Robots are for search engines – not client management April 30th 2012

Last week I interviewed some digital marketing people who had set up as freelancers. As well as chatting about digital and social media jobs in charities, they also wanted some tips about how to keep their clients coming back.

Over the years, I’ve been lucky to have found most of my recruitment and comms clients through word of mouth – and most recently by using social media! But keeping them has been all about providing great service and keeping in touch, so here’s my take on how to keep your clients coming back. And some of the ideas can also apply to building relationships with charity supporters and donors.

 

11 top tips to show your clients you care

1.  Robots are for search engines – not client management!

Find client. Work for client. Invoice client. Move on. If you’re sometimes guilty of this robotic approach to working, then maybe it’s time to think again about how you can exceed your client’s expectations, and keep them coming back for more great work! It’s a well known marketing fact that finding new clients takes more time and money than keeping your current ones. Even though part of your role as a freelancer is to ensure a constant supply of work, it can be tempting to focus on your latest project and to let your former clients take a back seat. The key to building long-term relationships is to pay attention to current and former clients with a planned and focused approach to communications. It doesn’t have to be complicated, but ideally you should set aside time each week or month to do something that will keep you in front of your clients. More of this in later posts!

2.  Update, update, update

Even if you have nothing substantial to report, everyone likes to know what’s going on with their account or project. Agree a timetable for providing updates to ensure that you’re providing an appropriate level of detail to keep everyone informed and involved.

3.  What’s that coming over the hill?

People do not like unpleasant surprises and that includes your clients. It’s essential to agree up front what you’re going to deliver, including your fees, timetable and details of any additional costs that could be incurred. Small print can be the bringer of big problems and misunderstandings, so make sure that everything is agreed in advance.

4.  Promises, promises

I believe that if you make a promise, you should do everything to try to keep it. Okay, so sometimes circumstances mean that despite your best efforts a promise has to be broken, and in those cases if you keep your client informed they will often cut you some slack. A big ‘no-no’ is to promise something that you know you cannot deliver.

5.  Don’t hold back

Doesn’t it feel great when you do your best work. Your client is paying you for your best efforts, so don’t hold back or be afraid to pitch ideas that may require you do more than you agreed. In my experience, people really appreciate it if you go the extra mile; repeat business and recommendations usually follow and that makes up the extra time you spent.

6.  Do I know you?

When you spend time to really get to know your client, their problems and how you can deliver a great solution, that’s when you’ll start to build a long-term relationship. When is the last time you took a client for coffee, sent them a link to an interesting article, or introduced someone who could be useful to them? In this digital age (that we all love!), the personal touch still counts for a lot, so pick up the ‘phone or drop by now and again.

7.  Frankly my dear, I do give a damn

This follows on from building a relationship with your client. I appreciate that not everyone is in a position to pick and choose their clients and projects, and sometimes you may do work that is ‘just a job’. But, when you truly commit to a project your client will feel it in the way you work with them, and see it in the quality of your work. When I worked with the designer on this blog and on my charity digital recruitment site, I knew immediately that she was genuinely interested in my vision, and she delivered much, much more than she had to do. She’s now my designer of choice and I’d recommend her to anyone (and believe me I’m exceedingly picky!).

8.  I hear you

When you get that brief, go and talk to your client to find out what they are really asking for. Sometimes just by talking you may uncover ideas and possibilities that will change the shape of the brief.

9.  Surprise, surprise!

So, if we don’t like nasty surprises, we do like nice ones. Sometimes it feels so good to exceed expectations, just because you can. Obviously I’m not talking about doing anything that would be detrimental to your business, like slashing fees or giving away something that you can’t afford, but working a few hours longer, sending a thank you card to a supplier or remembering a client’s birthday are nice touches. I heard a saying that goes: After today, you may forget the nice things you did, but they will remember them for a long time.

10. Say sorry and find a solution

Okay, we all know that things do go wrong. Saying sorry is often the first step on the way to putting things right, so why do people find it so hard? I was waiting for a delivery recently: two hours over the delivery time the driver called to say he’d had a long day and couldn’t come as promised. He told me to call the office the next day and re-arrange a delivery. This made me a very unhappy customer for three reasons: I wasn’t kept informed; I didn’t receive an apology, only an excuse; and I was left to sort out the problem myself. Reader, I cancelled my account!

11. Remember me?

Keep in touch with your clients when the job is done. Not only does it show that you’re genuinely interested in them, but it also offers opportunities for you to learn more about their future business needs and how you can support them.

Did you go the extra mile for a client? Did a supplier exceed your expectations? Please share your experience in the comments section.

 

Posted in: Charity Communications, Charity Management, Top Tips | Tags: ,

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