How to Build Strong Business Relationships
Working with clients is a part of any business. This is especially true when working with design clients. How you interact with your clients will determine if they become repeat clients or a one time deal. Below are some great tips to help you form great relationships with your clients. If you follow these tips consistently, your design clients will keep coming back.
1. Always be honest.
I mean it. No matter what, this is certainly the golden rule. When a client can trust you, you will have their business for a life time. When they ask you a question, answer it directly and honestly. Do not mislead them or or do anything to break their trust.
2. Be upfront.
Don’t hide anything. Be completely transparent and open with them. Let them know your fees for design work and what you expect from them. If clients need to provide you information regarding products, let them know. Generate a list of things for them to hand you. Also, let them know that in order for the project to run smoothly, those items will need to be provided. I always let my design clients know when I expect payment, and my hourly rate. Never give them round figures.
Question: What if they want a rough estimate of what it will cost on the spot?
Answer: I get this all them time. My answer for for this question is simply:
“I understand cost is your concern, but in order for me to give you a proper estimate of the design work that needs to be done, and the amount of time that will be involved with the project, I will need to review everything that we have gone over today to make sure that I do not misquote you. I lay out everything up front in writing before I start working, so that you will know exactly what it will take to complete this project from start to finish.”
This always puts a smile on my clients’ faces. When I say this, they immediately know that they can trust me, and that there aren’t going to be any unexpected fees or costs added to their bill. This leads me to #3…..
3.Account for Some Padding
When it comes to their initial estimate, I always, always, always add a few extra billing hours to their bill other than what I come up with for the work that I am supposed to do for them. This covers travel expenses, consultation, and factors in a couple of extra design hours in case I run into a problem, or I slightly under estimate their initial quote. (This doesn’t happen much anymore since I am more experienced.) However, this really makes you look good when you bill them for an hour or two less than your original estimate. If you are like me and finish every project prior to the deadline, then you look really good, because you finished early and under budget. This, combined with the trust that you have built, almost guarantees a repeat customer.
4. Define Terms
In the estimate, in writing, it is also good to include a section where you let them know that that price is guaranteed, as long as they pay on time, and as long as they make no additions or changes to the project. Making major changes to the project will cost time and extra money. Doing this ahead of time and sticking with it will ensure that clients won’t be able to whittle you down and shave money from the project. Don’t let people jerk you around.
5. Keep Yourself on Their Mind
Leave a calling card, send Christmas cards, send email reminders, and send a mailer every now and then. These are great when used sparingly. It’s not a good idea to send them all of that stuff every week, because they would get irritated. However, one of those every quarter is a good reminder that you are there for their design needs. Sometimes people are busy, and forget or misplace your information. They need something done and voila! Your email pops up with your information. They remember how great you were and you get a phone call for the next job.
These are basic rules to follow, but you’d be surprised at how easy it is to get wrapped up in day to day tasks and forget to do these. These are all simple things that can make a huge impact in your repeat design business. If you are not doing these, then you should be.
Do you have any tips you use to build strong business relationships with clients? What do you do to keep your clients coming back for more?