Sometimes, business relationships tend to be too straightforward and formal. Those things have their place, but we need to include a more human touch when it comes to web working. After all, it’s much easier for clients to ignore and forget you if they don’t see you face to face on a regular basis – you’re just another online contractor to them.
How do you stand out from the others? By applying your own personal touch to client interaction. Here’s how you can start…
Remember special occasions. I usually greet clients on their birthdays or during our ‘anniversaries’ – the date when we signed our first contract together. This may come off as a bit touchy-feely, but it’ll differentiate you from others. Especially if your greetings are handwritten notes rather than short emails.
I once listened to an interview of an internet entrepreneur who chose a contractor among other bidders just because this contractor was the only one who greeted him on his birthday. To the entrepreneur, this meant that the contractor pays attention to details. Also, greeting clients on special occasions means that you take some time to remember them apart from the time you send out invoices.
Be available, but not too available. Clients appreciate timely responses to their concerns, especially from web workers. After all, they’re paying you without looking over your shoulder as you work. If you’re not available soon enough for them, even just to say that you’ll discuss their problem at a later date, red flags start to go up. If they’re working with you for the first time, they might get ahead of themselves and think you’ve run away with their deposit. To avoid this from happening make sure that you have a response – any response – within 24 hours.
However, there’s such a thing as making yourself too available. I once had a client who needed over an hour of chatting each day until his project was completed. On hindsight, I realized that I should’ve set some limits. Spending too much time on one client might force you to spend less time on the other clients that require attention. Plus, it might distract you from the actual work you should be doing.
Offer them discounts. Regular clients appreciate discounts, although they don’t demand for one. Giving a regular client a discount is like giving them a ‘loyalty prize’ for working with you over the years.
Overdeliver. When you make promises to a client, you need to overdeliver. Clients will be expecting that you keep your promises, but they won’t be expecting something extra. Delivering more than you promised makes them feel that they got the best deal for their money.
There are several ways for you to overdeliver. You can submit a project earlier than expected, you can submit more frequent progress reports, or you can create a small additional feature to the project.
Say “Thank you”. Thank your client for meeting with you, signing the contract with you, paying you on time – everything. The more important occasions, such as selecting you for the project and making the final payments, should come in the form of a handwritten card or a small gift. The cost of the “thank you” will likely vary depending on the cost of the project, but even the simplest card makes a difference. One of my clients actually wrote me an email about how touched he was because of the year-end “thank you” card I sent. Then, he said he wanted to start a new project with me – even if he hadn’t contacted me for months.
Doing these five things may not be a necessary part of your work, but it makes the interaction between web workers and their clients more personal. Perhaps, by doing these things, your clients will realize that you’re not just some robotic contractor from the other side of the country.
What special things do you do for your clients? Do they have any advantages for you or your business?