For many web designers, finishing off a brand-new website for a client doesn’t mean the end of that relationship. Potentially, you may continue to work together in some capacity for years to come. Things like maintenance, repairs and maybe even a lucrative redesign could all be in the cards.
But in order to get to that point, you need to build and maintain a solid relationship. Even if there are no guarantees, it’s still the best way to ensure that a client will come back to you, year after year.
Clients, of course, are all different. They each have different likes, dislikes and will vary in how they approach their business. While keeping that in mind, I think it is safe to say that there are some commonalities when it comes to building a relationship with them.
Here, then, are some things we can do to lay a strong foundation for a successful partnership.
Be Honest and Direct
One of the easiest and most universal ways to earn trust and respect is by speaking the truth. Lying, on the other hand, will only cause harm to a relationship. Just don’t go there.
In my experience, I’ve had much better outcomes when I have plainly said what needs to be done and a brief description as to why. Now, that’s not a license to abandon all politeness and decorum. But the more you talk circles around things, the more it can rub someone the wrong way.
Honesty is always the best policy, but brevity shouldn’t be ignored, either. This is especially important when discussing highly-technical issues. You’ll run into clients who really don’t understand all the technical jargon and don’t care to learn it.
In these cases, it’s best to simply get to the bottom line. For example, rather than explain all the technical reasons why they should keep their WordPress install updated, it’s more effective to communicate the end result (a potentially broken, insecure website, in this case). If they want to know more, you can always elaborate further.
Put it all together and your client will appreciate both your honest approach and your ability to communicate effectively.
Follow Up and Follow Through
We all need to prioritize our schedule. Oftentimes, the bigger the project (and client), the higher priority it is. It just makes sense.
But that doesn’t mean that you should ignore other clients or push them aside. If you’ve ever had a similar situation happen in your own life, you’ll know how frustrating it can be. So, imagine what a client feels like if they are continually left hanging.
This is where just a little bit of communication can make a world of difference. People will often be understanding if your schedule is jam-packed with work – as long as you let them know. Informing them that their request may be delayed a little bit will go over much better than failing to respond at all.
Then, it’s vital that you follow through with whatever you’ve promised. This demonstrates that, even if you can’t get to something right away, you can be counted on to get the job done. It’s actually a rarity in our world, so following through will make you indispensable in a client’s eyes.
Be a Resource
Some client relationships will be a bit sporadic in that you won’t hear from them very often. Still, it’s important to stay in touch with them, even during those lulls in work. And there are a few easy ways to do it.
Being in direct communication with your clients helps to build that personal rapport. Consider reaching out once or twice a year via phone or email, just to see how things are going. Ask if they are still happy with their website and see if there are any potential changes they want to make.
Quite often, a client will have website-related items on their to-do list, but they get pushed to the back burner for whatever reason. Just the simple act of reaching out to ask can get the ball rolling.
And, don’t be afraid to make suggestions. For instance, clients who have older sites may be in need of some mobile optimizations. Take a look at their analytics and let them know how many mobile users they’ve had, and how to better serve them.
Blogs and Newsletters
While less personal, sending out blog posts and newsletters to existing clients can serve two purposes. First, it keeps your name fresh in their mind. Second, it’s an opportunity to inform them about new services you’re offering, industry trends or other items they need to know about.
The best part is that you don’t necessarily have to go all-out in this area. It doesn’t have to be particularly in-depth or frequent. Just put something out there once in a while. You may be surprised at how much feedback you get.
Of course, while you’re spreading some knowledge, you might as well share it on social media as well.
Hosting a webinar for a group of clients offers the best of both worlds. You get to make a personal connection while also dropping a bit of knowledge on something that matters to them. Best of all, you don’t have to leave your desk!
Your subject matter should be focused on things that have an effect on at least a segment of your client base. One recent example of this would be the WordPress Gutenberg editor, as it was bound to have a large impact.
But you can also focus on other matters that relate to your client’s business. Subjects like email marketing, increasing conversion rates or how to read usage statistics are always popular. Regardless, the interaction can be very beneficial for everyone involved.
Show That You’re in It for the Long Haul
In all, this is about both doing the right thing and demonstrating that you are there for your clients before, during and after you’ve built their site.
Most of the time, this will be an effective means of building loyalty and keeping them on board. Of course, there will always be some losses along the way. But being honest, trustworthy and a resource of information will help you build and sustain great long-term relationships.