In the comic business, protecting your subscriber base is the most important and often most neglected part of running a store. If you consider the concept in terms of your business, does this sound vaguely familiar? As a business owner, protecting and cultivating your client base is the most important and often most overlook part of running your company. You don’t go into business with the intention of overlooking any aspect of your business, especially your clients! But as you’re working on several projects, trying to keep everything on track without feeling completely overwhelmed, it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day and not think about client retention and repeat business until you need another project. At that point, it may be months or even years since you last connected with some of your former clients. Don’t panic! Take a deep breath and pull out a pen and paper – it’s time to create your …
Client Relationship plan.
“Take away my factories, my railroads, all my assets, and wealth, but leave me my customer lists and I’ll have it all back and more in very short order.”
– Andrew Carnegie, America’s first billionaire
Welcoming the New Customer into your Environment
In a retail environment, how the store looks and the way customers are greeted has a huge impact on a customer’s experience from the time of his or her very first visit. What do your clients first experience when contacting you and your company? Also, realize the process started well before they actually made contact with you. They may have heard about you from a friend or colleague, saw you in a publication, or found you during an Internet search. In creating your Client Relationship plan, start with a system to welcome new clients contacting you.
- Do you answer your phone or does an assistant?
- Do you have a standard greeting?
- Do you know where your clients come from? How did they hear about you?
- Is this their first time working with a business like yours?
- What projects are they working on or considering?
- What projects have they already completed?
- What else is on their wish list?
- Do you have an expertise in this area? If so, what relevant stories can you share to deepen this connection?
- Do you have a documented client intake process and forms to capture client information?
- Are you asking for their email address and offering a subscription to your free newsletter?
- Do you have an upcoming event you could tell them about?
- Do you have a schedule of available appointments so your assistant can book an appointment even in your absence?
- Do you follow up with an email or note card confirming your appointment?
There are other things to consider, but these should help get you started. If you’d like immediate help or need an accountability partner, contact me so we can chat about ways we can take action together.
Building on First Impressions and Turning that Customer into a Regular
A retail business thrives when a customer feels known (by name), understood (you know something about their friends, family, career and interests), and believes their needs to be anticipated and met (you know what they’re looking for and how to find it). Is this really any different for your business?
What processes or techniques do you rely on to get to know your clients? Put them in your plan. Oftentimes clients depend on us for referrals to other professionals and businesses. How do you handle this? Are you searching through stacks of business cards or is this information organized and accessible by you and your team? Document your process, include it in your plan and avoid miscommunication and misunderstandings. Your Client Relationship plan must also include a process to manage your client contact information beyond the basics. We’ll cover this in a bit more detail in the next section.
Turning Your Subscription Base into Friends
Now that you know them, how do you keep them coming back?
- Have ready access to their information including:
- Names and correct pronunciation for your client, client’s spouse or partner, and children
- Date of first contact, consultation dates, dates for any and all interactions!
- Best way to contact them – have you asked or assumed?
- Consistently gather and document this information for every client using a contact management system. An easy to use solution is already available to you in Microsoft Outlook.
- Let them know you’re interested. Here are a few ideas:
- Are there other things you think they’d like? Bring them to your next visit or offer to let them take them on approval.
- This isn’t just about the business or industry you’re in. Have you come across an article or book on a topic they’re interested in? A recipe you think they might like? Share these things with your client.
- Are you offering any discounts and promotions? Have you heard about a great sale at their favorite clothing store? Let them know.
- What special events or parties (holiday, business anniversary, grand opening) could you invite them to?
- Keep in touch – call them! Send cards (birthdays, special occasions) and thank you notes. Regularly send a newsletter or ezine.
- A side note: You may not hear back from clients. Don’t be frustrated! If they stay on your list, they want the information you share and the services you provide. They may not have the need right now, but when they do you’ll be the first person they think of because you’ve stayed in touch.
- Include all of what you’ve decided to do and how to do it in your Client Relationship plan. This doesn’t mean you have to do it all yourself! Now that you’ve created a plan, you can easily share it and delegate tasks to an assistant. (Don’t have an assistant? Consider working with a virtual assistant.
- Be positive. It’s imperative that you and your team maintain a positive attitude. Remember, this is fun! You’re helping your clients realize their dreams.