What do you do to impress your clients?
Beyond the obvious, of course. You already know to do things like meeting deadlines or answering emails promptly. Everyone does (or should do) those things.
So what do you do when you want to stand out?
When you run your own small business, it’s so important to make an awesome impression right from the beginning.
After all, unless you’ve got a ground-breaking start-up business that literally no one has ever done before, there are probably a lot of people out there doing what you do. So what’s going to set you apart?
I’ve been thinking about this a lot, because January brought three new clients onto my plate. Which is awesome, of course! But also a little stressful. I’m a bit Type-A, and a bit of a perfectionist, and I want to make sure the people I work with are as excited about working together — and as pleased with the results — as I am.
So how can we leave our small business clients so delighted that they are clamoring for more?
1. Don’t try to sell — try to help.
Last month, I was on the phone with a potential client trying to seal the deal. They wanted someone to take over their blog, but were also a little unsure about their social media. They asked if I would want to take over those channels as well.
Now, obviously, I could have said yes and gotten myself an extra chunk of revenue each month. But the truth was, their marketing person was already doing a great job with their social media channels. Could I have done as good a job? Sure. Could I have done way better? Probably not.
Trying to upsell them wouldn’t have actually helped the client out.
So I told them that I’d want to work closely with the person responsible for social media, but that it would probably be the best use of their resources to have me focus more on the blog, and the marketing person would continue to handle social media.
The client was blown away that I hadn’t tried to push for more work and incredibly grateful that I had been so honest.
The takeaway: focus on what will genuinely help the client, not you. (You’re more likely to land the job.)
2. Let them know your boundaries & ask for theirs.
When you’re self employed, it can be really hard to set boundaries.
You work from home, so the office is always there. Your work email is always there. You often have clients in different time zones and half a dozen deadlines to juggle on any given day.
It can be easy to fall into the trap of working all the time, every chance you can. Of being constantly available for any client whenever they need you.
But quite honestly, that’s a really terrible way to work.
I know if I work like that, I will be unhappy and the quality of what I produce will decrease.
Not setting boundaries between your work and personal time doesn’t serve you, and ultimately, it doesn’t serve your clients.
So, along with a contract, I’ve started sending each client a friendly email letting them know how I prefer to work and communicate. I also ask for their preferences. It’s not formal, or demanding, but it does include things like,
– I won’t call you unexpectedly if you won’t call me unexpectedly.
– In an attempt to have an actual life outside of work, I try not to respond to emails or phone calls after 6:00 pm EST on weekdays, and I only check my work email 1-2 times on weekends. I think you should do the same! If I email you on a weekend or at night, please feel free to ignore it until the morning or Monday. Of course, if we have a project deadline over a weekend, this will change. But in general, I think we’ll both be happier if we can have some time to ourselves!
– I always try to work ahead of schedule, but extending a timeline without warning isn’t fair to other clients whose projects I’ve accepted. If you need to move “end” dates up on any specific projects, please let me know as promptly as possible.
I was a little nervous to start doing this at first, and uncertain how clients would react. But turns out they really appreciate it! Smartphone and the internet have changed the way we communicate so much in the last few years that a lot of people are unsure what’s okay or not.
The takeaway: by sending clients a few “guidelines,” you not only ensure that clients know your boundaries, you also give them permission to set their own.
3. Ask for feedback after each project.
I use FreshBooks accounting software, and one of the good ideas those folks have come up with is the option to request feedback from a client after you enter a payment.
I take it a step further, though. Instead of sending a generic template from FreshBooks, I take the time to put together an email of my own. It’s not complicated, or long, but it is genuine, and usually looks something like this:
4. Say thank you.
Obviously, you say thank you right after a project. But what about down the road?
Every New Year, I send an e-card to my clients (I use Paperless Post because their designs are so classy) thanking them for the chance to work together in the past year (and reminding them that we could do it again this year!)
It’s a great way to check in with clients that might have another project coming up. But more than that, it’s genuinely how I feel.
I love the work I do and the freedom it allows me over my life. But I wouldn’t have any of that without my amazing clients, the people who take a chance on my work. So it’s important that I let them know they aren’t just another paid invoice to me.
Imagine how it would make your clients feel if you let them know how much you value the chance to work together!
You don’t have to wait until the end of the year, of course. You could send a personalized thank you card after every project, or after each quarter (or after you pay your taxes!) No matter when you do it, it’s the thank you that matters.
The takeaway: a little genuine appreciation goes a long way.
How do you impress your clients with every project?