How To Encourage Repeat Business From A Client When Your Project Ends
Congratulations for getting to the end of your project. There is such a satisfying sense of achievement when you complete a body of work that you know has made a contribution to the organisation or person that you’ve been helping.
When it’s been a project that’s taken up some time and effort, there’s a natural inclination to want to just celebrate and then relax.
Repeat Clients Are Good To Have
It’s much easier to continue working with a current client than it is to go and find a new client. As you build trust over time, your current client will be more likely to agree with your recommendations. A new client who hasn’t built that same level of trust will want to have you jump through more hoops to demonstrate your capability and credibility.
You’ll also personally find the next body of work more satisfying. It will likely be deeper or broader, calling upon more of your own cognitive and interpersonal skillset. You’ll have formed a view of who’s who in the zoo, which should make your traction that much more effective.
I’ve been very fortunate to have a high repeat rate with my private clients. It’s personally satisfying, because we end up with a deep relationship that becomes more effective over time. And my clients are advantaged because we have a shared experience of what has worked to grow their business, and what we will next bring into the mix.
The “Champagne and Razor Blades” Cycle
There’s a regular pattern for self-employed professionals.
You don’t have much work on, so it feels a bit tight and possible even a bit grim. You’re not worried, because you’ve been here before. But at the same time, there’s not a lot of champagne right now.
So, you go out and hustle a bit and land one or a few gigs. It takes a few weeks for things to fall into place, and you start shuffling some bills around before the deposits land.
And now you’re busy. Like really busy. It is ON. You have to deliver on this.
Because you’re busy, you now don’t have time to do any more business development.
Even if you did have time to call a prospect and go have a decent conversation, you emotionally don’t want any more work, because you’re already too busy.
Eventually, all of the work you are busy with comes to an end. You are so relieved to be done and not burning the candle that you sink down into your most comfortable of comfortable chairs and reflect on how busy you were and how you can now just relax.
The final instalment of the invoices land, and you are now officially in the champagne cycle. Yay!
After about three or four days, you start to wonder where your next gig is. And after about two to three weeks, you start cutting back on the champagne.
You pull yourself out of that comfortable chair, and you go and hustling again. You know how to do this.
Ongoing Clients Can Smooth Out This Cycle
Ongoing work with repeat clients means that even if one client dries up or pulls out, then you still have other work that you haven’t had to hustle for, and which may have even been delivering cash flow to you without a pause.
This ongoing work might be Phase II of a project, or perhaps even a retainer.
The Dark Side of Repeat Clients
The danger is that a very small number of repeat clients can make up a significant portion of your income over time, and that is a very risky proposition. If something goes wrong with these one or two clients, it can be financially damaging and personally demoralising.
It’s easy to become to become complacent. When you have amazing clients who you love to work with, then you are less inclined to try to add to them. After all, you love them, right? And you might believe it’s hard to get new ones.
You might become less innovative or fail to keep up with market trends. If the level of service your clients require continues to lift higher, you will need to adjust your offerings on a regular basis. Failing to do so will have you looking like a second rate option when your buyer inevitably changes role or just ups and leaves.
It also leaves you with a fixed income that is hard to grow.
Your client mix can also whittle over time. I was once told that clients can move away, fade away or pass away. If you’ve got a couple of big clients, and a whole raft of smaller clients, it’s easy for the smaller clients to have less attention, and over time, and just quietly fade away. This leaves you in the risky situation of having too few eggs in your basket.
The Upsides of Repeat Clients Outweighs the Downside
The risks of having repeat clients are fairly easy to mitigate, and the advantages of repeat clients are not only personally satisfying but also financially rewarding.
Here’s What You Need To Do To Encourage Repeat Business
- You need to have a conversation about how your project is going so far. This can be about half-way through your current project, especially if you’re starting to generate good results. If it’s the first time you’ve worked together, you want to be sure that your client recognises your value before you ask for more.
- This conversation can be slightly more of a project update than a request for feedback. In this conversation, you want to highlight any problems or further opportunities you’ve noticed become apparent, as you have been working.
- It’s important to get a sense from your client about any other problems or opportunities that they have noticed as well. These problems or opportunities might be solved as a discrete project, with a beginning and end, or they might be better addressed with ongoing support.
- Project Based: Once they have agreed on the problems that should be addressed, you want to ask what their timing is on these.
- Retainer Based: If the problems require more ongoing diligent attention, you could ask if this is an area that they want to start to address in the near future or sometime more distant.
- You need to make an offer. If your client wants immediate help with their situation now, you need to offer to help. “Would you like to have a conversation about how I can contribute?” or “Would you like my help in getting these addressed? I have some ideas that will prove valuable here.”
If you would like to explore these options further, you might be interested in my flagship program: In Demand & Fully Booked. (www.indemandandfullybooked.com) This program is exquisitely designed to help you land larger clients, secure bigger contracts and make more money with your business.
All my best,
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