Your clients are the lifeblood of your company. Your ability to find new clients, manage current clients and stay connected to past clients will define your company’s success. In client management, we consider three types of clients: future clients, current clients and past clients.
Regardless of the type of client, they all have unique communication requirements and opportunities, which should be tailored to the needs and wants of that specific group.
Most marketing plans focus on finding the future client. When creating a marketing plan or developing content, start by determining which type of information you need to collect and which type of follow-up is planned once a future client is identified.
Make your company easy to find. Attend home shows, place an ad in your chapter’s directory, and be listed on chapter and national websites. Another way to build awareness is by branding your company trucks and cars. Make sure that contact information—office phone number and website—is easy to see.
Just as important, plan for what will happen when a prospect contacts you. When a lead comes in but does not become a client, what happens to that contact information? While prospects might not be a fit with their current project, don’t write them off; keep them in your database for future outreach.
Current clients typically require the most effort. There are many tools that can be used to manage them. In last month’s column, we discussed using technology. But technology cannot replace clear and timely communication. Set ground rules and define the communication plan prior to starting the project. On larger projects, revisit how information will be communicated before the design phase begins. Ideally your clients should feel like they are the only one and you are solely dedicated to their project’s success.
Past clients are future clients with whom you already have a successful relationship. The communication task with past clients is to keep your name top-of-mind, so when they have a remodeling need they will call you first. They may know you for the great kitchen you did, but do they know you also do additions, baths and decks? The communications to these “prospects” need to create awareness of the services offered beyond those already provided. The idea is to keep these lines open “just in case” a need arises.
Storing information in a database can be invaluable. It provides a single repository of information that can be shared across your team as required. A Google search for CRM software returned a list of 57 solutions with a rating of 4.0 and above. Many are cloud-based sales management programs allowing you to collect leads and communicate with them on a regular basis. Often they are provided on a per-user subscription basis with prices scaled to the services provided, and many offer a free tour or a 15- or 30-day free version to test. Before spending money on one of these apps, sign up for a trial and take advantage of online tutorials. A CRM can be an investment, but it will help you organize, manage and scale your contact with clients.
If you have a small list, you may be able to use an Excel spreadsheet or Outlook contact listing, but these have limitations as you grow your data. Eventually you will need to select some sort of client manager.
Sending newsletters to your past clients is a great way to stay top-of-mind with this group. Sending to your list of “prospects” expands your reach and will create greater opportunity. Newsletters need to have consistent branding, have a professional look and be regularly scheduled. A simple newsletter can be sent via email. This could be a monthly or quarterly email that updates your current and past clients on what is happening in your business, tips for winterizing their home or preparing for spring. Include any services that you might provide to help with such projects.
Producing a newsletter on top of your regular responsibilities can be a challenge. There are marketing firms that provide newsletters as a service. You just provide relevant content highlighting your business offerings and a list from your database. They will fill in the gaps and produce a polished, professional final product, which is sent out.
Blogs, podcasts and vlogs have become increasingly popular. These are typically short, single-topic messages discussing an area that might be of interest to your clients. The key here is consistency: If you state it will be a weekly blog, make sure it is posted on the same day each week. Podcast and vlogs, to some extent, are great for clients who spend a lot of time commuting.
A company website should be the hub of these communication efforts. It should link to a downloadable copy of your newsletter and have show notes for your podcast or vlog (if you have one). It needs to be easy to navigate and should also have a means by which a visitor can enroll in your newsletter or email list. These are people who want to hear from you—be sure they are rewarded for their efforts.
Clients are your business, so don’t forget them once a project is complete. Keep in touch. This business is relationship-driven; you need to maintain that relationship. QR
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