We’ve spoke before about the importance of client referrals. For NDM, referrals account for 50% of our new clients so far in 2016. Even better, when our VIP clients sing our praises to a new potential client, we are confident that those referrals will be VIP, too. So how do you get your best clients to chat you up to all their friends? The answer is pretty obvious. In fact, you might already know where the secret lies; yet you’re so busy that you put finding it pretty low on the priority list. Well, here’s the dirty secret: VIP clients deserve VIP work. From your introductory email to your end-of-project report, every action should be newsworthy.
- New Client Welcome Kit
One feature I started providing clients with in 2016 is a “Welcome Packet.” The feedback I’ve gotten back from this simple idea has been tremendous; each client has made a special point to send me an email or call me directly thanking me for the packet. My welcome packet includes:
- A cover page with my logo
- A cute greeting card thanking them for choosing my company to manage their social media accounts and marketing campaigns.
- A branded envelope for them for them to send in payment- already addressed and stamped (for clients that are not paying online).
- A “Scope of Work” document that clearly outlines the project terms and conditions, as well as fee schedule, communication process (more on that below), and a calendar.
- A goodie! I always try to include something picked out just for them; a notebook, a beautiful pen, and pack of macaroons. Something a list extra just to say thank you!
- Clear communication process
One of the biggest causes for frustration for both the client and the consultant is communication. I find it best to be upfront about your availability for conference calls or answering emails and the expected turnaround time for project delivery. I set aside a couple times each day to check my email: 10am and 3pm. That way I not only catch up on all the emails that came in the previous night, but I can also stay on top of any last minute requests from my clients in the morning. Then I check again at 3pm, which gives me enough time to send out brief emails and finish up additional projects before the day is over. I always include my terms about emails in my welcome packet, which include a 24-48 hour turnaround time for responding to emails. Of course, I try to respond to all emails as quickly as I can, but this relieves the stress of having to respond immediately to all emails. Another way I’ve destressed the communication process by only scheduling phone or Skype calls to Tuesday mornings and Thursday mornings. All of these time restrictions allow me to work continuously on projects without interruption, as keep a respectful relationship with my client. One more bonus: It has helped my marriage! Answering calls and emails at all points throughout the day and night was really causing stress for my husband, who would have to pick up my slack with our 1-year old, plus it was eating into our “us” time. My clients appreciate the transparency, which then gives me the opportunity to do what I do best!
- Keep deadlines
Now that you’ve set a clear timeline and ETD for your projects, it’s time to stick with the agreement. The best way to avoid missing deadlines is to be realistic about your workload and not over-promise. Keep a detailed calendar of your upcoming projects, due dates, and estimated time it will take to complete each project. If you have an emergency, honest communication with your client is always best. Here is an example of what to say if you know you are going to miss a deadline:Hello client,
I wanted to give you an update on the project we’re currently working on. While we have made a good amount of progress, I wanted to let you know that I had an unexpected family issue come up and I will have to be out of the office for a few days. My team is still working to ensure that the project is completed in a timely matter, but our estimated time of completion has moved to next Friday, instead of Monday. I apologize for any convenience this may cause you or your team, and we will work hard to get it done as soon as possible.
Thank you for your patience and understanding,
- Send an expected gift.
Gifts do not need to be expensive to be considered thoughtful. In the process of working with clients on a daily basis, you are likely getting to know them pretty well, so send an appropriate card or gift that you know they will appreciate. My favorite client gifts are flowers, because they can be tailored to a person’s style, and you can find a bouquet to fit any budget. A little kindness and personal attention goes a long way.
- Referral gifts
We already talked about how important referrals are from VIP clients. While referral incentives can work, your deliverables should be what motivates your clients to refer your company to potential clients. However, sending a gift of appreciation can go far. A gift certificate for services, a thank you note, or for a truly memorable gift, I recently discovered Teak and Twine. T&T has a dedicated section of their website for client gifts, and they are amazing. Other referral gift ideas are:
- Branded promotional products from your company.
- Gift cards to local eateries.
- Unique USB drive
- Popcorn, cookie, or flower delivery
- Printed art from Etsy.
Did I miss anything? I’d love to hear other ideas on wowing your clients!