The best cookie I ever had was at the Pan Pacific Hotel in Vancouver when I was running the Top Producers Conference. The cookie was delicious: soft yet firm, surprises of macadamia nuts I didn’t even know I liked, white chocolate and just a hint of oatmeal. The chef was kind enough to give me the recipe when he found out he had a fan, he even went so far as to come out and speak to me himself about how to make them in order to get his world-class results. His secret sauce. Those cookies left me wanting more. The same holds true for businesses – returning clients and customers are a prized commodity across all industries. With new customers costing as much as five times more than retaining the ones we already have, a common question across businesses big and small is “How can I keep my clients?” At Andrew Perry we take it one step further – how can we keep our clients wanting more? We ask ourselves questions such as: How can we design a customer experience that makes a client want to return? How can we provide clients with such value that they aren’t motivated to look elsewhere?
While we focus primarily on business-to-business companies, I think there are some universal principles that are essential when it comes to retention, whether you’re a b-b or b-c organization.
Here is a bit of our secret sauce. These are 6 simple ways to leave your clients wanting more:
1. Under Promise, Over Deliver
Expectations are the cornerstone of client relationships. Set realistic expectations that you then have the opportunity to exceed. This gives you wiggle room, sets a baseline and allows you to build trust. The alternative leaves you managing the fallout of disappointed clients sharing stories of promises that you didn’t deliver on.
2. Be a Straight Shooter
As Marketing Thought Partners, we have been hired for our expertise, as I’m sure the reason you have been hired by your clients. That expertise encompasses the good, bad and ugly. Simply put, you are not doing your job if you shy away from contributing your knowledge when it’s uncomfortable. Speak truth to power in a respectful, constructive way and that will position you as a voice they can depend on – a trusted partner.
3. Build Connection
My undergraduate business school marketing professor drummed into our heads: “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” And I’ve found over 25 years in business that he was right. Business is nothing without people. And people thrive on connection – relationships. When you genuinely care about your clients, their success, their failures and well-being you come across as an authentic partner. Points of connection can be the difference between a one-off client and a successful, long-lasting working relationship.
Every client is different. Don’t make assumptions about what someone wants based on your experiences with other clients. “God gave you two ears and one mouth.” Ask lots of great questions and then sit back and listen, really listen to their responses. See the bigger picture so that you can understand how you fit in, so that you can hear what’s being said and what’s not being said. Then repeat back to them what you’ve understood. You’ll be in a better position to suggest options that really speak to their challenges and meet their needs. Customized services that fit your client’s needs will ensure they come back for more.
5. Provide Additional Value
If you deliver just enough you’re not standing out from your competitor, that’s table stakes. Ask yourself the question, “What else can I offer that would be of value to my client that would be negligible in effort to me?” To be able to do this effectively, the point before, “Listen” is critical. Understanding the bigger picture allows you to identify opportunities to add value. It may be sharing an article of interest specific to their industry or business. Or it may be an introduction to broaden their network. Or it may be a referral. It may be anticipating their needs and delivering before they ask. Learn what you’re good at and make sure you’re bringing that to the table in order to add value to whatever conversation, meeting or workshop is taking place.
6. Ask for and Take Feedback
And, finally, We are all in the business of service – and with that comes feedback, good and bad. Being open to receiving feedback is critical. Defensive responses communicate a lack of maturity and may be interpreted as you believing your needs are greater than a client’s. And sometimes it’s not enough to just be open to feedback – you need to ask for it. “What is one thing we could do differently next time?” Plan your times to ask for feedback – we hold postmortems after a major event, every three months, at the end of contracts. They cover what went well, what we could do better/differently. We actively participate to make clients feel more comfortable providing their own perspectives.