Complacency is deadly in any relationship. Be they friends, family or spouses, once you start taking a good thing for granted, you're headed for trouble. And it sneaks up on you, too, in the midst of 18-hour days spent putting out fires, chasing new business and paying all the bills. But whether you have three clients or 3,000, you'll need to set aside time to keep in touch with each and every good customer you have.
There are many methods for keeping up-to-date with your customers. Direct mail, e-newsletters and telemarketing are doable for just about any budget.
Set aside time at least once per month to "touch" your clients. Make sure you have something to say rather than just "Hi, we're still here." Introduce new services and offer discounts; send articles on their industries or personal hobbies. If you keep track of clients' birthdays, send a birthday card, perhaps with a small gift. And of course, the holidays are de rigueur as a time to say an extra big thank-you.
Don't overlook public relations as a way to stay in front of clients. Each time they read about you in the paper or see you on the news, it will be a great reinforcement of why they do business with you.
The smallest personal touches can also be effective: a phone call to let them know of an upcoming event, a note on a monthly invoice to thank them for their business. Just think of how many times a day you're thanked for your business-not many, right? Stand apart from your competition by minding the little details that add up to excellent service.
- Check out Guru.com, a Web site for independent professionals, for advice ranging from what to charge to how to deal with difficult clients. While you're there, create your Guru profile and check out available gigs.
- Biztro.com will help you create your own intranet. The site covers administrative functions and business processes like payroll, benefits administration, insurance and procurement.
- Freeagent.com is a hub for freelancers, consultants and independent contractors. Create your own free "eportfolio" with a link to your Web site, find projects for your areas of expertise, and check out deals on business services.