I understand that the general consensus in marketing circles is that it costs six to seven times more to acquire a new customer than to maintain an existing customer. If this is true and from my experience it would certainly seem to be the case, then our existing client base is a valuable asset.
Who gets our attention?
However, in practice I find that too many small businesses neglect to engage with their existing clients in a positive way when not working on a project. An example of this is a recent experiment I carried out. I have an agreement with my construction clients not to call those they are currently working with unless they ask me to. They tend to be involved with the client either in pre construction meetings or on site. So,our agreement is that I leave this client in their care. I have stayed with that agreement and worked hard at nurturing new prospects and those who pass work our way infrequently. This will now change!
The reason is simple. My clients have not been looking after some of their customers and they have gone elsewhere. That is bad news. Sadly, I have recently spoken with a couple of ‘work providers’ who had been let down by my clients. It happens. They were disappointed by the quality of workmanship or time taken to carry out a particular contract. Did they pick up the phone to talk about this problem? NO!!! They simply left and went elsewhere.
“Unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” – Bill Gates
Fortunately, I was able to repair a couple of these relationships but not all and what was once a good client is no longer interested in working with us. Give your clients the attention they deserve and gain credibility and that next project.
Take action today
All too often I have been in the office and listened to the business owner blame everyone else but himself when something goes wrong on site. Good leadership and wise planning will alleviate many of the problems that are encountered on site. Accept responsibility and don’t be quick to blame others. A phone call to gain clarity or discuss an issue before it happens will go a long way to keeping your client.
Wise marketing is about going the extra mile
I have a client who goes out of his way to ensure that his customers get the best possible service. He recently called a meeting with the construction team before the project started on site. “Where did you get this information from?” he asked them. They responded defensively while the client looked on. He continued, “It’s wrong information!” Then he went about proving it and as a result said he would shave off £100,000K from the cost of the project. Everyone was stunned but realised that he was right and the client was obviously thrilled. That is very good marketing!
“You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.” – Abraham Lincoln
Submit your tender on time and then follow up on it a few days later to find out how you got on. Even if you were the highest bidder try and find out what elements of the tender were too high. Did you interpret the tender requirements correctly? Are there other projects coming out to tender? What are the time scales? Can we be included on the list of contractors at tender stage?
Talk to people
I speak to a lot of people on the telephone about projects and programmes and many of my contacts are on a first name basis. The reason for this is due in part to my friendly and polite manner but also because I speak with these people often. Speak off the record to people about projects that are going wrong or as I mentioned earlier, those that went wrong but were never discussed. Use a problem to strengthen the relationship you have with a client. You may not win them all but you will have the satisfaction of knowing that you tried. It works.
Make more than one good contact in a larger work providing organization. You may find that there are others in an organization that will put out the type of work that you do. Nurture those contacts. If you have more than one contact and a person leaves that company you will still know the other key decision makers. If someone is leaving find out where he or she is going. They will often be happy to pass those details on for the future.
Be polite and not aggressive! More is achieved in conversation when we are gracious and listen to the other side of the story before speaking. If you are wrong be honest and say so. Oh! Don’t neglect the obvious – say thank you!
Please do me a huge favour and share this with others if you think it has value. It might help someone! See you soon.