Top tips to successful client retention from Sparkloop's creative director. Clue: treat it like a true romance.
In an age where we try and meet potential life partners by glancing at sexy profiles and swiping left or right to accept or reject, is sourcing clients becoming a bit of a quick hit too? Has business become like popular dating apps and become too transitory and almost ‘throw away’?
I compare the way people build personal relationships to the way they build and develop their businesses. This is why I have some key rules that I stick to ensure that I avoid transactional relationships in favour of lasting and meaningful relationships.
Unfortunately, there is no miracle Venn diagram, process chart or hard and fast strategy but to have the best chance of retaining clients, think about the following points:
Don’t say yes to everything
As with any personal relationship, there has to be a fundamental connection on first meeting, otherwise there is little point in pursuing it. The same goes for meeting a potential client; you need to have a spark and a meeting of minds from the outset if the relationship is to have any longevity.
You don’t necessarily assume that when you start working with them, you’ll still be with them fifteen years later in the same way that you probably wouldn’t discuss marriage on a first date. But if there is a genuine meeting of minds then take time to build the relationship. The key to successful client retention follows a very similar pattern to securing your long-term, compatible life partner.
Make an impact from the beginning
Wow them from the outset. Over service them, take the time to get to know them and their business and assess if you are compatible. The relationship changes as you get to know and trust each other, and therefore will become more of a collaboration.
Under promise, over deliver and be 100% honest with them. Once you have built up a tight level of trust and respect, there is more room for manoeuvre. If they are asking you to do something you haven’t done before, tell them and find solutions. They will value your honesty more than you producing something sub-standard which will ultimately devalue your brand.
Ride the highs and lows
Over the years, there will be a lot of them, but when you’re on a high, make sure you celebrate that success with your client and your staff and enjoy it. Get regular feedback from your client and keep assessing to ensure everything is on point so as to continue in a positive, relevant and productive way.
As with any relationship, there will be lows but try not to take it personally just because you are so much more invested in the client. Keep the channels open, talk it through and admit it when you’re wrong.
Clients will see the merit in what you do rather than listening to you telling them about how great you are. Existing clients know your strengths, so you don’t need to turn up in a Ferrari to impress them. Clients you attract through a superficial façade won’t last. In effect, you will have turned your business into a Tinder app.
Stay relevant and be agile
All businesses need to move forwards and grow but for a creative business, you also need to have your finger on the pulse and be agile.
Keep up with what your client wants and don’t fall behind their momentum. This takes time, effort and often almost daily contact with them but will keep your work relevant.
Push further and get a few steps ahead. Be proactive and see where you can collaborate to push things forwards with them. You will build a core and intrinsic understanding of their business which allows you to take some risks in directions you might want to explore or make suggestions to them. With mutual trust, they are far more likely to listen and welcome your suggestions.
Remember the importance of your team
As in any relationship and/or family, everyone needs to feel valued; not only your client but your team. If you have created a strong ‘family’ with your staff and given them responsibility and autonomy with the clients, this will encourage them to build their own, important relationships with them. The end results? The team is happy, the client is happy, your staff stick by you but most importantly, your client does too.
Gayle Carpenter is creative director at Sparkloop. Two of Sparkloop’s founding clients were Red Bull and The Prince’s Trust who Sparkloop has managed to retain for 15 years and counting. Call it true love.