If you own an insurance brokerage, an accountancy or law firm, a financial planning practice or other service-based business, your core benefit to clients is hard information: metrics, cash flow analysis, investments, insurance products and other service deliverables. This is why your business is paid by clients, but…
…it may not be the reason a client remains a client over the long-term. “Soft” benefits often keep clients in place as part of your business base.
Soft benefits are the little intangibles that create goodwill among service providers and clients and, in the process, create positive word of mouth advertising as one client recommends your services to another business associate.
Your focus, of course, remains on the primary service your business performs for clients, but adding some soft benefits is a great way to keep a client a client.
To utilise soft benefits to grow and maintain a stable roster of business friends, you could:
1. Call your clients. Don’t wait until a client has a problem or question. Reach out by telephone, periodically, just to say hello, to discuss client needs and to talk about that new restaurant in town.
Client-provider relationships shouldn’t be one-way streets so pick up the phone regularly to see if there’s anything you can do for the client at the moment. You might be surprised at how this pro-active approach creates new business as well as client goodwill.
2. Send hand-written communications. Birthday cards, thank-you notes, notes marking special occasions and other “personal” communications are always appreciated. Unfortunately, an email doesn’t have the impact of a handwritten thank you note written on high quality stationery.
Use the post to stay in touch in a more personal way.
3. Learn the names of staff members. From the receptionist to the administrative assistant, learn the names of all employees. People like it when you call them by name. It shows respect and a caring approach to all of your clients’ employees.
4. Take client calls ASAP. If clients have to work through a maze of automated answering systems, only to discover that you’re unavailable, you have a disgruntled client.
Even if you’re busy, it’s always good business to take client calls ASAP. This also avoids the unproductive “phone tag” we all play leaving messages on each other’s answering machines.
5. Organize a client appreciation dinner. Invite all clients and their families to a festive event organized just for them. It shows your sincere appreciation for clients’ on-going patronage.
Keep it fun, keep it family oriented and, whatever you do, don’t talk business. That can wait until next week when everyone’s back in the office.
6. Refer new business to trusted clients. Nothing says you care about client success more than referrals. If you have numerous trusted clients, all in the same vertical space, you have connectivity that can be shared with clients.
It’s always a good idea to ask clients if they want referrals, but as the nexus of a group working within the same industry, you can connect the dots to find the synergies that make clients happy and view you as more than just a source of information.
You’re a source of business for them, as well.
7. Send a gift to the support team. These are the men and women who file, answer the phone, send out invoicing, keep the books, make collection calls and perform all of the other functions that a small business needs done. These are the men and women who keep daily activities moving forward. A nice basket of goodies for the coffee room creates goodwill with the people you deal with.
It also creates goodwill with the business principals who recognize you know how to keep their teams happy.
Soft benefits dovetail with hard benefits, creating a professional business persona that all members of client staffs recognize. Small gifts, small favours, small gestures add up to a lot of good will.