Clients are like plants. You have to keep watering them if you want to see them grow. This means you have to ensure they're happy and well-served by having regular contact with them.
As all good relationships are based on strong communication, it's crucial you keep the channels open. Because if you don't? Well, a client will feel neglected and is likely to take their business elsewhere.
But how do you stay in touch without overdoing it? How do you ensure you have a healthy relationship without hassling anyone? Here are some top tips on how to successfully keep in touch with those you do business with...
Create a database
Before you do anything else, create a spreadsheet detailing all of your existing clients. Type in their names, phone numbers, email addresses, Twitter accounts... anything that will help you stay in touch. Add notes about how they like to be contacted, i.e. some might only like telephone communication while others might prefer email.
If you can afford it, choose a CRM tool so you never lose track of a client or customer again. Creative Boom has its own suggestions on CRM software tools for small business owners, so take a look at those.
When creating your database, throw in a little 'intelligence' about each person, i.e. listing what they like and something about their personal life... for example, Client A is married, has two children called Bertie and Matilda and on Sundays she goes running in the Peak District wearing nothing but a banana suit. This means that whenever you contact a client in future, you can ask about their families or outdoor pursuits to add a personal touch.
Go with your gut feeling
If you've not spoken to a client for some time and you get that gut feeling they might be thinking about you, pick up the phone and call them. Do it before you even get that gut feeling. Because if you sense that a client is wondering where the hell you are, you've probably left it too late.
Nothing beats face-to-face communication, so arrange regular meetings with clients to keep your relationship strong. Ensure your meeting etiquette is spot on, i.e. be punctual, smartly-dressed and professional. Greet clients with a firm handshake, smile and look them in the eye. If you're having a lunch meeting, don't rush your food and always remember table manners.
Have a blog
Blogging about your own expertise is a great, indirect way to stay in touch with clients. You're showing your customers that you can solve business problems and that you know what you're doing. Blog on a regular basis and write about things relevant to your industry.
Send regular newsletters
Informing clients about your work, recent testimonials, case studies or even sharing blog posts through a regular email newsletter is a great way to keep the communication channels open. Set something up through an online service like MailChimp and fire out campaigns on a regular basis – whichever you feel is appropriate.
Leave comments on their blogs
Another great way to stay in touch without going overboard is to leave smart comments on your client's blog or own articles. Make sure you use correct spelling and punctuation and say something really interesting. It will capture your client's attention and impress them.
Make use of Twitter
You know that weekly #FF on Twitter where you recommend people to follow? Give a friendly recommendation to your clients, so they know you're thinking of them. Or perhaps re-tweet their own content on your own feed. They'll appreciate the support and you'll stay well and truly on their radar.
Connect on Facebook
Most businesses have a Facebook Page these days, so make sure you 'like' your client's and regularly stay in touch with them by responding to their updates. It will keep you in the loop.
Get in touch on LinkedIn
To continue strengthening your relationships, find your clients on LinkedIn and connect with them. Once connected, make sure you regularly update your own profile so clients can see what you're doing. Add positive posts about your business and recent successful projects you've completed.
Show sincere appreciation
Whenever a customer hires you, gives you a referral or does something to help you overall, don't forget to thank them and show your sincere appreciation for their generosity or custom. Your loyalty is just as important and acknowledging their business is the best way to keep a client relationship strong. A simple thank you card should do the trick.
Send out the odd bit of marketing
Last but not least, the most obvious way to stay in touch with clients is by sending out marketing things like postcards, Christmas cards or even gifts like key-rings or fridge magnets. However, not every client will appreciate this kind of approach, so use your discretion and try and come up with fresh and interesting ways to market yourself.
For example, I got a free mug from Warrington design firm Future once and still use it today. I'm not one of their clients. They simple wanted some exposure on Creative Boom and it worked! Do the same with your own clients to successfully keep in touch.