How many Twitter followers do you have? How about LinkedIn connections? How many people ‘like’ your company’s Facebook page? Whichever form of social media you choose to utilise for work (and you really should be using some form of social media by now) you will have noticed the emphasis placed on increasing your numbers.
This gamification of business (gathering greater numbers of followers, as you would points in a game) makes clear a trend that has been around long before social media made the process so overt. The success of your website was always measured in new hits. Before websites, a skewed and potentially unhelpful bias towards new business already existed.
This is fully understandable – attracting new clients is essential for any business or organisation. However, the problem arises when the pursuit of the new leaves little room for existing clients. Customer loyalty is not what it once was and, whatever product or service you offer, it is quite normal for clients to be looking around to see what alternative providers are out there. The fact that people are now more connected than ever makes this window-shopping incredibly easy.
If you are constantly looking over the horizon for the next client instead of giving existing clients the attention they deserve you cannot blame them for deserting you. The ‘attention they deserve’ involves more than just doing the job on time and fixing any problems that occur. Think about anticipating needs, pre-empting problems and going the extra mile – the things you were willing to do to win new business.
If anything, in a time when business loyalty is scarce and individuals frequently bounce between companies hoping for a better deal, established clients are the most worthy of that extra mile. Often attention itself constitutes this extra mile. Most people rank time as their most precious resource. Client realise this and will acknowledge and appreciate time spent on them beyond responding to a direct question or request.
If it’s so easy for clients to leave you need to focus on making it easy for them to stay. Be available. Be proactive rather than re-active and consider contacting established customers outside of any mass circulated marketing. We have looked at the importance of trust many times and it is trust that you need to build in order to retain clients.
If a client trusts you it is less likely they will want to leave in the first place. Even if they are tempted to jump ship, the decision becomes that much harder if you have created a working trusting relationship with them. Put yourself in a client’s shoes – can any number of special offers or introductory rates from a complete stranger outweigh the benefits of working with someone you implicitly trust to do the best for you?
The decision is not a foregone conclusion, but a bond of trust is a powerful factor in making it. Focus on building this trust as repeat business always brings more value in the long run. Put relationship building and customer retention above client acquisition in your list of priorities. Make time for existing clients, go the extra mile, and say thank you.