When small business owners ask me what they can do to build their businesses, I always ask: "What are you doing to keep your current clients and recapture the ones who've hired you in the past?" Most of the time the answer is: "Nothing." They are being ignored.
An old piece of marketing wisdom says it costs 6 to 7 times more to acquire a new client than it does to get more business from a current or past one. That's a lot of extra time, energy and money that could be put to better use.
Yet it's tempting to put ALL our marketing efforts into activities that are focused on bringing in NEW clients, and to neglect what we have already. Networking, article writing, speaking, social media - I do all those things too. It's not that it's wrong to look for new clients, but there's a potential goldmine waiting in your client database.
The advantages of retaining clients go beyond simply making more money. Business becomes easier.
Here are a few ways to start nurturing those client relationships.
- Past clients already know, like and trust you.
- You save time and money because you don't have to educate them about your business and the benefits to them. They already know all that.
- Existing clients are less sensitive to price. They already accept your price structure.
- There's greater potential for qualified referrals because they are familar with your work.
You can make it easy on yourself by putting a tracking system in place. It can be a database or a formal contact management system. Or it can be as simple as entering client names into an Excel spread sheet with a date to contact them again. Find out what works best for you so that no one falls through the cracks.
- Contact your best clients regularly. This can be as simple as sending a card, a newsletter or making a quick phone call.
- Depending on your business, you can make special offers for your best clients. Everyone likes a good deal and it makes them feel special if they know it's just for them.
- Contact them at unusual times. Instead (or in addition to) sending cards at the expected times such as Thanksgiving or Christmas, send a card for Groundhog Day, or some other day that's not widely celebrated. You'll stand out in their minds.