You finally land that big client—the one you have been after for months. Or your most loyal client sends a handful of referrals your way, and you want to build a genuine relationship with them. Or maybe you’ve wrapped up a few projects and are wondering how to keep up those relationships so you can land future work, too.
Many of us generally accept that it’s less expensive to keep a current client than to acquire a new one. So whatever your situation, increasing the lifetime value of your clients is an essential aspect of any client-based business. Fortunately, you can make a few simple moves to boost your personal connections with your clients—and keep them coming back.
1. Invite clients to connect.
The most obvious (yet time-consuming) way to build personal connections is to invite business contacts to connect in a way that brings them value. If you’re fortunate enough to live near your clients, ask them to grab a coffee or lunch. A simple $5 coffee date can kick off a good conversation. If you can’t meet in person, offer a free 20-minute strategy session or something similar over the phone or via video chat.
Then, choose to listen more than you talk. Get to know about your client’s interests, family, and priorities. Provide a genuine partnership, and be trustworthy. If your client isn’t interested or doesn’t have time? No need to be pushy. An invitation is still a connection point—and could make you stand out against your competition. Time-management experts at Calendar.com suggest using an online calendar solution to remind you to reach out “every so often,” whatever you think the relationship can sustain.
2. Send thank-you notes.
Although people don’t always expect thank-you notes nowadays, they do convey genuine appreciation. After all, it takes time to get out a notecard and write on it.
Depending on the structure of your company, you could have someone else write and sign the notes. If your team doesn’t have time or bandwidth for physical thank-you notes, an email is a decent alternative. When you reach a project or calendar milestone (end-of-year, etc.), send a quick message of thanks for your client’s business. Gratitude is a good practice; sharing that with your clients shows them what kind of person you are and what type of business you run.
3. Develop a client gifting program.
Sending a gift shows a level of thoughtfulness that sets the best client care teams apart from the rest. You may send gifts at certain milestones or just because—to surprise and delight your clients.
Make sure you follow proper corporate gift-giving etiquette, as outlined by specialty gift basket company and gifting experts Spoonful of Comfort. Perhaps most importantly, don’t use this opportunity to sell again to your client.
Sending luxury or comfort gifts, such as baskets, including gourmet coffee, cookies, or soups, are a great way to show appreciation without screaming about your brand to your clients. The gift should be about them—not you—while still reflecting your company’s values.
4. Pick up the phone (discerningly).
Typically, no one likes a meeting that could’ve been an email or a voicemail that could’ve been a text. But despite our stated cultural preferences, talking can make people feel even more connected than text-based communication. With this in mind, if you need to connect with your client quickly during a project—and it fits with your SOPs and theirs—consider picking up the phone.
Using the phone for quick and essential conversations is best, so you don’t hijack someone else’s schedule. Don’t put your client on the spot during these chats. Instead, use them to ask complex questions only they can answer or to find out if they need anything before your team is gone for the weekend. And then tell them it’s great to talk with them and say goodbye. Then, if they want to chat further, they have the steering wheel.
5. Go to the proverbial cocktail hour.
When you’re traveling to meet with clients, and there’s an opportunity to spend more time with them—touring a local attraction, seeing a show, or going to dinner—take advantage of that time.
Yes, you need your rest and probably have a packed schedule. But consider the payoff from that investment. You may be out the cost of a museum ticket and an extra hour of prep work. But you’ll have memories you can connect over for months and years to come in your client relationship.
The rumor you may have heard about the death of the value of simple business etiquette isn’t true. Behind every business opportunity is at least one real, live human being. It’s not hard to add a personal touch to everything you do professionally, but it will require a commitment to being intentional. Showing appreciation and courtesy require effort.
One thing is certain. Consistently demonstrating a willingness to move your professional relationships beyond the bottom line will separate you from everyone else who is “too busy” to worry about adding these nice touches.