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Building Client Loyalty = Repeat Business

I have to preface today’s topic of building client loyalty by saying everything I’m going to talk about here won’t help you if you are not a good designer. You don’t have to be an amazing designer, simply being a good one will do. As long as you know what you are doing, then you will benefit from today’s topic. Face it; if you are not a good designer, there’s not much you can do to get repeat business from clients. Other than practice and get better that is.

But I’m guessing by the fact that you are here right now, that you are serious about your design business and therefore must know what you are doing when it comes to design. So let’s move on.

The idea here is to build relationships with your clients. Building relationships is the main ingredient in building client loyalty. I’m not talking about designer/client relationships, but relationships on a more personal level. No, I’m not suggesting you start dating your clients to keep them coming back. Although that might work. I don’t personally have any experience on that front, but hey, if it worked for you drop me a line and let me know.

What I’m suggesting, is to get to know your client on a more personal level beyond the design projects you work on together.

I’ve been following this principle since I got into the industry 30 years ago. Even more so since I started my own design business in 2005, and I must say, my track record is pretty darn good. The majority of my clients become repeat clients, and the majority of those repeat clients, keep coming back over and over again with more design jobs for me.

I have a special mailbox in my mail app where I keep “praise” messages that clients have sent me over the years. Let me share a few lines from some of them.

“There's nobody else I'd rather work with.” 

“I can't imagine working with anyone else.”

“I feel like you're a part of our company.”

“You get me, I don’t know how, but you get me.”

So how did I end up building client loyalty like this? Is it because I’m a world-class designer? Because I'm not. I consider myself very good at what I do, but I'm nowhere near world-class status. The reason I receive this sort of praise from clients is because of the relationships I’ve built with them over the years.

Think about it. Relationships are built on two principles. Trust and how much you like someone. If you don’t trust someone, chances are you won’t have a relationship with them. Same if you don’t like someone, chances are you won’t have a relationship with them.

Now the trust part is easy. Create good design work and deliver that work on time and chances are your clients will trust you. The other half of the equation is getting them to like you.

Think about this: Clients would prefer to work with a good designer they like, than work with an amazing designer they don’t like.

My strategy for building client loyalty

Here’s my strategy for building relationships with my clients and getting them to like me. Are you ready for it? I listen, AND I take notes. That's all there is to it. No, seriously, that’s the magic of it. Listening and taking notes.

The goal is to get clients to like you. The more you know about your clients, AND the more your clients realise that you know about them, the better the likelihood of those clients liking you.

Let me elaborate, whenever a client comes to me, for whatever project. Not only do I want to know about their organisation and how the particular design project fits in, but I want to know about the client themself, their personal life, their family, etc.. And I build up this knowledge over time through conversations.

How? Through idle conversations and chit chat and by asking the right questions when the opportunity arises. Don't be too forward by directly asking personal questions. Instead, ask indirect questions that will allow you to gain knowledge about your clients.

Let me give you an example. Let's say a client I'm working with calls me on the phone.

Me: Hello?
Client: Hi, it's Mike, I need to talk to you about the project.”

Now's the perfect time for me to gain some personal information about Mike, my client. Instead of getting right into it, I might try stalling for some chit chat. One method I like to use is telling the client I need to save what I'm currently working on before talking to them. In doing so, I might respond with something like this.

Me: “Hi Mike, just give me a couple of seconds to save this file I'm working on.” During the pause, I'll add “Do you have any plans for the weekend?”

While Mike is waiting for me to save my file so we can begin our conversation about his project he'll probably answer my question.

Mike: “My wife and I are going to our daughter's piano recital this weekend.”

Knowledge bomb! I now know that Mike is married and has a daughter who plays the piano. This opens me up to asking followup questions such as asking how old his daughter is, how long has she been playing the piano, does she get her musical talent from him or his wife?.

This is information I can use in the future to help build my relationship with Mike. The next time I talk to him, I can ask how his daughter's piano recital went. That's the sort of question that makes the client think “wow, this person cares enough to inquire about my personal life. I like that about them.”

Building a client information database

The first part of my strategy for building client loyalty is to gather as much personal information about them as I can (without getting creepy and stalking them). The second part of my strategy is to organise that information so I can easily access it in the future. To do this, I use my Contacts App since it syncs between my computer and mobile devices, so I always have it at hand.

Most Contacts Apps allow you to enter information such as the name of their spouse, children, birthdays and more. Any information that doesn't have a dedicated field goes into the Notes filed.

I also have a dedicated calendar on my Calendar App specifically for client information — things like birthdays, anniversaries and all other occasions I might want to remember. I do the same with their business information by keeping track of trade shows, launch dates, special events their business is holding.

I try to gather as much information about my clients as I can.

What do you do with this information?

I use the information I've gathered through various conversations to build relationships with my clients. If I know their birthday is soon, I might bring it up in conversation “Isn't your birthday coming up?”. If they told me they were going to Paris for vacation, I might ask them about their trip afterwards. If I know their son plays baseball I might inquire about the upcoming baseball season. Anything that helps connect on a personal level builds the relationship and forms a bond with the client. This bond will increase the likelihood of the client liking you, and as I stated earlier, loyalty is based on trust and how much someone likes you.

Get to know your clients.

I go into much more detail on the podcast so please listen to this episode for more examples if you want to know more about building client loyalty.

Make sure you take the time to get to know your clients. Learn about their business and the work they do, but also learn about them, their personal lives, their family, etc. The more you know about your clients, the closer of a connection you can have with them. And when that connection becomes solid, the client won't imagine working with anyone else but you. Building client loyalty makes clients for life.

Do you learn everything you can about your clients?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Questions of the Week

Submit your question to be featured in a future episode of the podcast by visiting the feedback page.

This week’s question comes from Scott

I love the idea that a design should not be quoted based on time but how do you come up with a price ? And what can you answer when a client asks you for justification for a price?

To find out what I told Scott you’ll have to listen to the podcast.

Resource of the week abc.useallfive.com

abc.useallfive.com is an online tool that shows you how ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant your colours are in relation to each other. By adding your colours on the right, you can generate a chart to see how they can be used together for accessibility, and find similar colours that work better.

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I want to help you.

Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business, please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at feedback@resourcefuldesigner.com

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