It's perhaps the single most important and potentially, the most influential element of your marketing mix, and the majority of small and medium-sized businesses and nonprofits don't seem to have the time or resources to rock it.
You know, proactive, "I can't believe they love us sooo much", client relations.
And if you're not focussing there, you're missing out on your most important opportunities for brand building, repeat business, and new business referral.
We're not talking about process communications like project updates (though we'd better not forget those.) We're talking about the stuff that comes after the project files are archived.
First of all, if you're not doing this, you're not alone. Most of our SME and nonprofit clients face this challenge to one degree or another (and so do we frankly!) And who can blame you? You've got limited time and resources and are concentrated daily on, yep, the business of doing business -- the next pitch, the next project, the next deliverable. But wait, what if more of those projects, and a greater diversity of them, came to you via current clients and their friends and colleagues?
Ask yourself these questions. Do your customers:
- understand the breadth and depth of what you do?
- think of you often, or at all, after a project's complete?
- talk about you to your friends and colleagues?
Since we can't invent more hours in the day with our hottub time machine, here's a few simple ideas on how to more proactively manage and develop your client relationships:
- Integrate client education into every new client orientation, a la, here's who we are, here's what we do, and here's why you should care (and tell your friends.) This means more than just a standard paragraph on your proposals.
- Plan your post-project touch points. When is the next time you plan to follow-up with Client X after the project post-mortem? Plan touches at 3 months, 6 months, 1 year and 2 years. It doesn't have to be a post-project parade, just a simple interaction. (See below for ideas.) If they gave you some great constructive feedback in the post-mortem, that's an opportunity to follow-up and tell them what you did about it.
- Call. Yes, call. On the tel-e-phone. Or, skype, webex...if you're into that technology stuff.
- Don't forget to write and while you're at it, don't forget to say "thank you for your business". On paper. With pen. Your grandmother and our friend and networking guru, Dave Howlett, will be proud.
- Toot your own horn. Go ahead. Do it. (In a human way.) If you've just introduced a best-in-class solution or supported an innovative community initiative, tell your clients. You can bet (especially after you've done all of the above) that they will be almost as invested in your success as you are, and even prouder then to be a client. Plus, it will give them all kinds of ideas for their next project with you.
Do as Joey T. does.
Hit on them. A lot. Start today.