It’s pretty much a no-brainer that the more you keep in touch with your web design clients, the more likely they are to come back to you to give you repeat business. But one secret many web designers many not know is this:
By increasing your customer retention by just 5%, you can increase your profits by at least 25%, and by as much as 95%!
Yep, you read that right. Keep a tiny fraction of your clients coming back for more business, and you can experience huge financial gains.
So how does one go about retaining customers?
It’s pretty simple, really. Just keep in touch!
First Things First: Communication Isn’t a One-Time Deal
Before we dive into how you can stay in contact with your customers, we first need to go over exactly what it means to “stay in touch.”
In marketing lingo, connecting with a customer is called a “touch”. Studies show that one touch is nowhere near sufficient for retaining clients. In fact, it’s more like seven touches that need to occur to keep clients coming back to hire you time and time again. Some of these touches can be marketing related, such as a quarterly promotional newsletter that you send to clients via email or snail mail.
But it’s important to resist the temptation to schmooze a client with your latest and greatest products and services because that can be extremely off-putting, especially if they just shelled out a couple of thousand dollars for a new website from you. Instead, your focus should be on more personal communications.
This personalized approach to keeping in touch is necessary to continue building trust and loyalty with your clients. It can also be highly effective in establishing a long-term relationship with your clients because periodic communications show you put as much work into the customer experience as you put into their web design projects. In that respect, keeping in touch with your clients facilitates a feeling that you are partners with your clients in their business endeavor, not just someone that they pay to do web design tasks.
Let’s review a few easy and effective methods you can use in order to stay in touch with your customers and keep your client base strong.
Online Tools Make Communication With Clients a Breeze
If you want to stay in touch with clients, online tools can make the process smooth and efficient. We’re talking about harnessing the power of email and social media to keep tabs on how your clients are doing with the products or services you’ve provided to them. It’s also an easy and immediate way to get in a few of those seven required marketing touches without having to spend a whole lot of time doing it.
Not much is easier than sending out a tweet or a Facebook message, and even better, it’s free! These factors alone make social media an incredibly valuable option for staying in touch with your web design clients.
In previous posts, we’ve sung the praises of social media as a tool for gaining new customers and growing your business. But it’s also an excellent medium for maintaining contact with past customers. Not only can you quickly inquire about how a client is doing, you can also easily offer assistance with any questions or problems they are having with your product or service.
Even better, you can gain some exposure for your business at the same time. For example, you can send a tweet to a customer for whom you created a couple of banner ads. Ask them something like this:
Hey Jane, just checking to see how the banner ads I designed are working out. I trust you’re getting the increased traffic you were after!
The structure and tone of the tweet are both extremely important. You’ve conveyed to the client that you are thinking about them and are interested in their success as a result of your work, well after you’ve completed that work. Also note that the tweet isn’t a sales pitch, yet you’ve identified a service that you provide – banner ad design – so people that see your tweet on your client’s feed know what it is that you do. What’s more, you’ve identified the positive results of your banner ad designs – increased site traffic.
If you’ve done your job correctly, your client will have nothing but good things to say about your services and tweet you back accordingly. This process might remind them of how fantastic you are and generate more business from them, or it could catch the eye of one of their followers who needs some web design work done. As a result, you’re able to kill two birds with one stone – stay in touch with your client in a genuine manner and get a little marketing at the same time. And it only takes a few seconds of typing!
Email communications with your past clients are nearly as easy to undertake as those done on social media. But since email is a little more formal, your communications have to be done right if you’re going to accomplish your mission of establishing a long-lasting working relationship with your client.
Here’s the deal:
There are two types of emails you can send to clients – personal or newsletter.
Personal emails are much like the tweets we discussed above, but obviously more in-depth. Whereas tweets might be more appropriate for an individual client or a small company, a well-written email may be more appropriate for larger clients, such as corporations or non-profit organizations.
While emails should be personalized to each client, you can easily set up a form letter and change the names, job details, and inquiries you pose to the clients. Doing so means you don’t have to spend hours and hours writing emails to each client, but you’re still able to give them the personal touch that reminds them what a great designer you are. It also helps to show them that you’re a professional who cares about the client experience.
Newsletters are an effective way to stay in contact with a large number of clients without having to write something personal to each and every person. While you can certainly include information about sales, new products, or new services you offer, as with other communications we’ve discussed thus far, the purpose of the “let’s stay in touch” newsletter should be more along the lines of:
“Our client appreciation BBQ is coming up and you’re invited!”
Think of these newsletters like the holiday cards your mom wrote when you were growing up. There are lots of updates, lots of wishes for happiness and health, and an overall tone of appreciation and friendship. That’s what you should strive for in your “keep in touch” emails whether they take a personalized or newsletter form.
But be sure to remember this:
Keep emails short, sweet, and to the point.
Everyone’s inbox is already clogged. Your clients don’t need (or want) to spend 15 minutes reading a really long email from anyone, not even you!
Make a Call or Mail a Gift to Show Your Client You Care
It might seem so 20th century to pick up the phone and call someone. It’s even more old school to send a letter or a gift through the mail. Yet both methods of keeping in touch are still powerful ways to maintain connections with your client.
While email is convenient, nothing says, “I care about you” to your clients like a well-timed phone call. Hearing a voice on the other end, checking in to see how the website is doing after a month of usage is a great way to establish continued rapport with your client. Likewise, checking in on clients after three months, then six months, and so on keeps you up-to-date on what’s happening with their business, and keeps the client in the loop about what’s happening on your end as well.
These phone calls don’t have to be a giant sales pitch, nor should they be, especially in the beginning. After completing a job, give the client time to experience the product or service you provided, then check in and see if everything is running smoothly. Ending the call with, “I’ll check in on you again in three months” establishes a continued effort on your part to keep in touch, while also letting the client know that you care enough to keep tabs on how they’re doing.
Phone calls are great, but what can you do for an even more personalized touch?
Call your client on Skype so you can get some valuable face-to-face discussion going.
Even better for clients than hearing your voice is seeing your face. If you’re not able to pop in and see your client in person, Skype is the next best thing. However, be wary of overusing Skype (or the regular phone for that matter). People are busy these days and may not have the time to take your call. Your efforts to stay in touch with your client can quickly turn into an annoyance for them if they constantly see your phone number or Skype ID popping up.
Who doesn’t like to get a surprise gift now and then? Keeping in touch with your clients doesn’t mean you need to send them something extravagant. But a surprise thanks for hiring you a few weeks after the job is done can be a special way to forge a long-lasting bond with a client. If they are into tech, send them a flash drive. If your client likes coffee, send them a $5 Starbucks gift card. The point is, sending something small, yet personalized, shows that you care, and it’s a nice way to set up future communications with your client.
Get Some Face Time, Take Advantage of Social Capital
When we say to get some face time, we aren’t referring to the Apple application FaceTime (although it would work!). Rather, we mean converse with your client in person in order to build some social capital with them.
Perhaps more than any other form of communication, this demonstrates your continued commitment to your customer to ensure they have had a good experience. Think of it this way:
If you hired a programmer to do some work for you, would you be more likely to hire the guy that dropped by your office to check in on how you’re doing after a month or so? Or would you go back to the guy you never heard from again after your payment cleared?
Obviously, you’d re-hire the first guy…
If you have some spare time and have local clients, visit them at their place of business. It will give you a chance to have a genuine conversation about the product or services you provided, and will go a long way towards establishing that coveted long-term business relationship. These “house calls” can generate a ton of extra business, as a casual conversation can quickly turn into your client saying, “Hey, I was thinking that I also need…” Again, you’re able to kill two birds with one stone – you’re staying in touch with your client, and you’re generating that much-needed continued business.
Remember that establishing a client base that lasts year in and year out requires you to treat your customers properly before, during, and after your work is completed. Clients like to feel as though they are the most important customer you have, and communicating with them on a regular basis in a genuine manner will help you make them feel as though that is the case. Communication is one of the must have skills you need to be successful, and is guaranteed to bring you increased profits over the course of your career.
What methods of keeping in touch with clients have you had the most success with? Start the conversation by leaving a comment below!
Communication Matters by the Communications Network via Flickr Creative Commons
You Can Etch It… by Alan Reeves via Flickr Creative Commons
Mail Box Ghetto by Jonny Hughes via Flickr Creative Commons
Small Talk by David Goehring via Flickr Creative Commons