I’ve mentioned elsewhere that I’m starting up a new studio called Dos Entre Dos. Last week was business card time, and to honest, almost my favourite part! We got our design together and planned out the specifics of the printing. We were going with a matt black finish, spot UV for the logo, and rounded corners.
We decided to use an online printing company that I had used several times, with great results. Ten days later we got the cards back. I was gutted when I saw the results. The cards had been poorly cut and the rounded corners, weren’t so round. To top it all off, the black was streaky! I wasn’t best pleased.
I wrote a very polite email, expressing my “concerns”, and hoped that they could resolve the problem. The long and short is that, 24 hours later they got back to me, saying that they would reprint both batches (there were two sets) and have them sent to me as soon as possible.
What does this mean? It means that I’ll continue to tell my clients about them and I’ll personally continue to use the company. What would have happened if they had told me there was nothing they could do? It would have been, “adios” printing company and goodbye to any future work or recommendations.
Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk
They ensured repeat work. Through excellent customer service, and by correcting their mistake they have held on to me as a regular customer. We all make mistakes, and clients are far more likely to be forgiving, if we admit to these mistakes.
We as freelancers, spend a certain amount of our time worrying about where our next job will come from. We probably worry more about future clients than perhaps about our current ones. It’s a sin that I’m sure most of us are guilty of.
Why are we dreaming of finding new clients, when there are so many things we can do to ensure a long term working relationship with our present clients?
How do we ensure client happiness
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Every time I buy an Apple product, I suffer from a little pain in my right hand pocket, where my wallet lives. Why do I keep buying their products? They last. My 2007 iMac is my main workhorse and it’s still going strong. Their OS is solid and easy to use, and of course their products look great. Even though Apple is more expensive than its competitors, I feel I have value for money, and that, is gold!
Apply that to what we do…Your rates may be high, but if your clients feel they have value for money, then odds are, you’ll see them again. We need to instil in our clients the belief that they are investing in their company’s future, not just spending money. We all like to feel we have invested wisely.
So, what constitutes value for money
Photo Credit: Beth Kanter
For starters, seeing a return on your investment… Here’s a simplified example, your client paid €2100 for his new website. He offers short term caravan lets on the west coast of Wales. A one week let, costs €600. The client sells five in the first week. He’s already made his investment back and has started to turn a profit. Do you think the client feels he got value for money? I would say so, chances are he will come back to you for future projects. You can also approach him with confidence, should you have any suggestions to further aid his business.
Supposing the site wasn’t such a roaring success, let’s say through no fault of your own. Sometimes the results of a project are just out of your hands. Be that as it may, you had gone above and beyond the call of duty throughout the entire project. You offered advice on everything from colour schemes, to ways of integrating his services with social media. You projected an image of a professional who cares about his work and client, and who is willing to go that little bit further to hit the mark. Your chances of repeat work maybe lower than that of the first case scenario, but you’ll be on the right track.
A strong business relationship goes a long way
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I have a client who has been with me from the start, he was my very first client and he continues to send work my way on a regular basis. He even bought us a gift when our daughter was born! I always make a special effort to accommodate any last minute work requests he makes, as it’s important to make sure he’s happy with the service I provide.
Over time, a professional working relationship can be developed that will actually save you time, and some of the usual headaches associated with the start of a new project.
You may know from previous experience that Bill hates big serif fonts and that he’s only willing to pay up to X amount for stock photography. Already, you’re saving time, you’re making more per hour and you are continuing to keep a client happy.
Remember though, a business relationship is just that. We have to try not to step over the line and become their best mate. I’ve been know to swear from time to time and am quite fond of short four letter words, but I would endeavour to keep these things for my friends. Even if your client swears like a docker, be very careful at playing the pally approach. Remember, you want this to be a long term relationship. Things said today in the spirit of friendship can be a lot harder to take back tomorrow, under the guise of a designer who’s charging for a premium service.
Less time maketing is more time working
Photo Credit: Aiyaz Kidwai
The other added benefit of repeat work, is of course the reduced time spent marketing yourself to potential clients. After finishing a string of projects, you can suddenly find yourself without a client waiting in the wings.
This risk can be reduced by having returning clients on your books. This doesn’t mean we can become complacent, far from it. Marketing is a continual process, whether we are conscious of it or not. The way we answer the phone, our emails or simply the way we shake hands. We never stop marketing ourselves, but the fact of the matter is, sometimes we are so busy working that we forget to actively look for work. Having a base of returning clients who we can approach during quiet times is a valuable commodity. It’s easier to sell a service to a customer who already trusts you, and values your work.
A great example of continuous marketing is Andrew, our programmer at Dos Entre Dos. I first met Andrew via Concept Feedback a year or so ago. I had posted a portfolio design, and he had offered some valuable advice. After that I wrote to Andrew several times and started to follow him on Twitter. He always had a minute to offer his opinion, on this, that and the other. I knew he was a bit of a coder as well as a designer, so asked him to help me out with a problem I was having with a WordPress theme. He sorted it out, and the rest as they say, is history. I would have been lucky to find Andrew through the usual channels, but thanks to a continued willingness to lend a hand and his great outlook, I managed to find what I hope will be a long-term partnership, without even having to look. That is marketing at its best, and something we should aspire to emulate.
It’s nice to be nice
Photo Credit: Cesar Harada
Sometimes it’s just nice to be nice. Let’s face it, we all like to be treated as if we’re special, like we’re the only customer in the shop. In an ideal world it would always be like this.
In an ideal world, the customer would come begging you to design their website. They’d be happy with the first draft and they’d pay up immediately. Unfortunately we don’t live in that world, so instead we have to work at keeping our clients. We have to go that extra mile. In such a competitive market, where the client can spend as much or as little as he likes, it pays to “stand out”.
Standing out could be your exceptional customer service, your phenomenal designs, your reduced pricing scheme for returning customers or just a great haircut! It’s not pie in the sky, it’s a goal to aim for. If you seek the holy grail, then be prepared to work for it. Do everything in your power to be the best designer you can be. Provide a solid, consistent level of work and watch your clients come back, time and time again.