How to Develop Long-Term Client Relationships
The line is cast, and the catch is made.
But “catching” new clients is only one part of the equation. Now you have to keep them. And while you may have a unique product offering that puts you ahead of your competition, at the end of the day, someone else is doing something similar (or — gasp! — better) for less.
Clients want a high ROI and a top-notch service offering. So when they say jump and you don’t clear the bar, they’ll find someone else who will. It’s their first-hand testimony that’s going to set you apart.
If your clients won’t go to bat for your quality, your quality simply isn’t good enough.
Word-of-mouth referrals are your ultimate marketing campaign. But to win these, you can’t settle for the dollar value; your focus needs to shift to the business value that yields more long-term results. Here are the ways you can consistently provide value to clients:
1. Align Your Interests
Misaligned interests lead to unsatisfied customers, and your clients have two numbers in mind: budget and ROI.
While it may be in your best interest to spend the entirety of the client’s budget, it’s in the client’s best interest to spend the entirety of the budget only when you hit his ROI goal. So how do you handle this situation?
The answer can only be uncovered through open communication with your client — who should always have the final say. If you’re honest and straightforward, trust increases and leads to a longer-term budget, even if it sacrifices short-term revenue.
2. Set Realistic Goals
When constructing a narrative to your clients about the direction of their business, set realistic goals and expectations. Like Wall Street, it’s better to beat the numbers than come in under expectations.
Over-promising may be a good technique to close business, but is inflating your performance at the cost of losing a client really worth it? I think not.
3. Focus on Your Staff
Fewer employees will decrease costs and maximize short-term margin at the cost of long-term growth and stability. If you don’t have enough manpower to accommodate your existing client load and business development pipeline, hire more people than you need. If you need one, for example, hire three. Not all hires work out, and the time commitment to train one person is roughly the same as training multiple people.
Don’t stop there, though. Building your staff is only the start. You have to make sure employees are happy. Happy employees provide better service, which wins and retains more customers.
4. Define Your Leadership
Whether you’re leading a team internally or communicating to a client who has multiple people on an account, everyone likes having someone to hold accountable. Clearly define who that person is to your organization as well as your clients.
If you have to let go of a person or client and don’t have the stomach for it, find someone who does. All bad news can be good news when appropriately communicated by the right person. Don’t bog down your critical employees with the burden of delivering bad news. Instead, assign an individual executive to this task to set your leaders and clients free.
5. Strike the Iron no Matter What
Send prospects company swag immediately after a meeting to remain top of mind even if you lose the business.
Don’t overlook any opportunity. While it’s customary to associate your best talent with the biggest clients, it’s important to remember that all big accounts were once small and all MVPs were once rookies. When you only manage big clients with your best talent, you don’t provide the highest-quality service to existing clients who are just beginning to scale.
It’s easy to get caught up in hitting sales goals, but this often overwhelms employees and derails the big picture. Stay honest, and always remember, if you care about your clients, they’ll care about you.