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Do you do retention marketing?

You already know that for any business to grow, people have to know about it. After all, if someone doesn’t know a business exists, there’s very little chance they’ll interact with it, let alone purchase from it. And the process for letting people know about a business is called Marketing.

When it comes to marketing, there are hundreds and hundreds of strategies you can choose for promoting a business. But, when narrowed down to its two fundamental principals, There are only two forms of marketing.

  • Growth marketing, which is all about attracting new customers.
  • Retention Marketing, which is all about retaining existing customers.

Today we're looking at that second one, retention marketing.

As a designer, people must know about your design business before there’s any chance they’ll hire you. Don't you agree? That's why companies put so much effort into growth marketing. They want to attract new clients. However, while most businesses are marketing to attracting new clients, only 16% of them make any effort at marketing to their existing clients. They ignore the people who are already familiar with their services.

A study published in the Harvard Business Review states that acquiring a new client requires a minimum of five times more effort than retaining an existing one. And research done by Bain & Company says that if you can increase the number of returning clients by 5%, your profits will go up by at least 25%.

Therefore, marketing to your existing clients is a valuable strategy when it comes to growing your design business. Your current client base is a priceless treasure trove of future opportunities.

That’s why you need to focus effort on retention marketing, meaning marketing to your existing clients for them to bring new projects to you.

You may be thinking

“my clients already know what I do. They were happy with the last project I did for them. The next time they need my design services, they'll know how to get a hold of me.”

Don’t be so sure of that.

Clients who “spread the wealth.”

I've designed dozens of things for a local jewellery store over the past fifteen years. They keep telling me how much they love my work. And yet, in all that time, only once did they contacted me to initiate the project.

Almost every project I’ve designed for this client was initiated by me when I contacted the client to see how things were going. During those conversations, the owner would sometimes ask me if I was interested in working on a design project for him.

I guarantee you, if I had not initiated those conversations, I wouldn’t have gotten those projects. I know this because every time I go into his store, I see things that I didn’t design for him. And everything I inquire about was created by a different local designer.

You see, this particular client likes to spread the wealth amongst local designers. He wants to make everyone happy, so he gives his next design project to the next designer he sees.

That’s why part of my retention marketing strategy when it comes to this client is making sure I reach out to him regularly.

You snooze, you lose.

Taking “the client will contact me when they need my help” approach could hurt you.

I lost a long-standing website client last year. This client was in bad need of a website refresh, and he knew it, but he didn't have the money in his budget. I understood and asked him to contact me when he was ready to proceed.

The client knew my services; he knew I was familiar with his business and eager to work with him on their new site. Plus, I manage his domain name for him. So I had nothing to worry about. The client would contact me when he was ready.

Or so I thought.

Then one day, out of the blue, I received an email from someone asking me to change the nameservers for the client’s domain. Confused, I called my client, asking what was going on, and he told me he had hired a different local firm to design his new website.

When I asked if there were any issues with the service I provided him, he said no. It was just that this newer company had mailed him info packages, had reached out by email and had visited the store to talk with him. My client said he was impressed by their dedication and decided to reward this new design firm with his new website project.

Because I was too confident that my client was loyal and didn’t bother doing anything to retain him, I lost him.

I learned a valuable lesson that day. Don’t take your existing clients for granted. No matter how good you believe your relationship is, you still need to make an effort to keep that relationship going strong.

It’s just like healthy friendships. The friends you keep in contact with are the ones that will ask if you want to get together. The friends you don’t stay in touch with are less likely to do so. The same happens with clients you don’t keep in contact with.

Maybe If I had put in the effort to keep in contact with my client, he would have turned down the new company. But he didn't, because they were there, and I wasn’t.

How to do retention marketing.

The best advice I can give you is to stay in touch with your clients.

As stated earlier, it requires at least five times less effort to market to an existing client than it does acquire a new client. After all, current clients already know you and the services you offer, so that part of marketing is already taken care of.

Building a relationship

The best kind of marketing you can do with a client is to provide them with a fantastic experience when working with you. My free 7 part Client Onboarding Series walks you through the process of getting to know a client, introducing them to your services, navigating them through a design project, and parting ways in a manner that encourages them to come back for more.

Part 7 of that series covers The Goodbye Packet. The Goodbye packet is a way to build client loyalty after the completion of a project. It’s an excellent foundation for retention marketing, but there are other ways to stay in touch as well.

Keep in contact.

It's a good idea to reach out to clients periodically to see how they’re doing. Don't use this as an opportunity to pitch your services. It’s merely a way of staying in touch. That’s how I keep getting work from that jewellery store client.

Call or email an old client, tell them you were thinking about them for some reason and thought you’d reach out to see how things were going? If the conversation turns towards work, that’s great, but it’s not the reason for the call.

Relationship building is essential here. So pretend you’re a couple of friends who got busy with things in life and now you’re catching up.

Start a newsletter.

Resourceful Designer Community member Andrew has a newsletter he sends to his clients. It’s a wonderful tool for keeping in touch and letting his clients know what he’s been up to. Even if it’s not a personal letter, just having it show up in his clients' inbox keeps Andrew top of mind, which hopefully means his name will be the first person they think of the next time they need a designer.

Another designer I know told me that he often receives replies to his newsletter with new projects. Receiving his newsletter jogged something in the client’s brain that made them take action, hit reply and send a new project his way.

So a newsletter is a great form of retention marketing to remain in your client’s lives while between projects.

Connect on social media.

It's a good practice to follow your clients on social media. When possible, do so from a business account and not your personal profile. There’s a good chance your clients will follow you back, and you don’t want them seeing photos of your family vacation or random pics of your dog.

The retention marketing strategy with social media is similar to a newsletter. You want your client to know your still around. Reply or comment on your client’s posts. If there’s something special going on with one of your clients, consider sharing or reposting it and mention they’re a client of yours.

Make sure you tag your client in any post that's relevant to them. That simple gesture ensures that they remember you and what you do.

Send them something.

Sending a client something tangible is the easiest way to get them to think about you.

I recently received a handwritten card in the mail from the instructor of an online course I took. It immediately made me think of her again and even encouraged me to place a new order from her. That’s retention marketing at it’s best. She probably wouldn’t have made that sale if she had not sent me that personalized card in the mail.

A card or postcard is one of the easiest physical things you can send. Not sure what to write? Listen to episode 59 of the podcast, where I talk about using holidays to build your graphic design business.

Just imagine the reaction you would get if you sent a client a “Happy national donut day,” or “Happy wear two different colour socks day” card. I think they would remember you after that.

Of course, cards are not the only tangible things you can send. Gift baskets and flowers are great for special occasions, such as marriages or new babies, just to let them know you're thinking of them.

The ideas you can come up with are endless.

Retention Marketing

One of the best ways to grow your design business is by getting more work from your existing clients. And to do that, you need to practice retention marketing.

I only talked about a few of the methods for doing so. I didn’t touch on any actual marketing you can do, such as informing existing clients of new services you now offer or reminding them of services they may or may not know of or remember.

What it all comes down to is making sure your clients don’t forget about you and making sure they don’t feel like you’re ignoring or forgetting about them. That’s what happened with my web design client. I gave them space, and they decided to hire the company that was currently paying attention to them.

As I said, retention marketing takes a lot less effort than growth or acquisition marketing. So there’s no reason for you not to do it.

Look through your client list today. Identify clients you haven’t been in contact with for a while and reach out to them. Rekindle your relationship.

How is retention marketing working for you?

Please, let me know what you did and how it goes. Send me an email at feedback [at] resourcefuldesigner [dot] com or better yet, leave a comment for this episode so everyone can see.

Resource of the week SiteGround

SiteGround in my opinion, is one of the best website hosting companies out there. I have several of my own as well as clients' websites at SiteGround. They offer easy 1-clickWordPress installation and allow multiple domains and website on one hosting package. And if you are already hosting your site elsewhere you can take advantage of their free migration tool to have your site moved from your old host to SiteGround.

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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