Posted 27th February 2011.
I often talk about the importance of courting your clients – investing in building a high quality relationship with them.
Great in theory – I don't think anyone would disagree with the concept.
But why do so few people do it in practice?
The truth is that romancing your clients is hard work.
It's a bit of a grind. And it's work that doesn't pay off immediately.
Consistency is the key – you need to be regularly in touch, not just calling when you need something from them.
Consistency requires you to be systematic. And I have to admit, I'm far from the most systematic of people by nature.
So this has always been a bit of a struggle for me. I'm always tempted to focus on shiny new toys rather than keep focusing on old friends.
To keep myself on the straight and narrow I've devised a simple system that even I can use to make sure I'm being consistent with my client nurturing activities. It might be helpful to you too.
There are three steps to it.
The first is to list and categorise your potential clients. I use a fairly simple approach:
- I mark those clients who would be ideal for my business and who could bring me a lot of work as category A.
- Potential clients who are close to ideal, or who are ideal but small and wouldn't bring me a lot of business I mark as category B.
- People I've met who are interesting, but I don't yet know if they'd make good clients I consider as category C for now.
My primary method of keeping in touch with this C category is via my email newsletter (which, of course, my As and Bs also get).
The second step is to write down your goals for your relationship with your A and B category potential clients.
In particular, I focus on what I'd like to achieve with them (perhaps it's that they hire me for coaching, or maybe it's a big training project) and what they need to know and feel before they'll be ready for that.
So, for example, if I'd like them to become a coaching client, perhaps what they need to know and feel is that I understand their challenges and that I've got the skills to help them overcome them.
Maybe they also need to feel that I'd be a nice person to work with – we'd have a good time working together.
And perhaps they need to have confidence in their own abilities and that achieving the sort of goals they're aiming for really is possible.
Over time I've found I'm able to identify common patterns of what potential coaching or consulting or training clients need to feel to be comfortable hiring me – so I don't have to rethink this stuff from scratch every time.
I also write down what I know they're interested in and what would be useful for them.
Then the third step is simply to review my lists on a regular basis and take action.
For A category potential clients I'll look at the list of names, what I'd like to achieve with them and what would be useful for them on a weekly basis. For the Bs it's every month.
Then based on that reminder, I'll plan in some activities for the week where I do something to help progress towards my goal.
Sometimes it'll just be sending them useful information or inviting them to an event I think they'll benefit from. But it's better if I can be sure that what I'm doing is leading us towards the goal.
So if I'm sending them useful information, I'll usually try to make sure it's something that will build their confidence in my skills (an article I've written that talks about a client I worked with, for example).
Or if I feel they need to grow their confidence that what they're thinking of doing is really possible, I may send them a case study of someone who's done something similar.
I don't always manage to come up with something every week. But I do manage to come up with things often enough to build a good, strong relationship.
And thinking about them every week increases the likelihood that during the week I'll spot something relevant for them as I'll be more aware of what would be useful.
It's this regular drip-drip-drip of action that makes the system work.
We've probably all made lists and categorised our clients before.
I'm sure most of us have identified our clients' needs and interests and promised ourselves we'll use that information to build a better relationships with them.
But where almost all of us fall down is that we fail to turn that into regular action.
If you're not doing this stuff week in, week out, it really won't have much impact.
So if you're like me and this systematic nurturing doesn't come naturally – make sure you build yourself a weekly habit like this and plan it in to your schedule.
Because for the majority of your prospects, it won't be your first contact that turns them into clients – it'll be your 5th, 6th, 9th, 10th or more