- Your clients are the reason you stay in the competitive market for as long as you are, because they are your target and they are the ones using your business.
- This only emphasises the need to pay extra attention in your marketing efforts to customer retention, because, if implemented well, that’s how you can keep the existing clients happy and always upsell them.
- So in order to do that, you need to know the exact steps to take. There are a lot of them, but we’ve separated 4 of the easiest and most useful ones for you right here.
If you agree that most business advice is just common sense put into practice, you will love the following 4 practical tips for ensuring long-term client retention. Part of my motivation for writing this piece comes from a belief that with the rise of Big Data, KPI’s and performance metrics, the personal touch in marketing is being eroded. I propose that in order to remain relevant today we need to stay in tune with the traditional methods for building relationships, fostering loyalty and creating long-term client satisfaction and retention whilst staying ahead of innovation and changes as they develop. AI and bot technology are yet to replicate human relationships, so until they do, let’s not forget the basics.
1. Get to know your clients
This piece of advice, although simple, can often be overlooked by account management and business development professionals. The reasons, I believe, are two-fold. Firstly, because it’s not an easily measurable KPI, therefore is not incentivised or treated as important because it is so “obvious.” And secondly, because it’s hard work to physically call/visit a heap of people and get to know them, especially in the short term if you are building a business, or have targets to hit – who has time for coffee dates? It’s much more efficient to work reactively – or is it?
I have seen firsthand that strong relationships are a key determiner of long-term retention and loyalty and the only way I know to build a strong relationship, is to get to know someone by spending time together. It will always require balance, you can’t make up your week with “get to know you” meetings, but I always like to look at this from the point of view that if I really understand what is important to my clients (their needs, wants and problems), I have the best opportunity to genuinely help them and, in turn, earn their trust and loyalty. Rejection becomes a thing of the past when I operate with this motto.
2. Maintain regular contact
This means quality contact. Each time you touch-base, it should involve bringing some form of value or achieving something with a tangible outcome to strengthen your relationship or build mutual trust and engagement. It’s like marriages that fail, when the communication just simply wasn’t there; yes the husband and wife talked every day, but did they communicate? Don’t get lazy!
Think about the number of pointless conversations that happen every day, and now consider how you look to a client if you yourself are a time vampire. Time is, after all, the most valuable commodity in life – and business. You don’t need to eliminate fun from the equation, in fact, having fun, or making your client’s day could be a core objective here – I would argue that this brings extraordinary value. All I am saying is don’t fall into the trap of going through the motions, making calls or visits just to get them done. Always think ahead, “what value am I exchanging for my client's time?” and you will come out a winner in the long run.
3. Be a “Mate”
When do you call your mates? Only when you need something? Surely not your “Real” mates. The same premise applies to clients; if you are only calling on your clients to ask for something- more business, a referral, a meeting, etc., you are essentially being that mate that only calls when they need something. And how do you look upon that sort of friendship? How likely are you to go out of your way to help someone else that only calls you when they need something?
This comes back to a point of always providing value and positioning yourself with a mindset of “How can I help?” If you take the time to genuinely get to know your clients it allows you to get real with them a lot quicker, and ultimately deliver the results they need without having to do the customer/supplier dance off to establish expectations or do’s and don’ts.
4. Protect the relationship – but not at the cost to the business’s reputation
It is easy to fall into the trap of believing that the relationship between you and your client is the only important measure when trying to build loyalty and retention. The reality is that while personal relationships, trust, and confidence in your ability all play a key role, if you separate yourself too much from the business you represent to achieve this, the likely outcome is that the client will love you, but eventually lose confidence in the business.
Don’t be shocked to hear something like “I really like you, and you look after us quite well, but I just don’t think your business has the capacity to handle our needs.” Once you get to this point, it is very hard to recover. So instead, try to empathise with the client without laying blame. Take ownership, but emphasise that you have confidence in the business or team around you at every opportunity. This is especially critical when dealing with an issue that is caused by someone/something outside of your direct control. Of course it helps to genuinely believe this, so make sure you are aligned with a business and vision you believe in this one’s hard to fake!