One challenge in virtually every business (and for virtually every individual in every business) is time management. How and what we do with our time determines success and failure. This is obvious enough. However, the story isn’t always that simple especially when you are seeking to communicate and connect with your current clients.
Of course, some connection is natural — you are working on a project together and obviously need to be together. Here, the simple things you can do to develop and preserve relationships include (a) responding promptly to any inquiry, call, or question, (b) communicating progress with regular updates — often on a schedule determined at the beginning of the project and (c) being on time. If you have a meeting at 2 pm, be there, then.
The story is more challenging for “old” clients where you want to keep in touch for possible future work. Also, the issue can apply to current clients on maintenance mode — they are doing business with you (or more accurately your service reps, technicians or sub-contractors) but would have little need to be with you on an executive or senior level. Here, the challenge is the natural fear that “keeping in touch,” especially if the purpose is ultimately sales or business development, could be seen as a time-waster by your current clients — the sort of thing that causes them to review the existing relationship and question whether it is necessary. How many business owners and decision-makers do you know that actually welcome and encourage sales calls?
The answer, in part, says this PSMJ Resources blog posting, is to focus on useful value and contributions. You need to think creatively for this stuff, finding information and sharing insights that truly provide value to your clients. The temptation is to put this sort of contribution off until the next day, or week, or worse, because the reaction is muted, to say, “enough, I’ll just leave them alone.” Then you find you’ve lost touch and the client has awarded work to someone else you could easily handle.
Where possible, I believe it is wise to build the follow-up communication and contact mechanism into your current contract. This can be handled, for example, through scheduled (perhaps free) maintenance and inspection services. These give you the opportunity to provide a report — and garner rapport — with your current clients.
Probably, from a marketing perspective, your true net yield on a well-thought communications and follow-up program for your current clients will be far more effective and inexpensive than cold advertising and sales for new business. (Of course, you can use this follow-up service to induce and encourage referrals — growing both your new and repeat business in the process.)