All businesses have a need to establish strong, mutually beneficial relationships with strategically-chosen partners. The longer these relationships last, the better. The advantages of longstanding relationships with clients, customers, supply chain partners and such include improved performance from all sides, heightened cost efficiency and businesses development and growth.
Too often businesses focus all their energy on winning new business and finding new contacts. When really, an equal amount of time and energy, if not more, should be spent servicing existing clients. Fundamentally, repeat and long standing clients will cost you a lot less than the process of acquiring new ones – for this reason alone there should be a balance! A repeat customer or client can become a representative of your brand, helping to spread the word about your work among their own group of contacts and partners.
So, how exactly does one generate new business and make sure clients stay clients? Here are the seven golden rules for maximising the potential of your contact base…
- Be sure to hire the right people
Build the kind of business that people will want to work with and for. If you hire the right people, your employees will create the relationships needed to retain long-standing clients. Your workforce should project your company values and should hold personal standards that are in line with the levels of service you want to provide. Your account base should be trusted in the hands of each and every person on the payroll. They therefore need to be passionate and motivated to nurture these all-important client relationships.
- Provide great levels of service
This goes without saying for most of us – hopefully. If you want people to use your services again and again, make sure you’re providing them with the best levels of service out there, so they won’t want or need to go elsewhere.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback
Have an open dialogue with your clients about your contract and/or the work you provide for them. Ask for feedback often. This can be done through a face to face meeting or a satisfaction survey. Being able to scope how happy a client or customer is will help you shape your offering into solutions that fit their business needs, thus building your reputation as reliable and consistent.
- Stay on people’s radar
Let your clients know what it is you’re up to, so they have visibility of how much you do and you’re your successes. This way you’ll be front of mind at all times and your work will be synonymous with whatever service it is you offer them. Don’t be afraid of providing clients with new opportunities or solutions when and where appropriate, this will show you’re forward thinking and that you always have them in your best interests.
- Get to know your contacts – and spread the net
It’s good to have one key contact in a business partnership. The main person you talk to if something goes wrong, or to get something approved through the official channels. Make sure you spend time getting to know that person well; take an interest in them and make them feel appreciated and important. As they are. That being said, it’s worth making an effort to spread your relationship into other departments and to other contacts. That way, in the eventuality of your main contact leaving, someone else can relay your hard work to decision makers – and the original contact may even take you and your services with them to their new place of work!
- Share your knowledge and grow together
By bettering your own business you’re more likely to be able to inspire your clients and customers to do the same. If you’re learning, they’re also reaping the rewards of this. If you’re friendly enough, send on any interesting industry event opportunities on to your business contacts, so they know you’re thinking of them often. By creating a ‘one team’ approach to business, you’re more likely to have successes through these partnerships.
- Know your competition and work to exceed expectations – adapt in line with market needs
Keep your eye firmly on the market, and your competitors. What are they up to? What’s their offering and how does it differ to yours? Why might someone go to a competitor over you? Prepare to be adaptable and flexible in line with innovations in your field, customers will want to know they’re getting the best there is by using you. If they can be assured of this, they’ll keep coming back – don’t give them a reason not to!
By Glen Cardinal, MD of Platinum