In tough economic times, it’s more important than ever to ensure good client renewal rates as new business can become harder to find and close. So I thought I’d share my top ten tips on how to create and maintain good client relations, which in turn can help you renew more existing contracts.
10. Be on time! I can’t tell you how many marketing firms I’ve partnered with in the past that actually show up LATE for meetings — consistently! Be on time. Be on time for calls, meetings, everything. Being late all of the time tells others that your time is more important than theirs — and you NEVER want to send that message to a client. Clients are typically understanding if there are unique, one-time situations (traffic, etc.), but call ahead if you know you’ll be late! It’s OK for the client to be late, but not the vendor — EVER.
9. Be a “solutions provider”, not just another vendor. What is your client’s main goal? Likely to sell more products/services. So help your client by be a solutions provider — not just another vendor. If your client is looking for a web designer, do you have one you’d be comfortable recommending? If you see a PR opportunity that might fit your client, do you pass it on to him/her? The little solutions you help provide show your client you WANT them to succeed — not just with your efforts but overall.
8. The customer may not always be right, but tread lightly here. In our world, the customer can’t always be right. There are times when a fact, for instance, about how algorithms work outweighs a client’s desire for the truth to be different. (Example: AJAX is not indexable. You have to have a workaround. That’s just the way it is!) Be sure that while you speak to your client as the “expert” that he/she has hired that you don’t make the client feel that his/her concern is unimportant. You’re both working towards the same goal, so be sure to structure your conversation in that way and be a “solutions provider”.
7. Get contracts up front — don’t begin work without having one. Seems like you’d be doing a nice thing to start work without the contract finalized, right? Wrong. Without a document stating everyone’s expectations and responsibilities, the waters can get murky quickly. What expectations does the client have? That you’ll do SEO AND PPC for this price while you’re planning on just SEO? It’s important to get everyone on the same page from the beginning so that there are no questions about the direction you’re taking, right from the start. It keeps everyone happy in the end.
6. Schedule recurring calls (weekly, monthly, etc.). The recurring client call allows the client to express his/her feelings about how the project is going and to interject information you may not know — such as an upcoming event, announcement, etc. that may also help your work. Be sure to touch base with clients regularly. I find that a scheduled call at least monthly allows clients time to get their thoughts together and is accepted as a regular calendar item.
5. Visit in person when you can. Nothing beats face to face interaction. It allows you to guage your client’s body language. Does the client’s body language say one thing while they are saying something entirely different?
4. Send a small gift. One thing you should always be doing with clients is showing them how thankful you are for their business. A small gift at the holidays, on a client’s birthday, etc. is a great way to show your appreciation.
3. Write Thank You notes. More than a gift, however, a HANDWRITTEN thank you note is even better. It tells the client that you took the time to make it personal. I’m from the South, and I flat out expect thank you notes – from interviewees, vendors, etc. People really appreciate the time and thought, so take the time!
2. Keep it personal. If you’re not using Facebook to help your business, why not? I love Facebook for connecting with clients because it helps me get to know them better as PEOPLE. I can learn their likes, dislikes, birthday, etc. — things that wouldn’t normally come up in a business meeting or call. And then I can treat them accordingly… send a birthday card or some special treat they would enjoy. I personally think it’s one of the greatest values of Facebook for business.
1. If you’re upset, sleep on it. There are always times that clients frustrate us. But instead of firing off an angry email, sleep on it. I found this works well not just for my personal life, but also my business. You need to work with clients with a level-headed approach — let yourself cool off before responding. Don’t lose a client if you don’t have to!
I’d love to hear your ideas too. Please feel free to comment on the post and add your own tips!