Building loyal clients is a strategic imperative for every business regardless of size. Satisfied customers can go anywhere but only loyal clients want to come to you. Turning a client into a devoted advocate is indispensible, not only will they repeat buy but often they buy in high quantities, bring more clients to your business and are prepared to endorse your services or products. In this the sixth in our series of articles about attracting the right type of clients we examine loyalty and the steps successful businesses put in place to ensure they create a rich seam of loyal clients.
How do you spot a potential ‘keeper’?
Did your mother ever say to you, “he’s a keeper”? Someone you know will enrich your life, focus on the positive and not the negative. The same is true in business. We all want to work with the best possible clients: You know the type that don’t mess you around, pay your invoices on time and don’t make unreasonable demands. If you want to attract loyal clients who can become evangelists for your business you need to get rid of the ones that can drain your energy, and the energy of your business. Michael Porter suggests only working with people who energise and inspire you, that way you can do your best work.
- Respect your opinion.
- Pay you what you are worth.
- Ensure you get the information you need in a timely fashion so that you can deliver on time.
- Meet with you on a regular basis so that you can stay connected with them and their business.
To get those ‘keeper’ clients you need to:
- Define your target market.
- Cater to their needs.
- Show your potential clients how you can deliver a return on their investment.
- The more your clients get to know you the more they will trust you so make sure that you build trust and credibility by delivering on your word.
- Be approachable and welcoming – people buy from people they like.
- Communicate – the message you give to your clients and how it’s delivered is central to building loyalty.
How do you build loyalty?
To turn a satisfied customer into a loyal customer something different needs to happen; they need to have a great experience. Keeping in touch with your clients, remembering the things they like and don’t like, rewarding them for choosing you over the competition (make sure this is in line with the client’s company policy) are ways to build loyalty. These should be the basics. To build loyalty you need to strengthen the relationship further and develop an allegiance. This comes from the client knowing you truly care about their business and want to help them become more successful. Putting in place a customer loyalty strategy and retention programme is not just an approach for the ‘big boys’. Entrepreneurs and small businesses who truly want to grow their businesses know that like their bigger brothers and sisters in the industry they also need to consider their strategy to deliver above and beyond client expectations. Consider undertaking the following steps:
- Write down on a blank sheet of paper the strengths of you and your business that can be used to build loyalty. Review your list and ask yourself what makes them special, how do those strengths make your stand out from the crowd? These attributes will become the framework of your plan. Allocate a budget; this is not just about hard currency but also your time. Remember you don’t want to spend time chasing clients you want to spend time retaining your existing clients.
- Decide on your approach to get close to your clients. Find out about their interests, concerns, their vision and how they intend to make it a reality. Once you’ve done that systemise your approach so that you can repeat the process.
- Frequent contact is important; don’t just say in touch in the latter stages of a contract. Build in connection time with your client and members of their team from start to finish. Consider sending out regular newsletters, schedule coffee meetings for one-to-one catch-ups or a light lunch – don’t become a faceless person in the background become part of the fabric of your client’s business.
- Anticipate your client’s wishes, it sends a message that not only do you care but you are paying attention. All of us like to feel ‘cared-for’ and when the client understands you have their best interests at heart it can generate a fierce loyalty.
- Even if your business is online, show your personality, clients choose to interact with a human.
- Understand a client’s expectations and show that you can meet them. A client likes to know they come first. It makes them feel valued and this is an important step towards gaining loyalty.
- One of the key ingredients in building loyalty is providing excellent customer service and support. Clients today are not only interested in the products/services they are being offered but the additional elements they receive as a result of that product/service.
- Once you have your loyal base of clients don’t forget to get feedback from the on a regular basis, most companies do this on a yearly basis. If you are not comfortable doing this yourself, get an external provider to do it for you or team up with a business colleague and support each other with this task. Finding out what your clients really think about you and your business is important to your future growth.
Building loyalty and developing relationships with clients who are worth keeping won’t happen overnight. Instead it needs to be built over time. Care, patience and a good plan to know how you will achieve your goal of a loyal client base are vital. That, and getting the job done. Consistently delivering work of a high standard, anticipating client needs and establishing a business relationship that’s based on trust, respect and an understanding of each other’s skills and offer ensures a client understands both your value and you do theirs. The best relationships in both our personal and business lives do not go one way. If one side does all the work and the other saps energy and enthusiasm we know something is fundamentally wrong. Success breeds success and once you know how to spot a good client relationship you can begin to nurture your own. A loyal client will be your best advocate and will be key to telling others why your business is so valuable to them.