Clients aren't going to stick around forever, even with the best customer service, best brand and best client retention rates. This is especially true if you're new to a business or are in the process of growing your team.
When I first took over at Single Grain, I thought I could be hands-off. I thought I could let other people take care of the business and, by extension, the clients. I was wrong. By the time I realized how much of a mistake this was, we were down to one employee.
If you do lose several of your clients all of a sudden, what happens? Does it put you in a bad spot? Will you have a hard time paying the bills? Do you know how you will replace them?
All of these are important questions that you need to know the answers to because losing even just a few clients could drastically affect your income. For example, if you had five clients each paying you $1,000 per month and, for whatever reason, three of those five clients leave, you would lose 60% of your revenue. That could happen overnight.
The aim of this article is to help you prevent losing your hard-earned clients and to help you find new clients when you need to. There will also be a few tips on how to keep your best employees and team members around because having a great time with other passionate people is integral to growing your business!
Why You Need to Reduce Client Turnover
Single Grain had hit rock bottom. Just me and one employee. Eventually, I realized that I had to be the one to close the deals and build up a new team. This was Single Grain, round two.
That first round was a disaster and it took an entire year to recover from it. However, once round two began it started to get better and better. We started closing clients consistently. Not only that, but I realized how much we needed to focus on serving those clients and being truly hands-on. That's what leads to our higher retention rates.
It was the same with the new team. I needed to build rapport with them. With the old team, I had virtually no rapport. They were great people but I wasn't in their lives and they had no reason to stick with our company.
One of the first customer acquisition strategies I developed at Single Grain was to be personally involved. I went out and visited both existing clients and potential customers. I did strategy sessions with them, opened up new marketing channels and pushed marketing trends. Creating these touch points helped build an initial relationship with each client and potentially customer loyalty.
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Get Your Foot in the Door, Then Ask for a Retainer
Yes, some clients are open to a retainer right away. If you think that's the right way, go ahead and ask. In the majority of cases, however, I would say it's safer to get your foot in the door first than it is to ask for a new client or prospect to commit to 12 months right away. That might even scare them off.
For many clients, you need to either prove that you can do the work or show that you are easy to work with and a good fit for them. This is why it's useful to have a relatively inexpensive “trial” type product that can lead to a larger contract. If you create a plan or strategy for them for a single price, then you can propose next steps and a retainer.
Just getting them to pay you a little at first and having it pay off builds enough goodwill to set you up for a successful working relationship. If you do want to ask for a retainer right off, you may also want to add the smaller deal into your proposal as an alternative.
Converting Leads into Sales
If you have a lead that you think is likely to work out and you have their contact details, call them immediately. One of the best ways to close a client or sale in situations like this is to move fast.
We've been in at least one situation, here at Single Grain, where we've lost clients because our call was “late.” By the time we got certain clients on the phone, they've already had two, three or even four calls with a competitor. In that case, it's highly unlikely that you're getting their business.
Mark Cuban, I believe it was, said it well: “The one thing that kills all deals is time.” If you're not fast enough, somebody else will be. This is one of the main advantages of anyone who is new in the business: they have time. They can be first because they're more available. Time like that is a precious resource and one, if you're new, you have in abundance.
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Content Marketing Builds Relationships and Brings in Leads
Once you have content out there that's genuinely of value, it's something that can help people at scale. People can read or watch your content over and over, whenever they need to. That's an opportunity.
Right now, though our blog is our most successful content marketing channel and our podcast is close behind, I think that YouTube is our biggest opportunity. It could be your biggest opportunity, too. Video and live content that you can repurpose are worth looking into because they're major trends for 2019 and beyond.
The Best Way to Increase Lifetime Value (LTV)
Have touch points with your clients to build their value over the long term. Make time to pay attention to them. If you can do that, you'll build trust and rapport. That makes them want to keep doing business with you or do more business with you. The more time I spend with these customers, the more visits there are, the greater their LTV will be and the more likely they are to be retained. If you're from a larger agency and reading this, this is something you probably already know.
When we started to use these tactics to close our own clients, rather than refer them out, our LTV grew 3-4X what it was before.
Build In-Person Relationships
When I thought I could take a step back and let my employees handle things at Single Grain, I didn't take into account the value of in-person relationships. By meeting with clients face-to-face, it makes things more personal and more human. They see you as a real person, not just a faceless voice communicating with them over the phone or email. Connections built in-person are harder to forget about.
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Gifts Make Lasting Impressions
There's a book by John Ruhlin called Giftology. We've been using gifting to increase our customer relationships and get new customers for years, but that book taught me to do it better and is one of the best tools of the trade.
For example, we used to give out AirPods with the Single Grain logo on them and on the case. At first, this might seem like the thing to do. But it's tacky. How much do you really want to use something with a company's logo on it, especially if it's not a company you use yet? It's kind of has a cheap feel.
There are better options. Me, for instance, I'm a gamer and a football guy. You could get me an uber-rare video game or a USC football jersey; either of those things would make an impression. I would think better of your company, and you, for getting me something I would appreciate and use. You made the transaction about me. That's better gifting.
When it comes to gifting, you might also have different tiers of gifts. Maybe more personally appealing gifts for potential high-value clients or clients you've had for years. You are not just looking at your target audience, you are singling out potentially loyal customers.
The idea here is that you give them something that they're going to use as often as possible. If you can give them something that they're going to use every single day, even better. That object, whatever it is, will get you impressions every time you use it.
You could also extend this to their spouse, children or other close family members. This will help you create a relationship that lasts. How many companies pay attention to a person's family? By doing so, you're more of a friend than just another vendor. You're doing more than the status quo of just delivering the work. That makes you remarkable.
Know Why Clients Leave
Sometimes, it doesn’t matter how much you push your business through social media, or improve your user-generated content, or use influencer marketing, customer retention sometimes just simply doesn’t work. When clients leave, you need to do a post-mortem as part of your marketing strategy. If you don't know what that is, what you need to do is ask and answer a few key questions:
- What went well with this project?
- What was the goal of this project?
- What would you do differently next time?
- In the next 90 days, what actions are you going to take?
For every client that leaves, you ask these kinds of questions as part of your future acquisition strategy. They don't have to be these exact questions and you can add on, but just make sure you analyze what happened and what you're going to do to get better.
You should do this when an employee leaves, too — every single employee. This improves the experience of all of your employees and helps you build a strong team that sticks with you and your company over the long term.
If you're not doing post-mortems, you're not going to get better as quickly as someone who does. You may not make much improvement at all. Not paying attention to what went wrong, even if it seems like a one-off or chance event, will lead to complacency. You'll start complaining about things rather than taking action.
In short, you have to be able to take feedback and if no one is giving you feedback you have to create your own from the information you have at hand. If you pay attention to your performance, good and bad, and then you work to change for the better, then I think it will be impossible for you to fail.
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When to Add More Services
If you're offering services, you may be tempted to start offering more. You may be tempted to offer every customer “add-ons” for things you do not have mastery over or true competency in. You may offer things before you have the resources to do so. This is a mistake.
Before you offer additional services, make sure that you have the resources to consistently deliver to ensure a positive customer experience. If you don't, then focus on a few services you can offer right now. Don't grow your menu of options too much too fast. It may seem like more services will make you stand out, and it will, but if you deliver poorly then all you'll grow is a negative reputation.
When you can offer better value-added services that go with your core offerings, then you'll stand out. Grow these services one at a time and make sure you have the adequate resources in-house or a reliable place you can outsource to. Major companies do this all the time. Asking for outside help is often better than overtaxing the resources you have.
Building Your Business Requires Acquiring and Retaining Customers
If you can retain more of your customers, you won't have to push your customer acquisition strategy quite so much. Having clients that stick with you for longer can also help your business grow steadily as you will have to invest fewer resources into finding new clients. These clients may also grow with you and be more willing to work with your business as it grows if you develop that relationship.
In this article, I covered my three top strategies to retain clients:
- Give thoughtful gifts
- Build in-person relationships
- Make the most of touch points (and when clients do leave, know why and fix it)
Use these strategies wisely.
When you are out looking for new leads and making the first contact with potential customers, make sure you move fast. Get your foot in the door as soon as you can with your initial offer or, if you insist on proposing a contract right away, give them an alternative if they are uncomfortable with that. It won't devalue your service and it will help you earn their trust.