Client Management: Best Ways to Win and Retain Clients
For businesses and agencies, it’s crucial not only to land new clients, but also to retain existing ones. Loyal clients mean recurring payments, which are vital for maintaining a healthy cash flow and giving your business space to breathe.
Not only does strong customer retention ensure a more stable source of revenue, but it’s also cheaper for your business in the long term, too. Indeed, a popular study found that it costs five times more to attract new clients than to keep existing ones, with numerous other studies citing additional cost and brand loyalty benefits.
With all of this in mind, then, it’s clear that keeping your clients happy should be a priority, which means having an effective client management process in place.
What Is Client Management?
Simply put, client management is the process of managing relationships with current and prospective clients. Compared with customers, who typically buy a product or service 1 time, clients have the potential to engage your services again and again. So client management aims to build more personalized, long-term relationships.
Keep in mind that your goal here isn’t management for the sake of workflows or efficiency. Well-run client management processes are designed with much bigger things in mind: Building healthy client relationships, meeting their needs, and improving your overall client service and client experience.
Why Improve Your Client Management?
As well as allowing you to generate recurring revenue, effective client management also offers other important benefits. For instance, it helps you to:
- Enhance your customer service delivery, resulting in happier clients and better referrals.
- Find new clients, as your time and resources will be freed up.
- Increase customer revenues.
- Close deals faster as there is an increased element of trust.
- Improve client loyalty through the cultivation of close relationships.
- Improve the cross and upselling of your services, as you will gain more knowledge and experience of what works and what doesn’t.
Main Principles of Client Management
As in any process, there are standard principles that create boundaries and set realistic expectations. The main ones for client management are outlined below.
No one likes to feel as if they’re not getting the full story. If your client feels that way, rightly or wrongly, then they’ll fill in the gaps themselves. That means you’re not controlling the narrative, and the management of your clients will start to go off the rails.
Therefore, transparency is king. While clients don’t need to get bogged down in the details of the project, they should be regularly updated on the broad strokes of the project and any decisions made throughout the project should be thoroughly explained.
To facilitate transparency, communication is key, and it must be constant. That said, the communication stream is directed by the client. They set the frequency.
There’s no reason to inundate them with unnecessary missives that will just shut them down, so when critical information is delivered, they’ll miss it. Also, discern how they want the communications disseminated, by email, phone, personal presentation, etc.
The information you share must align with the needs of the client. What key performance indicators (KPIs) are they looking for? Your project report needs to speak to those concerns. What you believe to be most important might not be what the client feels is most important.
Role of a Client Manager
Usually, client management is run by a client manager, who is part of the sales team. But the point of contact between a client and the project team could be the project manager or some other person in authority.
Regardless of who leads the client management initiative, their responsibilities swing from internal to external concerns. They need to work on both taking advantages of profit opportunities while balancing that with customer satisfaction.
This includes account planning, where opportunities are identified, and risks assessment. Part of this is building relationships, communications, loyalty and coordination with other accounts.
How to Keep Clients
The whole point of client management is to retain your client. The way to do that is to make them happy and fulfill their expectations for the project. But how? Here are some practical tips to help.
Create a Roadmap
To live up to the principles stated above, you need to have a roadmap to show your clients, so they’re not constantly chanting from the backseat, “Are we there yet?” You already have a project plan, but that’s too detailed for the client’s needs. Instead, you want to create a document that will show them what is happening, when it’s happening and the date it should be completed. Stick to high-level tasks.
As noted, communication is a critical factor in managing clients and keeping them informed and happy. It’s up to the client whether you notify them about every task or just the milestones, but nothing is gained by avoiding the delivery of information. Keeping the client in the dark, whether intentionally or just because you’re busy, is the worst thing you can do to a client.
Keep a Paper Trail
Everything needs documentation and a sign-off. You want to have proof that work was completed satisfactorily for every party concerned. Those documents should be archived and stored on a platform accessible by both manager and client, like an online project management software with file storage. If there are changes, everyone will have access to them, and there will be no misunderstandings because everything is outlined and shared.
When a client asks, you answer. That doesn’t mean you drop everything, but it also doesn’t mean you take your time responding. Set up a reasonable expectation for turnaround on any client question. It shouldn’t be more than 24 hours, so no matter how busy you are, there is always some point in the day to take a minute to answer a client query.
Part of communications and being responsive is having a system in place to capture client feedback. Being heard is the flipside to speaking. You give your clients the space to talk, listen actively and then respond seriously. One way to make sure all these steps are taken, and nothing falls through the crack, is to have a process. That can be email, meetings or whatever works.
How to Attract New Clients
While you want to keep those clients you already have, it’s also important to cast the net wide for new clients. Here are some steps you can take to win new clients.
Who Is Your Ideal Client?
There are lots of fish in the sea, but you only want to catch the ones that are right for your organization. To help whittle down the field, sketch a picture of your ideal client. Use existing clients and the skills and experience you offer to help narrow down your choices.
Be Where the Clients Are
Where do your best potential clients spend their time? Are they online, or on some professional platform like LinkedIn or elsewhere? Find out and network.
Have an online strategy for your business to attract clients. Once you know who they are and where they are, you can target your online advertising, social platforms or other programs to let them know who you are and why you can help them.
Word of mouth is a great way to get new clients. If you have a slate of satisfied clients, see if they can offer your services to others in their network.
Good relationships with clients are built on trust. While you can’t earn that overnight, you can lay the groundwork for an exceptional client experience with the best practices other service providers have learned firsthand.
By building a well-oiled client management system using the 9 strategies above, you’ll have an easier time gaining (and keeping) your clients’ trust while also avoiding the obstacles that trip up many new business owners.