IT IS universally accepted that it costs around five times more to acquire a new client than it does to keep an existing one.

This fact has been written about by Tom Peters in his book Thriving On Chaos.

The Harvard Business Review has further reinforced the theory with its article, The Profitable Art Of Service Recovery.

So what are you doing about keeping those valuable customers that you already have?

Here are five simple steps you can take to ensure those valuable money-making machines — your existing clients — stay in the fold and don’t stray across to your rivals:

The personal touch

Do you want to make a lasting impression on your clients? 

Then get personal with them.

Now I’m not suggesting that you take them to the movies (though that may work). What I mean is, find ways to show them you are personally involved in managing their account.

Take a moment to think about how you can personally impact the relationship you have with your key clients.

If you write to them, sign the letter personally.

Better still, why not call them up and have a conversation?

Better again, why not meet them face to face and buy them a coffee, lunch or dinner?

Get to know more about them and then surprise them with tickets to see their favourite sports team in action.

I found out one of my clients had a passion for American-style pork ribs. I researched the best pork ribs joint in town and took him there for lunch.

Do you reckon he liked me after that?

You bet! And while we were munching on those ribs, we negotiated next month’s bumper order!

Letters beat e-mail any day

It’s a childhood game — rock beats scissors, scissors beat paper.

Well, I have taken it a step further for the business world: Letters beat e-mail…any day!

Communication is the lifeblood of any good client relationship, so how often are you talking or communicating with your best clients?

I have a simple rule of thumb — if you are one of my “A” class clients, you will hear from me at least once every 30 days.

It is so easy these days to send an e-mail message, but you know what?

It is also too easy for your valued client to miss that e-mail among the hundreds he gets every day.

Get smart and find a way to stand out among your competitors. Send your client a letter, a greeting card or an article about a topic he is interested in. That beats e-mail hands down anytime.

The facts make you shine

I have commenced my fifth year of working with a major hospital group. I helped the first general manager (GM) move on to his next role, and coached the new to help him win his current role.

I have played an instrumental part in reshaping the culture of that organisation and worked with the last GM to build the very slick team that does a brilliant job today managing the hospital to make it the best performing hospital in the group.

I am a fountain of knowledge and a wealth of statistics and useful information for the executive suite and the GM.

I can tell them statistics about productivity, staff retention, profitability and a plethora of other critical details about their business. They value my attention to detail and my willingness to immerse myself in their business. The facts make me shine.

Say ‘thank you’ often

The moment you take your client for granted is the moment they begin to look and listen to your competitors. Remember to say “thank you” regularly.

If you genuinely are grateful for the opportunity to work with your clients, tell them.

Whenever I send an account for service rendered, I thank the client for the ongoing business. I also look for other ways to express my thanks.

This could be a few words at the end of the meeting, saying, “I appreciate the opportunity to work with you and enjoy our association”, to perhaps a handwritten note.

Keep your database up-to-date

When you work with someone long-term, the temptation is to not record important details about them or their business in your database. 

We are often vigilant about recording details when we are on the hunt for a new client and let this slide once we have them well and truly signed up for a longer-term engagement.

Take the time to update your database about your activities with your clients.

Again, this attention to detail will only serve you in the longer term. The facts will make you shine.

 

Article by Lindsay Adams, relationship marketing specialist, international speaker with Training Edge International and 2009 – 2010 International President of the Global Speakers Federation. For more information, e-mail Lindsay.adams@trainingedgeasia.com or visit www.trainingedgeasia.com