THE BLOG
07/03/2013 12:43 pm ET | Updated Oct 22, 2013

Drawn to Business: Improving Customer Retention

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Hi Go Media faithful!  Bill here! I'm back to deliver another teaser article from my book, Drawn to Business.  Today we'll cover a topic vital to operating a thriving service firm: Customer Retention.

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Take good care of your customers. Nothing will replace good service. No amount of holiday cards, phone calls, discounts or anything else will make up for poor service. When a client brings you a project, you need to treat them like royalty. Be nice and supportive. Hit your deadlines. Do amazing work. Stay on budget. Follow through. Say thank you when they pay. Give them legendary service with a smile on your face. If you do this, you've at least ensured that they'll trust you for future projects.

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Make a good first impression. Take particularly good care of your customers at the beginning of the relationship. Getting off on the wrong foot can ruin a good relationship.  How you perform on the very first project is absolutely critical. More specifically, your first set of proofs will establish in the mind of your customer whether they can relax and trust you to do great work, or if they're going to have to look at everything you do with a critical eye. If you're working with a new client, the first project is the most critical time in that relationship.

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Resist the urge to over-promise. Establish reasonable expectations with your customer then out-perform those.  Under-promise. Over-deliver. If you think delivering what you promise makes a good impression, just wait till you see how your customers respond when you give them a little bit more. 2013-06-13-customer_retention_tip_4.jpg

Be an advisor to your customers, not just an order taker. An order taker is dispensable, but an advisor is invaluable.  Of course, it takes more work to be an advisor than an order taker. You certainly can't just upsell your client on a bunch of services they don't need. You have to get to know them, understand their business and know which services you can provide that make sense for them.

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Stay in touch with your customers. Nothing else will give you as big a return on your time than doing something simple like dropping your client an e-mail or giving them a phone call.  This is one of the simplest and yet most powerful ways to generate ongoing business. Just stay in touch. It's so simple. Don't pester, don't annoy, just make sure you stay on your customer's mind. Make sure they know that you're ready and eager to help them with their design needs.

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Offer cheaper rates to your best customers.  For almost the entire existence of Go Media there was only one pricing model. Our prices were broken down hourly, based on service type. We charged all our customers the same amount.

To qualify, the customer has to have completed enough projects with us that we feel comfortable with the way they work. They can't be a customer that meanders off-scope, pushes our hours over budget and then complain about additional costs. They have to be easy to work with and they have to pay their bills on time. This strategy is one I learned from a peer who works at a much larger corporation. They have great success with it.

Visit the GoMediaZine for more advice on design and running a successful service firm. For more information on my forthcoming book Drawn to Business visit: Go Media's Drawn to Business. And if you're in need of excellent branding, print design or web development visit Go Media.

This blogger graduated from Goldman Sachs' 10,000 Small Businesses program. Goldman Sachs is a partner of the What Is Working: Small Businesses section.