Winning new clients is time-consuming and expensive. You have to invest in marketing, prepare for and go to pitches, and continuously work on your business development. Amongst all the effort, it’s easy to forget that the most straightforward source of revenue lies right under our noses – and that’s with existing clients.
They’re the people you’ve already won over, established a relationship with and know very well. So what’s stopping you from attracting repeat business from them?
It’s time to roll up your sleeves and focus on sales, upselling and marketing yourself in ways you might sometimes neglect. The following five golden rules will get you started.
1. Offer exceptional customer service
If you want to keep customers coming back for more, you have to do an excellent job for them every single time. Become the supplier they can rely. The very person who understands their business inside-out and always makes a difference – that’s whether you’re delivering exceptional copy, a new brand identity, a website, app or marketing campaign.
Walt Disney once said: “Whatever you do, do it well. Do it so well that when people see you do it, they will want to come back and see you do it again, and they will want to bring others and show them how well you do what you do.”
Be memorable, be exceptional and – go above and beyond, as Richard Branson wisely said: “The key is to set realistic customer expectations, and then not to just meet them, but to exceed them – preferably in unexpected and helpful ways.”
Even American business author Michael LeBoeuf said: “A satisfied customer is the best business strategy of all.” Mark my words, customer satisfaction should be your priority.
2. Become an essential part of their team
Steve Jobs famously said: “Get closer than ever to your customers. So close that you tell them what they need well before they realise it themselves.” It rings so true in the creative industries when we advise our clients daily on how to succeed through their marketing communications.
Become their closest supplier and ally. Show them you’re an essential part of their team. If you can, get close with the members of the board or the senior management people – the very people who hold the purse strings.
Because if you can master a more senior ’advisory’ role, where you’re doing more than just crafting a logo but also offering consultancy support to help grow their business, this is where you’ll firmly cement your place in their company.
3. Get brave on the upsell
During phone calls and meetings, be bold and suggest new ideas that will benefit your client and win you more work. Look at existing assets and consider where improvements could be made. Is there something missing from your client’s website? Is the copy not cutting it? Or have you seen a promotion by a competitor and think something similar would work well for them? Suggest them all! Get comfortable with the upsell.
Estée Lauder once said: “I have never worked a day in my life without selling. If I believe in something, I sell it, and I sell it hard.” Do the same. Believe in yourself and your ideas, and talk passionately about them. Become infectious to be around with your constant stream of suggestions. You’ll not only impress the client for caring so much about their success, but you’ll also secure long-term, repeat business.
4. Offer complementary services to protect your survival
Keep losing clients to larger agencies who offer more services under one roof? What’s stopping you from branching out and extending your service offering? Nothing.
Be brave and offer complementary services that will benefit your client. For example – build websites? Sell copywriting services. Don’t know how to write? Bring someone in and mark up their price. Or do you run a design firm, but have no web design/development offering? Hire someone or work collaboratively with a local freelancer to extend your services.
You not only want to open up new revenue streams and ensure your long-term survival; you want your client to avoid going anywhere else. As Australian former tennis player Rod Laver once said: “The time your game is most vulnerable is when you’re ahead. Never let up.” I couldn’t have put it better myself.
Read these extra tips on how to take the next step to grow your business and move beyond freelancing.
5. Keep talking
Often the most straightforward technique to win more work from existing clients is to stay in touch with them and remind them you’re still there. It will maintain your relationship and strengthen loyalty and trust.
You should also remind clients of your range of services because they’re busy and may forget. A great way to do this is by seeking their permission to send them your monthly newsletter – something that subtly advertises recent projects and successes, or perhaps shares your latest blog posts. You’ll stay fresh in their minds and be the first they consider when they need something in future.
A final word
If you follow the above techniques, you will retain clients for many years to come. It’s about doing your very best work every time. It’s about becoming an essential team player – one they couldn’t imagine living without. It’s about finding ways to grow, as your client grows. It’s about keeping in touch and staying loyal.
You mustn’t take your eye off the ball or lose touch with anyone you’ve worked with. Take this final piece of advice from Jeff Bezos of Amazon: “We see our customers as guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little better.”