“Treat them mean, keep them keen” is definitely not a strategy for growth for the average SME. Like any relationship you need to invest time, attention and thought into cultivating and strengthening your client relationships. Here’s our top 5 tips of how to keep the romance alive all year round:
- Know what your clients are looking for out of the relationship –Obviously, you need be very competent at your core business offering, but lots of businesses offer what you do so what makes your clients’ love you in particular and what keeps / will keep them faithful? Is it great customer service, or the convenience of working with you (location, opening hours etc.)? Is it that you offer great value for money or maybe it’s because you’re not the cheapest but they believe you to be better than the rest? Whatever it is then make sure you know.
- Ask your clients’ about themselves – very few people fall in love with a person who asks them nothing about themselves. Client relationships are no different. It’s really important to ask your clients’ about themselves. Many of us know this as ‘market research’ but for a small business this can be as simple as simply picking up the phone and having a conversation or asking them to rate you against certain criteria on a feedback from. This is always time well spent as it gains you a better understanding of your customer and how you can improve and evolve the strength of your offering.
- Speak like a real human – avoid jargon and relate to your customers’ needs in words they understand.
- Be there when they need you (and even when they don’t realise they need you) – respond quickly and thoroughly to your customers’ questions and queries. This builds trust and peace of mind that they are being looked after. The ultimate is when you are able to anticipate questions they may have and answer them before they have even asked them. For example, keep a record of your customers’ questions and your responses, then convert these into helpful information such as FAQs on your website or attractive easy to use guides which you can also use to court future customers.
- Don’t tell them you love them, show them – actions speak louder than words in any language. Make your client feel special and treat them well. However, don’t let them take advantage of you. Unfortunately, some customers will always try and squeeze you down on price or set unrealistic time scales, or drag their feet when it comes to paying you. Assuming you do a good job and deliver on their expectations then you don’t need to dance to this tune. Don’t be frightened to stand up for yourself and create clear boundaries, you’ll be respected for it.