Obtaining clients is not an easy task, especially in today’s economy. Keeping them happy and continually renewing your monthly retainer (or other billing method) may be even harder.
The client/consultant relationship is an unusual one in the business world, but definitely not unique to public relations. During the past seven-plus years since I founded my company in 2003, I have made several observations about what keeps clients coming back from more and what can lead to an early termination.
Ideas and techniques to keep your clients happy
1. Deliver value.
This thought may seem obvious to every business person, but it is easy to forget amid the rush of daily activities. You need to constantly evaluate what you are providing to your clients and whether they could get it anywhere else.
2. Communicate and do something for every client every day.
If you skip a day, the client will think you are only working on other accounts.
3. Take educational courses in your field.
Clients like to see you are staying up-to-date with the latest developments and passing them along to them! If you feel an account is in jeopardy, one of the most effective techniques for maintaining a client involves taking a course they may be interested in and promising to share your notes upon completion.
4. Minimize extra fees and charges.
I always make sure to tell my clients about any third-party fees as far in advance as possible, and a personal technique – not for everybody — involves avoiding adding any mark-ups to their charges.
5. Meet with your clients in person at least once a month, preferably for lunch.
Meeting with your clients over a nice meal once a month helps to break the ice with new clients and avoids any unhappiness with older ones. The ability to vent any frustrations or address current concerns is essential for any consultant/client relationship.
6. Cultivate personal relationships with your clients.
Clients generally hire consultants based on gut instinct, whether or not they like them, then find intellectual reasons to justify the decision afterwards. This is a well-tested and verified business axiom.
7. Avoid sharing details about other accounts.
Even if you have relevant and transferable successes with other clients, it’s always wise to keep them to yourself. If you break confidentiality, even with former clients, your current ones will wonder about your doing the same thing with them.
8. Keep your salary the same on a client-by-client basis.
Trying to raise your monthly fee mid-account provides an easy excuse for a client to let you go.
Keeping your clients happy is really more of an art than a science, but following the maxims above will definitely help. However, most important, you need to remember your clients are people more than dollar signs and act accordingly.
All clients bring their own unique characteristics to the table, and you need to learn them, their concerns for their business and the expectations they hold for both consultants and employees. Knowing the corporate culture and reinforcing it through your efforts probably represents the best thing you can do to keep your clients happy.