Everyone talks about how to promote and market your business to gain new clients but less about what to do once you have found those clients: how to keep your clients so happy they are rapt in your service, become loyal customers and promote your business for you!
To produce happy, loyal clients you need to 1) give them what they need, 2) be nice, honest and professional, 3) do an excellent job, and 4) don't
forget about your customers once the job is finished but keep that relationship alive.
Sometimes a customer comes to you thinking they want one thing but on listening to them, you work out they actually need something else. If you know your business and are good at what you do, you'll be able to help them articulate exactly what they need, then either provide it to them or refer them to someone else who can. Customers like honesty and being given good advice, especially if it's for free. Even if they don't end up using your services, they are likely to refer their friends and colleagues to you.
My business offers scribing, writing, editing, proofreading and transcription services. But if someone rang me up looking for an editor for their thesis about geothermal power, I'd explain that On Time Typing doesn't have the specific knowledge required to edit that subject matter and offer to help them find an editor who does. Or if a potential client asked me to proofread a manuscript they were writing, I'd give them a ring and discuss their book with them, encourage them to finish writing it, and explain that after being written it would definitely need to be edited, at least once, before being proofread.
Remember: 'It doesn't cost anything to be nice!'
If you are not nice to your customers, staff and suppliers it may end up costing you customers, potential earnings and maybe your whole business. On the other hand, if you are nice to them - not saccharine; just naturally friendly, honest and professional - you'll win the hearts and minds of your customers, staff and suppliers, potentially increase your earnings, do well in business and everyone be happy.
It's also important to be nice to your staff (or contractors) and suppliers because if you don't keep your staff happy, they won't do their best for you; and if you don't keep your suppliers happy they may not try particularly hard to meet your business needs; and your business will suffer. Whereas if you are nice to your staff and suppliers and even bend over backwards for them when required, they'll bend over backwards for you and your business will prosper. And the nicer you are to everyone, the nicer you will feel about yourself, and not only your work but your whole life will just get sweeter and sweeter.
Most of us are not happy all of the time. When we're not, we sometimes take out our negative feelings on those around us which, although not very nice, is usually accepted (along with all our other faults) by our loved ones, as long as we say sorry afterwards.
But in the workplace, you can't be grumpy or sharp-tongued or nasty just because you're in a bad mood. No matter how you feel, you need to leave your personal issues outside the workplace where they belong, 'put on a happy face' and be nice. Because that's what professionalism is.
I find it hard to be nice when I'm wearing my 'critical editor' hat - for an editor's job is essentially to criticise people's work and fix their mistakes. But I recently attended a workshop about how to critique people's written work in the nicest possible way and learned that you can be nice whilst delivering honest, critical feedback by being compassionate and wrapping that criticism in equally honest words of encouragement.
If you need give a client, team member or supplier any feedback that could be perceived as criticism, I'd recommend giving it to them over the phone, or in person, which can be more effective than sending them an email. Before you give them that feedback, make sure your criticism is professional and constructive i.e. offers them a solution. If your criticism is personal or not constructive, it would be nicer (and smarter) to keep your opinions to yourself.
After being nice and professional and giving your client the best service possible and completing a job well done, don't drop them like a hot potato.
A few days after the job, send them an email to let them know you really enjoyed working with them, hope they were more than satisfied with the service, and hope you'll be able to assist them again in future. Whether they reply to that email or not, a few weeks later continue that working relationship by sending them another email, again mentioning how much you enjoyed working with them and look forward to doing so again.
That's enough 'follow-up' emails; you don't want to annoy them.
But you should include their email address on your 'email-out list' so that every few months when you send out a promotional newsletter about a new related service, special discount or announcement of some kind, they'll get one.
I send a promotional email out to various previous clients about every four months. I reckon that's often enough to remind them I'm around but so often that it's annoying. I always include a statement at the top of my newsletter that says: 'I'm assuming you'd like to receive these occasional updates but if you would prefer to not receive them, please let me know and i will take you off my mailing list.' About 1% ask to be taken off the mailing list; about 20% or 30% don't reply; and 70% to 80% send me a brief reply thanking me for the update.
To keep your clients extremely happy with your service and loyal customers and produce champions of your business, you also need to always:
Apart from that, just be honest, nice and professional, provide excellent service, and don't forget about your clients once the job is finished but keep that relationship alive.
Your business will prosper.
This article is based on my own experiences since starting On Time Typing as a small online/onsite scribing business in 2002 which has evolved into an online transcription, scribing, report writing, editing and proofreading business.