Posted on: November 1, 2022
Many businesses spend considerable time and budget on winning new clients. While these clients are a key part of business growth and survival, that growth can come from many forms.
Attracting work from new clients often comes with a higher cost of sale, as more effort is required to attract and convince them that you’re the supplier or adviser for their job. New clients can also be price sensitive and haggle more, as they’ve yet to experience the full value your business approach brings.
In contrast, new or repeat work from existing clients can be easier to win and far more profitable. And if those clients are delighted with your products and services, they sometimes recommend or give testimonials that motivate new clients to get in touch.
In the current climate where budgets are being scrutinised and competitors are vying to poach, protecting your clients is key. In this article, you’ll find helpful ways to keep those client relationships strong and resistant to other’s advances.
1. Respond quickly
This seems so simple, but many businesses find it’s easier said than done. Clients are greatly impressed by, or disappointed in, how quickly their enquiries are responded to. In many cases decisions are made simply by who replies the quickest.
Even though people were patient in the pandemic (when they respected that social distancing made business operations more challenging) that patience has evaporated.
With people now busier and time-poor, they want answers, solutions or deliveries quickly so they can move on to the next thing on their list. This impatience is also fed by the speed in which they can search and find solutions online.
Those businesses that do respond quickly often impress and win. Those that don’t can be forgotten, or worse still, made an example of via social media and review sites.
2. Increase your number of advocates in the client
All too often the relationship with the client flows through just one or two individuals. If the client contact leaves the organisation or gets promoted to another area, the relationship can flounder as there’s no one else to champion your cause.
Think about your client contact relationships. Who else do you and your team need to build a relationship with? Think about others in your client contact’s team, and who they report to. Also consider other contacts in relevant departments. Take time to plan how you will build those relationships over time and who can help you to gain introductions.
3. Use post-purchase reviews more strategically
If you don’t conduct post-purchase/project/assignment reviews with your client you could miss serious insight and opportunities to further protect and develop the relationship.
These interactions are a great point to check whether your approach, and how you support them, is still valued. It also gives you a chance to explore where your work, product or service fits in with the next task on their ‘to-do’ list or other longer-term goals. Can you use these to help position your company for further work?
By the way, this isn’t about sending a client satisfaction e-survey. Instead, it’s about getting some quality time with the client in-person, via an online meeting or on a call.
Look at the purchases and projects due to finish soon and book time with the client for a debrief shortly after. Encourage insight and sentiment from your client while it’s still fresh in their mind.
4. Align your business with the client’s ways of working
The easier it is for your client to work with you; the more they’ll favour your business over others. This is achieved by understanding how they like to work and communicate. It is also helped by being clear about their internal deadlines and the colleagues they need to satisfy and impress.
Become a supplier/adviser/agency they can always rely on and who actively demonstrates that you genuinely care. To help, try and perfect the art of underpromising and overdelivering across your team and make it easy to work with you.
When taking on an order, get a brief so you deliver what they really want. Explore things like:
- what format they want your output to take
- the key timescales/deadlines
- the level of information they need from you (eg do they need full reports, or are they time-poor and prefer a brief summary?)
- the communication points along the way you all need to follow and
- any other key performance indicators they have
If this is a relatively new relationship, ask what aspects they have liked or not liked when they’ve worked with similar suppliers/advisers. Emulate or avoid these as appropriate.
Communication massively affects client satisfaction. When clients feel they’ve been kept informed and the supplier clearly understands what they are after, satisfaction is high.
In contrast when there’s a lack of communication from a supplier or where problems haven’t been flagged straight away, trust diminishes and dissatisfaction intensifies.
Most negative reviews online are prompted by poor communication and clients feeling their expectations have been let down. The good news is that great communication isn’t that common and when your team does master it, it seriously impresses clients. It can even help to differentiate and give your business a competitive edge.
Communication is sometimes blurred with responsiveness (see point 1). It does indeed go hand in hand with it, but for great client experiences communication is more proactive – anticipating what information needs the client has and satisfying them. It also adopts the right tone and type of information for the client, so they feel you’re in-tune with them.
You don’t need us to tell you that your clients are crucial to your organisation’s success. It’s very easy though to take current client relationships for granted.
In times of change as we have now on the political and economic front, doing what you’ve always done won’t necessarily keep clients loyal. That’s why it requires some careful planning to protect client relationships and build loyalty. Always assume a competitor is targeting them.
The more you understand your clients and the closer you can get to them; the more they will come to rely on you. Yes you do need to put in some effort and will have to adapt as their needs change and evolve, but let’s face it, it’s certainly worth it.
If your company could benefit from discussing how to build strong relationships through its marketing and client relationship management please feel free to contact us.