Last Updated Jan 12, 2011 1:08 PM EST
Show your face. We're all joined at the hip to our electronic devices, but communicating with and being available to your clients via email and social networking is no substitute for face time. "It's the best way to keep connections alive," says Michael Jurken, CEO of Majic Enterprises an event production company in Brookfield, WI. "Just last week I had lunch with a client that I hadn't seen a quite a few months. Three hours later she was on the phone requesting a new project. It works every time!" Jurken keeps track of client interaction through his customer database and makes sure to reach out to clients who he hasn't seen in a few weeks. "Clients' minds start to drift if they are seeing me as MIA," he says.
Ask customers what they need. Josh Shipp, teen advice guru and the founder of Hey Josh, uses online surveys to ask customers what they want, then creates new products based on the results. For instance, he recently asked customers to complete a three-question online survey regarding common problems with teen behavior, and presented them with four options for addressing those issues. He then produced a YouTube video to discuss the results of the survey and to pitch customers on his self-esteem instructional program, an existing product that he tweaked to address their needs. "400 people took the survey," says Shipp. The results generated 46 orders and $5,000 in sales for his product. More importantly, Shipp sent the message to customers that they're in the driver's seat when it comes to new product development.
Sell additional services. Sunny Bonnell, co-founder of Motto Agency in Myrtle Beach, SC, says that in the past, the company would launch brand strategy programs for clients and then just "let them fly." Now, she and her partner, Ashleigh Hansberger, return to their clients and offer them hourly consulting to help them manage any new transitions or obstacles that may have come up since the original engagement. "It gives clients the help/professional advice they need without a large financial commitment," says Bonnell. "And the benefit to us is that it keeps us in the mix as consultants and top of mind for any new project work that might arise."
Exceed expectations. When customers purchase a product or service from you, they have one expectation: to get what they paid for. "That immediately creates an opportunity to exceed these expectations and wow a customer," says Jonathan Kay, director of buzz at Grasshopper, which sells virtual phone systems to entrepreneurs. The company thanks customers on Twitter when they sign up for the service, connects like-minded customers to one another, and even promotes customers with the press. Kay's recent coups: connecting an organic baby food maker with a website looking to feature organic companies; and getting a customer a two minute interview on ABC News in Austin. "All of these things make our customers feel actively involved in the progression of Grasshopper," says Kay. "So when we come out with a new feature like "Read Your Voicemail" for $10 a month, it's a much softer sell."
Incentivise your employees. When Undercurrent, a digital strategy firm in Manhattan, wanted to increase sales from existing clients, the company started a program of tiered quarterly rewards if employees landed three, six, or nine repeat business deals. Three deals might earn everyone a Friday afternoon at the movies; six would result in chair massages for everyone; and nine would reward the staff with a 15-minute shopping spree at Whole Foods. "It worked so well, that we had to stop doing it," says founding partner Aaron Dignan. "We had more repeat business than we knew what to do with."
Come Back Soon image courtesy of Flickr user Sid/Stephen, CC 2.0