Solid client relationships are vital in the working world. Achieving them doesn’t have to be complicated or hard.
Once you have built up a trustworthy relationship, you will want to keep it going strong. Whether you are a small business or a freelance worker, it is essential to understand how these relationships are built in the first place, and the best ways to maintain them over the years.
Remember that a strong ongoing relationship will also ensure that you have work in the future. And who doesn’t need that?
Carefully Plan Projects in Advance
By carefully planning out projects in advance, you will show that you are able to take initiative and that you want to understand the project completely before getting started. This is true whether your client has provided you with accurate and detailed guidelines, or a vague explanation of what needs to be done. You should establish guidelines as soon as possible, and return them to the client for review; this will allow both of you to see exactly what the work will entail.
How we do it: Every proposal we send out has a deliverables schedule that outlines what is expected from us and from our client. Clear expectations right from the start. This makes my OCD very happy, but even better, it makes our clients feel secure and understand how everything is going to go down. We like some surprises, like when the puppy jumps up on our lap in the middle of a conference call; not when it comes to client expectations though.
Make Communication Personal
In today’s fast-paced and technology-centered society, emails and short text messages are the norm. While these forms of communication are fine, you can make yourself stand out more and build a substantial relationship with your clients if you take a few extra minutes to insert something personal into your next message.
For example, if you are interested in building a relationship, add in a specific detail or two in your email to prospects. A good way to do this is to mention something of personal interest, such as a big win of their favorite sport’s team. This is a great first step towards establishing a strong, long-term relationship.
How we do it: When a prospective client reaches out to us, we check out their site and any social media accounts they might have in order to get a better feel for who they are and what is important to them. Then during phone calls, or emails we make mention of some tid bit we connected to. I don’t suggest you fake it, because that will only get you so far. Instead truly invest in finding out more about them that you can also relate with. I’m not a sports fan, so for me to say hey, big win with those Yankees…isn’t going to sound authentic. If you are a sports fan though, it will.
Focus on Like-Minded Individuals
The business world is full of people with unique personalities and interests. One way to ensure your success in the future is to find a client with a similar personality and goals as your own. In doing so, you are showing the client that you are interested in forming a lasting relationship.
When the initial sale or project has ended, let the client know that you are keeping her in mind in the event that another similar opportunity should arise in the future. Also let the client know when something new comes along, as this will help to keep the lines of communication open between you two, even if the client does not take on the new opportunity or offer.
How we do it: One of our core business practices is to make sure that the clients we work with align with our business beliefs. The Do Not Hire Us page is the perfect example of who we are and the types of clients we work with. We want to put all of that out there from the get-go and we’ve found that our clients love it. We get more compliments and opening dialogs because of that one simple page. People are drawn like a magnet to like minded people.
Effective Communication is Vital
When you are working on a project for a client, you should strive to maintain frequent contact with that client. This may involve emailing on a daily basis, or calling periodically to check-in and make notes about your progress.
Today’s high-speed society means that there are many different forms of communication, from email to phone, and instant messages. Take advantage of this to find out which method your client prefers, and use it often. Let your client know the best and worst times to contact you before you even begin working on a project.
How we do it: For most of our projects, we use Basecamp to not only track the project but also keep in touch with our clients and send them messages. This is what works with the type of projects we take on. We also connect via Skype, and email as well. I’ve yet to move to text but I’d be open to it if it were a client preference. Figure out what works for you and your client, then do it.
These simple but vital details can seriously improve your client’s overall experience with you and your business; turning a one-time project or sale into a recurring and devoted client. The majority of our clients are recurring or referrals from other clients.
Yesterday I had a meeting with a corporation located in Charlotte. Most of our clients are located around the world, so it’s not often we get to meet them face to face and I get to wear something other than my pajamas.
I started to get ready for the meeting and I hunted down my one pair of dress pants and I grabbed a pretty blouse. As I stood in the mirror, making sure everything looked as it should, I realized how uncomfortable I felt.
Not because the clothes didn’t fit, but because the person I saw in the mirror wasn’t me.
I was pretending to be someone else, someone who wore dress slacks and blouses. It wasn’t intentional, I wasn’t trying to be misleading or fake. But for some insane reason, I was equating “professional” with my attire, instead of my attitude…instead of the service we provide and the expertise, we bring to the table.
We talk a lot about brand messages with our clients, and here I was, being completely untrue to our own brand.
- We are not corporate.
- We are not an agency.
- We are not suits and ties and dress pants and blouses.
- And we love that we are none of those things.
So I tore off that ridiculous outfit and grabbed a nice pair of jeans and a shirt, along with my fluffy comfy clogs and I was all set. When I checked myself out in the mirror, I felt completely comfortable, confident, and professional.
I’m not saying you need to go out there in cutoffs and a wife beater – but be real. Don’t be afraid of who you are or try to fit into a mold of what you think something should be.
Have you ever caught yourself trying to be someone you think other people want you to be or expect you to be?
If so, STOP IT THAT SHIT NOW!
People will either love you or hate you and it’s far better to be hated for being who you are than be loved for someone you’re not. The latter is much too exhausting to maintain anyway.
No one else can be who you are, so take advantage of that.
It’s life lessons people, even in branding. Go figure.
It gets better from there.
As small business owners ourselves, we often struggle with what to blog about. Maybe that's not the greatest thing to admit, since we do consult with other small businesses on what they should be blogging about…however it's not always easy to see the answer for your own business. Just as it's far easier for us to design for others than it is to design for ourselves.
If there's on thing that's true about blogging it's that blogs help businesses. How do they do that?
- Blogs help build your credibility by being transparent; being you
- Blogs show your expertise by giving your clients things they need to know
- Blogs allow your clients (and potential clients) to get to know you by being more than a voice on the other end of the line or an email address
- Blogs deliver a platform for instant feedback
- Blogs can also significantly effect your google ranking (who doesn't want a little piece of that pie?)
Now that we know why you should blog, we need to know what the hell to actually blog about?
The quick and fast rule
- Blog about topics that your target audience is interested in or needs help with
How do you know the answer to that?
- Surveys – you can actually go out and ASK them what they need help with. This is a very straightforward and often underrated way to get feedback from your customers. (check out surveymonkey.com) You can also use twitter and facebook for this.
- Emails – review client emails. What are their biggest frustrations? What are their most common questions? Chances are these same topics will be useful to other clients as well.
Google suggestions – we all use google so you have probably seen google give you suggestion based on what you type into the search box. These come from real searches from other people and you can use them to narrow in on what your niche is searching for. For example, our client Heather Jarvis might look up “student loan” and see this:
Then based on this information, she could write blog posts about any or all of those topics.
- Ask in your newsletter – you have a newsletter right? Good! (if you don't we can help you set one up) The best newsletters engage your readers. A perfect way to do that is to ask them what they need help with. You might think they'll get annoyed but in reality, they'll be happy that you actually care about them enough to ask. Trust me.
- Hang out with them – if your business is local, you could become a member of your local chamber of commerce or networking groups (check out meetup.com) or for online businesses visit forums and message boards, social media sites and blogs.
These are just a few simple and easy suggestions on honing in to your target market. What's your biggest challenge when it comes to blogging for your business? (see what I just did there? I'm sneaky!)