If you're a design business owner, you know that repeat business is critical to your success. It also makes your life much easier because you can count on ongoing business without having to continuously find new prospective clients and convince them to hire you.
Here are seven ways to keep your clients coming back:
1. Take time to build a relationship.
Learn to "visit" instead of being so professional that you appear rude. Pay attention when you meet with your clients. Learn about them and their lives. Notice what they hang on their walls and place on their desks. And don't just notice, comment on them. For instance, if your prospective client has a huge marlin hanging on his wall, you could say, "I'll bet there's an interesting story that goes with that fish." Your client will be thrilled to tell you about it, and he'll be flattered that you asked. And it would be like ignoring the elephant in the room if you DIDN'T comment on it. Learning about your client will pay off every day of your relationship.
2. Set realistic deadlines and either meet or beat them.
Nothing impresses a client more than when you follow through with what you say you will do. Do it fast. Do your best. And do it right. Clients always want it "yesterday," but if you know it can't be done that quickly, or it won't be done correctly because there's not enough time, then speak up
right at the beginning. It's better to set a realistic deadline and then beat it by a day or two, than accept an unrealistic one and make the client wait.
3. Make it easy to work with you.
Extend your service hours by an hour to cover when your clients want to talk to you. You can impress your clients by being available during their "off" hours. [Caveat: Don't go overboard. creating structure around your hours of operation lets clients know that you are a professional and operate as one.]
4. Offer credit card payment options to make it easy for your clients (and the government!) to pay you.
Today, businesses need payment options. If you allow them to pay with credit cards, you'll have more clients. And if you're interested in government business, this is an easy way to get in on the action since most government agencies are now using credit cards for purchases valued at less than $2,500.
5. Be flexible--offer to meet for breakfast.
Just like you, your clients are very busy. They have meetings all day and often during lunch, so it's hard to find a time to get together. Offer to meet for breakfast when you and your client are both fresh, or meet after normal work hours to accommodate their schedule.
6. Provide an added-value service at no charge.
Give them something they aren't expecting. If you go the extra mile, your clients will notice. You'll soon be the one they turn to when they need a problem solved. It works when your vendors do it for you, doesn't it? It sure does for me!
7. Refer business to your clients.
If you send business to your clients related to their profession, it shows how much value them. Connect one client with another, if possible. It's the ultimate thank you.
By Lois Carter Fay
Photography by Raisa Kanareva
Lois Carter Fay, APR, is a 30-year veteran in the P.R. and marketing field. She now produces three marketing ezines, Brainy Tidbits, Brainy Flash, and Success Secrets of Women Entrepreneurs. All are free. She also offers monthly teleseminars on sales, marketing or publicity topics. Lois is the co-author with Jim Wilson of "Sales Success! Strategies for Women," a quick-to-read ebook containing 52 easy-to-implement sales tips. The ezines, ebook and teleseminars are available through her websites. Visit http://www.MarketingIdeaShop.com or http://www.WomenMarketing.com to learn more sales and marketing ideas and subscribe. Claim your free special report when you subscribe.