Implementing client retention strategies prepares your business for growth, provides measurable long-term success, and allows you to have a deeper understanding of a brand without being an in-house employee. Importantly, it also provides you and your business with the stability and security to have a steady income. Combine this with attracting new high-quality clients and you can move away from the rollercoaster income so many freelancers and small business owners fear. For years I have built my client list, retaining more clients than losing. It wasn’t until after attending and speaking at a few WordCamps that I realized this was rare.
I was shocked!
The conversations I was a part of focused around people questioning what their next project would be, contemplating leaving their own business for employment, or feeling a lack of stability as a freelancer. They were asking me how I survive.
9 Client Retention Strategies That Worked For Me
Explore implementing these steps, and turn one project into a recurring or retainer relationship.
Coach them through the process
Every client comes into a relationship with different expertise. While they are the expert in their industry, you are the experts in yours. Explore new ways your expertise can help them to succeed, and coach them through the process. Is your client a successful business owner, but doesn’t know anything about building, managing, and maintaining a successful website after it is complete? Don’t feel like you need to use industry specific jargon they may or may not understand. Provide a solution that may seem easy to you, or something you do every day can be very complex for them. Coaching them through the process builds trust.
Small gifts can make a meaningful difference
If you are in a store (online or physically) and find a small gift that instantly makes you think of your client, buy it for them. If your client is traveling to care for sick family members, get them a gift certificate for gas. Or are they at home recovering from surgery? Drop off a blanket, movie and popcorn. You don’t need to wine and dine all your clients with expensive gifts that break the bank or have potential to violate their corporate gift policies. Thoughtful and meaningful gifts can make a big difference in relationship building and let them know you care beyond billable hours.
Stay top of mind
Constantly monitor new trends that may breathe new life into your client’s social media pages, and look for great design and animation solutions that cut through the clutter. Bring these ideas to your client, and you will likely leave with a new project to tackle. Staying top of mind and being the go-to agency for new ideas is a great way to drum up new projects with existing clients while continuing to position yourself as their expert.
Solve their unique problems
My natural go-getter attitude loves a new challenge, and having unique problems to solve for my clients keeps me excited in my day-to-day life. By clearly understanding their goals and needs, you can dig into their problems and provide successful solutions. Become their resource for providing solutions to unique problems and you have positioned yourself to affect their bottom line, which will in turn keep the projects coming.
Navigate the process that is easiest for the client
When a big project comes around that your client needs help with – or there is a tight deadline – your client needs to be able to hand that off to you as seamless as possible. Determine what that process is and keep in mind it might be easier for your tech-savvy self to adapt to their systems than it is to make them conform to yours. Plus, continuing to go above and beyond to make their life easier will let them know that they made the right choice by hiring you.
Convert to retainers after the first project
The first project can be the trial run before your client commits to a retainer. Communicate what a retainer relationship could look like at the very beginning and include these options and services as additional capabilities in your proposal. Providing an exceptional experience on your first project with a client opens the door to retainer relationships. Also, this also positions you as being the first one they think of the next time they need to hire a freelancer or agency for a project.
Ask what is on their radar – so it can stay on yours
Set up recurring meetings with clients, and at the end of the recurring meeting, always ask, “What is on your radar?” This allows you to know what projects to keep in your pipeline and also allows you to follow up with them about the status.
Be the solution to busy
Have listening ears beyond your own meeting objectives. Did your client use the word “I am swamped” or the dreaded “I am really busy”? Ask them how you can help. Take something off their plate to make their workload more manageable. Offering assistance with projects when they need it the most can be rewarding for long-term client relationships. In other words, become a partner and teammate rather than simply a client.
Build genuine relationships
Get to know your clients beyond the limits of the project. Fully understand their struggles and it will be clear when they need a helping hand, a brainstorming session, or a design solution to save the day. You can make them a hero.
Client retention, and building retainer relationships, are crucial to business success. It is a way to secure your business for the future, and increases high-quality referrals from your favorite clients along the way.
Here are some actionable steps to help you start building your recurring business relationships and retainer partnership today.
- Coach your clients through every process
- Meaningful giving can go a long way
- Notify clients about top trends and how they can implement them
- Be the resource to tackle unique problems
- Define a project process easiest for your client
- Convert to retainers after a trial run
- Find out what projects are on your client’s radar
- Be the solution to busy
- Build genuine relationships with clients beyond project objectives
I continue to focus on building genuine connections and build on client relationships and partnerships with longevity in mind. It is at the core of who I am as a person and it is reflected in my business.
Reach out and send me a message on Twitter @katieelenberger and let me know how these strategies worked for you and your business.