Getting clients in your pipeline is never an easy task. It’s a long, hard, and often expensive and confusing process to go through. Where should I spend my dollars? What will make the most impact? Where will I connect with my “ideal client?” What are the exact words, pictures, or videos that I should use to connect with my audience? It’s a lot to think about.
But sometimes the most effective way of finding new clients, is spending very little time on it. Now, if you’re new and have only had a few projects under your belt, that’s of course not true. Client acquisition is going to be a very large part of your life. But if you’ve been around the block a few times and have had a fair share of projects and clients, often your time, money, and efforts, are better spent retaining clients, rather than discovering new ones.
Why Aren’t Your Clients Coming Back for More?
Now if clients aren’t returning to you for another project and it’s been more than a year or two, it could mean a number of things – 1) they don’t have plans for another project right now 2) they don’t have money for another project right now 3) they are looking for a different designer for their next project or they’ve decided to DIY or 4) it’s been so long and they’ve forgotten about you. Now, you can’t do anything about numbers 1 or 2. But you can do something about numbers 3 and 4.
If clients aren’t coming back to you because they’re either looking to DIY their next project or are looking for another designer, it might mean that something went awry in your time together. It might mean that some time needs to be spent looking at what happened, what may have gone wrong from the client’s perspective, and what can be done to right it going forward.
Make Sure You’re Not Just Creating More Unsatisfied Clients
The problem with continually finding new clients because you don’t have any or many repeat projects or referrals, is that you may just be putting more unsatisfied clients into the world. You may just be creating more clients who don’t come back to you. And you may be creating more people who go around and share with others that working together just wasn’t what they had hoped it would be.
Now if you don’t have repeat clients and referrals, that’s nothing to feel bad about. Sometimes we can try really, REALLY hard at something, and yet we STILL aren’t getting it right. Terrible, yes. Something to feel guilty about? Absolutely not. Even the best of intentions can end up not working out.
There are always going to be times where we just didn’t know that we were making a mistake. Then later we’re unfortunately suffering from the consequences and saying to ourselves, “What happened? I don’t understand. I worked so hard…”
Don’t Feel Guilty, Get Ready to Improve
But instead of feeling guilty about possible mistakes you’ve made, honestly and objectively take a look at what might be causing the problem. Are things a bit disorganized and unpredictable within your design process? Is the client continually unaware of when they’ll hear from you next? Are your reply times to email and phone calls from clients maybe a little too low slow? Are project issues left lingering a bit too long as you don’t quite know how to resolve it and really don’t want to face the client?
Really taking an honest look yourself at how you’re doing things right now, and getting an honest second opinion from friends, employees, clients, etc. on how things are going and might be improved, is the only way to ensure more repeat clients. And to ensure less time spent on new ones.
Because the fact of the matter is, wouldn’t life be better, and less costly, and more efficient, if you didn’t have to spend so much of it running after new clients? Taking people through those first steps of the screening call, initial consultation, proposal, designing somewhat blindly for the concept phase and keeping your fingers crossed that they say yes to it all is really nerve wrecking. It’s also a lot of work. So you might as well give yourself a break and focus more on retaining and less on acquisition.
Keep Up with Your Follow Up
Now in the interior design business of course you’re going to have one time clients because they only have one big investment to make. Or because the project was just that big, you took care of everything all at once. But you don’t have to think of them as one time clients (even if they technically are) if they were the type of clients that you had a great connection with, and you know they were more than satisfied with your work.
Instead you can think of them as repeat clients as they continually put your name into the world. You can continually keep in touch with them, by inviting them to client appreciation events, educational enrichment events that your firm holds, sending holiday and birthday cards, etc. You want to keep in touch as you know that even if they never have another project again for you, they are continually singing your praises around town to all of their friends and family. And that’s just as good as them coming back for another project, if not even better, as now they’re possibly creating multiple projects for you as they go around sharing your name and experience with everyone they know.
So, how do you do just that? In the practical sense of literally just keeping track of everyone and everything? Well, in the old days people had a Rolodex. They had everything literally written down so they could quickly spin the wheel to see who was on their list of contacts. Now finding exactly the right person might have taken awhile, but eventually you would find them.
Technology Makes Keeping in Touch Easier & More Efficient
Thankfully though today we no longer have to spin the wheel to remember who our contacts and clients are. We have something far more efficient, technology. You can use an Excel spreadsheet to simply create and keep a list of all of your clients together. You can divide them up into categories like “Ideal Clients” or “Non-Ideal Clients” so you know how important keeping in touch with that client is.
Or you can use an interior design project management software like Mydoma where you can both keep track of past clients, and past projects. You can make notes in the client’s profile on who they are, what they’re interested in, if they were an ideal or non-ideal client, if their project is complete, etc. and then you can search for them by name, status (on hold, complete, etc.) or just simply scroll through your complete list.
That way you don’t have to have a separate Excel spreadsheet just to have this kind of client information together. Instead you can simply use the software you already have to scroll through, reminding yourself of just how many projects or clients you’ve had in the past. You can reflect on and ask yourself, have you reached out to them lately, do you want to, have they returned for a project or referred anyone? If not, why not?
And if you scroll through your list and realize a very large majority of your projects are in fact “one and only” projects, it’s time to look at your process and consider why. Is it because you haven’t been keeping in touch, or is it because the client experience you provide needs some work? Or maybe even both?
Make Life Easier on Yourself & Your Firm
Retaining past clients and getting referrals is one of the easiest ways to increase your business’ overall profitability. Your dollars are spent on things you know work, with people who already know, like and trust you. But retaining clients isn’t just something that happens on its own. It’s something that’s continually worked on and cultivated. It’s something that you have to make a point of doing. Just like anything else.
No one’s room magically transforms itself into something beautiful. A plan was made, executed, and continually managed, and in exchange you got spectacular results. The same thing goes with retaining clients. Make a plan, follow through, continually manage it, and in exchange you’ll get spectacular results.
Share in the comments below, are you happy with how many of your clients retain? And how do you keep in touch with past clients? I’d love to know!
And if you’d like to retain even more of your clients, join “The Exceptional Experience,” for the last session of 2019!
During our time together you’ll get even more ideas on how to provide the kind of client experience that gets you greater profits, efficiency, and loyalty, register here now!