Many businesses focus so much time and energy chasing new clients that they forget about the clients they already have. This is a risky strategy at best; there’s no guarantee that the new clients you’re pursuing will come on board. And if you ignore your current client base, you risk losing clients who could provide new business in the future, through referrals and by offering you more work. The fact is that you can’t properly nurture current business if you’re busy hunting down mere possibilities.
If most, or all, of your attention goes to acquiring new business, odds are you aren’t giving current clients what they need.
If you follow these five fundamentals of current client cultivation, you’ll rarely have to go out and plow new territory. In fact, most of your business will come from existing clients:
1. Pay attention to your existing customers. If you don’t, you can be certain they will seek out your competition—who is only too ready to pay attention to them. It doesn’t matter how good you are at courting new business if you ignore the customers you already have. When your clients don’t feel cared for, even if you delivered what you promised and technically did your job, you will lose business. You need to manage clients once you bring them in, as success lies not in the sheer number of clients you have, but in your clients’ sense of well-being, trust and satisfaction with who you are and how you treat them.
2. Manage your clients’ expectations. If most, or all, of your attention goes to acquiring new business, odds are you aren’t giving current clients what they need. Deliver substandard work and they’ll go away. On the other hand, if you are actively looking at the needs of your current clients, are sensitive to what they expect, and give them your best, you’ll meet and exceed their expectations.
If your clients want a report Tuesday at noon, and you can’t deliver it until close of business Tuesday, call and tell them. Or, promise something Friday and find a way to deliver it by Wednesday. Managing clients’ expectations simply means looking at potential issues and handling them before they become problems—a strategy easily done if you’re properly tending your clients.
3. Be the solution for the future. Growing existing clients is far easier than prospecting for new ones; you’ll spend less energy, time and money. Show clients how you can serve them beyond what you’re currently doing, and they’ll come to think of you as a resource in the future. When something comes up, satisfied clients won’t look to someone else to handle it, they’ll give the business to you. And even if they know you can’t do it, they’ll ask you for a referral.
For example, a current client who’s been properly nurtured, whose needs and expectations have always been met by your organization, might ask for your advice about someone to draft a contract for him. Although that’s not your area of expertise, happy clients see you as the solution. You’ve met their needs consistently, and they come to expect that you will be able to do so repeatedly and into the future.
4. Get in their face. To feel a sense of continuity and a connection with you, your clients need to know you. To make this happen, you need to be where they are, literally, on a regular basis. You can’t sit behind your desk, email the work to them and expect to build a relationship—even if you do the work well. If you are an absentee business, clients are not going to think of you, even when you call them on the phone. So, if you have something to deliver to a client, do it in person, rather than by email, or do both, so you make yourself available. Take loyal clients to lunch and woo them. Make client calls. The more often you can be there, the more often they will give you business.
5. Ask for referrals. Satisfied clients will happily refer you to others who have problems you can solve. There’s that new business you want so much! And you’ll come to it with the endorsement of an organization that already thinks the world of your work. Don’t hesitate to come out and ask for referrals; it won’t occur to some clients to point you toward others unless you ask them to.
Used with permission. All rights reserved.
Marsha Lindquist is a business strategist, author and speaker. As CEO of The Management Link Inc., she has more than 20 years of experience as a business consultant who works with her clients to transform their organization through her Value Advantage formula. For more information visit www.MarshaLindquist.com or email her at Marsha@MarshaLindquist.com.