper and less disruptive to keep a good employee than to find a new one. But retention efforts aren’t confined to employee directories. Business owners, too, must consider retention efforts – client retention. And as with anything long-term, it starts with fortifying your existing client relationships.
To do that, consider nurturing. We often think of nurturing in the context of “lead nurturing,” or the process of courting leads at each stage of the buyer’s journey. By listening to their problems and whispering sweet solutions in their ear, we hope, in time, to earn their trust and to establish a rapport that leads to a financial commitment… that being a purchase.
But nurturing also applies to existing client relationships, who are, by far, your best source of new revenue, either by way of additional contracted services or referrals.
Not convinced? Well, here are five ways you can cultivate more meaningful relationships with existing clients, provide additional value through expanded services, and bring in additional revenue for your business:
Deliver exceptional client experiences
Clients have choices. You may think that no one offers the services or products that you do, but think again.
Creating positive client experiences is one of the few competitive advantages companies can leverage. This goes beyond customer service— when you’re putting out fires. From beginning to end, the experience your client has with your business should be one of extreme competence and flawless execution.
Will you be perfect? Of course not. There will be twists and turns. But how you handle the ebbs and flows of the client relationship sets a precedent, that, when well managed, speaks highly of your ability and reassures them that they’ve chosen wisely.
Look for cross-selling opportunities
Sometimes just getting the client contract feels like a miracle. So it’s tempting to tip toe around the client to avoid making waves. You don’t want them to change their minds!
But as you work with your client, you’ll learn more about who they are and discover unmet needs that may not have been apparent initially. And although they may have retained you for one service, it may become very clear that they also need you in additional areas.
If you want an opportunity to go after that additional work, earn the conversation by doing the part of the business you already have really well. And as time goes on and trust is established, ask for the chance to show your clients the additional value you can offer. Be sure to clearly explain the benefit to them, such as streamlining services.
Ask for referrals
Providing exceptional client experiences sets the stage for the conversation about referrals.
Many business owners are uncomfortable asking clients for referrals in fear of disrupting the current client relationship by sounding too salesy. But the reality is, you can grow your business on referrals alone if you have a robust and well-executed referral strategy.
In an article last year, HubSpot listed seven ways to get high-quality referrals from clients. One of the most aggressive and perhaps most effective listed is building referrals into your agreements. And this need not be awkward. It’s simply a conversation about expectations for the relationship you are entering into. In addition to the expectations of work, you also want to gently mention your approach to referrals.
You agree not to pester clients about referrals but do facilitate an open discussion about their importance to you, and to the people – like friends and colleges of your clients— you’ll be able to help with your services. In turn, your client agrees to engage in that conversation about referrals with an open mind.
Be sure that your clients know and feel like they are your first priority. By doing so, in time, referrals should come easily.
Be a source of referrals
Always be on the lookout for opportunities to refer work to your clients. Since you are working closely with them, you have an intimate knowledge of what they do and what value they have to offer.
Think through your natural market – colleagues, friends, family – and make a list of individuals who could potentially use your client’s services. Your clients will appreciate the gesture and may be more willing to reciprocate the favor by sending you referrals as well. It really is a win-win.
Keep the lines of communication open
Don’t let the only time your clients hear from you be when you have something new for them to buy.
Be intentional about regularly connecting with clients. Establish a cadence, reaching out either by phone or email once or twice a month, at least, to check in. Listen. Capture every minute detail and note it in your customer relationship management software (CRM). If there’s a birthday, note it and send a card. A death, send flowers. Perhaps a promotion, send champagne.
Make yourself an invaluable part of your client’s life and business – a trusted resource— and they’ll reward you with faithfulness.