What’s the #1 way to ensure your business grows slower than a ‘73 VW Beetle on its way to a Grateful Dead concert?
By abandoning your client or customer at the end of the project or service.
Why is this true?
Because for micro-business owners, our current customers represent two very valuable and important assets: 1) repeat business opportunities, and 2) our greatest referral sources. We ignore them at our peril.
You may have done truly outstanding work for your client. But simply forgetting about her at the end of the project or service is a surefire way to lower your referral rate.
I know that many people feel completely forsaken by their CPAs after the tax return is finished in March or April. The client never hears from the accountant again until later in the year when it’s time for a (billable) tax planning session. I was recently mortified to learn that a client was afraid to call me because he didn’t want to be billed! I guess I haven’t done a good enough job explaining myself. That’s almost never how I roll.
So why not preempt the client’s feeling of abandonment? Why not take the time to show you’re more than just a green-eyed money-grubber? (Hey, I’m a CPA, not a banker! :-)) It doesn’t take that much time or imagination to adopt a simple yet proactive keep-in-touch strategy designed to help clients and customers feel thought after and cared for.
Long after people forget what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel. And people always feel better if they believe you’re genuinely interested in them and don’t intend to leave them on the side of a dark desert highway.
Improve your referral rates just by keeping in touch
The project is finished. You’ve been paid, the customer is (hopefully) delighted with the result. Now what happens? Do you go immediately on your merry way in search of the next customer or project?
No. You make a note in your calendar to later check in with that customer.
Acquiring new customers is a vitally important business process, no doubt. But remembering to give current customers some small indication that you actually care goes a long way toward improving your referral rate.
But the truth is: Maybe you’ll get more business by caring, maybe you won’t. That’s not the point. Keeping in touch with current customers in a non-cheesy, non-salesy, honest-to-god-interested way is just a huge part of the reality of human-focused micro-business.
Ask yourself: “How can I be generous here?” Don’t be afraid to reach out and (gasp!) even do a bit of work for free.
So what does an easy keep-in-touch strategy look like exactly?
Some people will require a phone call, but for most others a short and informal email will work just fine. Depending on your industry, send it a week or a month (or even two) after the project’s completion. Those emails might look something like this:
Web developer: “Hi! Are you enjoying your new site? What’s been your feedback so far? If there’s anything troubling or confusing you, please let me know so I can help fix it.”
E-product creator: “Hi customer! Thanks so much for buying my Guide To Using Kettlebells Without Looking Silly. Do you have any questions? Is there anything I can do to help improve the product’s usefulness for you?”
Bike shop: “Thanks so much for buying your new bicycle from us! How’s it going? Have you found all the great trails? Let me tell you about this one, which is my favorite.”
CPA: “Hi client! I’m just checking in to see how you’re enjoying
Dante’s Inferno summer. How’s business going? Is there anything I can do to help, or questions I can answer?”
Basically here’s what to do, and it’s really simple: Be helpful, be brief, and ask. Then listen.
Build credibility through honest conversations. Relate and listen to customers rather than just sell to them. Make a connection. Let them know you’re still around. Don’t ask for anything. Just be generous and remember they’re there. They’ll more likely remember you when a friend or colleague of theirs asks for a referral.
(Photo by wlbj)