Client management is a key skill that every business consultant, every service provider and every freelancer needs to learn and master. With good client management, you’ll be able to keep your clients coming back time and again with more and more paying work. With poor client management, you’ll perpetually have to keep trying to market yourself, as your previous clients just aren’t going to want to work with you again. Client management is all about having great communication and making sure your client is happy every step of the way. This sounds simple, but there are a lot of unexpected potential pitfalls. Here are the top 10 client management mistakes many marketers make.
Mistake #1: Letting Your Inbox Pile UpLetting your inbox pile up with email after email is a client management disaster waiting to happen. It’s not just client emails either: If your email is full to the brim, chances are sooner or later a client email is going to get lost in there somewhere. Learn to manage your inbox. Try to get your inbox down to zero emails at the end of every day. Sort action emails into a task planner, sort reference and informational emails into reference folders and delete any emails you don’t truly need. Make sure you aren’t psychologically crowding yourself by having dozens or hundreds of emails in your inbox.
Mistake #2: Not Responding Within 24 Hours
Replying quickly to clients not only shows them that you care about them and their business; it’s also a signal to your professionalism. True professionals always reply to emails and always do so in a timely manner. If you don’t get back to potential clients within 24 hours, there’s a good chance they’ll contact another service provider in the meantime. Or they might simply get frustrated and not hire you. Existing clients will be less likely to order from you again as well. If you find yourself having trouble with getting back to client emails in a timely manner, first clean out your inbox as explained above. Then set a time of 30 to 60 minutes a day in the evening to get back to client emails. Any quick emails you get throughout the day you can just respond to on the spot, but the really tough emails must be responded to by evening.
Mistake #3: Being Late on ProjectsNever, ever be late on projects. It’s much better to give a deadline you can meet, even if it’s a slower one, than not hit your deadline. One of the things that new clients are going to be watching like a hawk is your delivery time. If you say you’ll have it done by a week and it’s not done for a week and two days, they’re going to assume that’s what it’s going to be like working with you going forward. On the other hand, if the project is delivered early, they’ll be quite impressed. They’ll likely want to work with you again. Pay attention to your own work habit and try to get a sense for how much work you can get done in a day’s time. Be slightly conservative when giving clients your delivery times.
Mistake #4: Not Conveying Warmth
Don’t just respond to your clients’ technical questions. Don’t be standoffish when you’re responding to clients. Try to also add a dash of warmth to your emails. It could be as simple as something like “I’m looking forward to working with you” or “I really like the project you’re working on. As you work with your client more, try to get to know them a little bit. Build a personal connection with them. Of course your relationship is a professional one first and foremost, but it really helps to get to know your clients a little bit.
Mistake #5: Being Too Stingy
Give your clients a little bit of leeway. Don’t be stingy about the service you deliver. For example, if you’re a marketing consultant and they hired you for an hour, you don’t have to cut the session off right at 60 minutes if you’re in the middle of explaining something. First and foremost, have your attention on helping your client. If you go over by 3 or 5 minutes, that’s okay. If you’re a freelance writer and your client paid for a 1,000 word article, don’t cut it off at 1,000 even if you’re in the middle of a thought. Give your client the extra few words to help really round off the piece. Don’t be stingy.
Mistake #6: Not Asking for Referrals
Referrals are an integral part of any service provider’s business. If you have a great referral system, you’re going to have no trouble building and growing your practice. On the other hand, if you aren’t getting your past clients to refer you to new clients, chances are you’re always going to have trouble marketing your business. Getting referrals isn’t hard. Just ask your past clients if they know anyone else who could benefit from your services. If you did a good job for them, there’s a good chance that they would. If you don’t want to directly ask for your clients to send you referrals, at least ask them for a testimonial. That way you can use your past successes to help convince new customers to try your service.
Mistake #7: Not Managing Perceived Value
There’s a big difference between the value a client actually receives and the value they perceived that they received. This is an especially important distinction in arenas where results aren’t as clear cut. For example, let’s say you’re a health and wellness coach. You work with a client for six months. Over the six months, your client successfully changed her diet to something a lot healthier, takes up yoga twice a week and loses 20 lbs. Yet your client still looks in the mirror everyday and doesn’t quite feel like she’s meeting her goals yet. In reality, she’s come a long way. Without her realizing it, her goals and standards have actually changed throughout six months. The person she was when she started her coaching with you would have been thrilled to be the person she is today. But the person she is today isn’t satisfied with her results. In this case, you’ve actually delivered real value – But the client might not perceive it as having received value. There are tons of examples like these of service providers who deliver a service, without the client really realizing how much value they got. You have to manage your clients’ perception of how much value they received. Do this by setting measurable metrics in the beginning for success. Do it by telling your client about their victories throughout your sessions. Show your clients how much value they’re getting by regularly pointing it out. This helps make sure your clients stay one and helps make sure they’re happy. It also helps with referrals.
Mistake #8: Letting the Client Drive
Providers who let the client completely take the wheel are ultimately not doing their client justice. For instance, if you’re a graphic designer and your client comes in saying they want brown, blue and yellow on their logo – All conflicting colors – If you say yes, you’re not helping your client. Yes, it’s important to give your client what they want. But often time’s they’re just educated enough to make an informed decision about how something should be done. Instead of letting the client take the wheel in these situations, aim to educate them. Talk them through the colors. Talk them through how you’d approach it. Help educate them about how to make their choice a lot better. Don’t just blindly to everything your client asks you to do, even if it’s not in their best interest.
Mistake #9: Poorly Managing Dissatisfaction
At some point in your career, you’re going to have a client dissatisfied with you. It might be because you misunderstood something they wanted. It might be because something came up and you were late on their order. Maybe you forgot to hit send on a client email. If your client is dissatisfied for any reason, one of two things can happen. You can lose the client, or you can really impress the client. How you handle the issue is what really makes the difference. The wrong way to handle it is to ignore it, to fight the client or to blame the client. This only causes alienation and will probably lose you your client’s respect. On the other hand, the right way to handle it is to apologize, to take responsibility and to go out of your way to fix it. Re-do the work, offer a refund or make it right by doing whatever it takes. If your client sees that you’re sincere, you have a good chance of winning their business again in the future.
Mistake #10: Doing More Talking Than Listening
This is an extremely common mistake, especially among service providers that meet face to face with clients. Service providers have a tendency to talk and talk and talk. They want to tell clients what’s great about their service, about all the different skills they bring to the table, about all the different options they can help with, about how they think the client should run their project. But that’s not what the client cares about. The client cares about their needs. They care about their problems. They want to implement their design ideas. If you’re not listening to what your client needs, they’re not going to trust you to help them. After all, how could you? You don’t even know what they really want. The best way to build trust with clients isn’t to talk about yourself, your skills or your vision. It’s to listen. Listen to what they want, listen to their concerns, listen to how they want things to be done. If you have ideas or suggestions, bring it up only once there’s a strong sense that you really understand where they’re coming from. The bottom line: Listen more than you talk in client meetings. These are some of the most common client management mistakes that people make. Avoiding these mistakes will help you build long term client relationships that bring you business time and time again.