Yes, sometimes it seems like mega-agencies and firms have every advantage — but it’s often the little things that matter most to a client. When you’re a smaller team, every moment counts, and just giving five minutes a week of personal attention to each client can be what makes you memorable.
You can build the kind of loyalty that will trump any shiny, over-promising giant service provider that tries to swoop them up. It’s time to start thinking unique, original, thoughtful and personal.
Today we’re sharing tips on how to keep customer loyalty high, so that your clients are glad to stick with your team.
Write it out
The whole idea for this piece came to me from the continuation of a ritual begun, goodness, more than 13 years ago. One of my oldest friends, Tina — we grew up three doors down from each other — started writing actual snail-mail letters to stay connected as we nervously departed for universities about four hours apart.
Now I’m in Europe and she’s in New Jersey — and both of us, interestingly enough, are fast-typing writers by trade. Even with Facebook and IM, we make time to share the important things via long-form letter. I can’t remember the last email I sent today, but I recall and have a copy of every single letter I’ve received from Tina.
Of course, I remember when I told her when I was engaged or she told me she was pregnant, but I also remember when she suggested we always take a book to the cafeteria so if we had to sit alone, no one would think us lonely.
That’s the power of the handwritten word.
Write your clients thank-you notes and holiday cards. Visit their offices? Follow my old sales colleague Bob’s trick and print up cool, memorable, punny postcards and jot some quick “It was great talking to you today!” notes to leave behind.
A follow-up email will probably get archived in a matter of minutes. But that four-by-six-inch piece of cardstock will hang out on their desks for months as reminders of the service you offer.
Keep social media, well, social
It’s tempting to have one person handle all of the social media for your company. And if you offer a product or service that requires tech support, you definitely want to have a dedicated team member watching and listening for help requests and complaints!
But otherwise, it’s more personal to make sure everyone is involved with social media, by bringing different voices to your social branding and by making it easy for the right person to respond personally in a timely fashion. Your clients will love getting a personal shout-out or response.
Social media marketing tools are a must for coordinating these efforts. They allow you to give different team members access to your networks, while managing and tracking social media engagement all in one central place. Ideally, you want to choose a system that allows you to track who said what, so you can avoid repeat responses and everyone has ownership of how they represent your brand.
Plus, if you’re fortunate have a business that welcomes teammates based anywhere in the world, doesn’t it make sense to leverage that for 24-hours-a-day, five-days-a-week reliable response time? When you run a small, remote, multinational team, you can truly compete with (or even beat out) a hundred-person office in a single time zone.
Let’s get personal!
I was talking to a new client this week and he said, unequivocally, he always makes sure he at the very least knows the names of spouses and kids (and, I’d reckon, dogs) of each of his clients. Dave Hecker, cofounder of SourceSeek, a matchmaker between startups and mid-sized companies looking for offshore developers to remotely join their teams, also told me to always remember clients’ birthdays, even just sending them a quick note or leaving them a message.
Keeping your clients in mind makes reaching out almost automatic. For example, I’m based in Barcelona and collaborate with a California-based digital marketing agency called Exertus on a client project. Knowing that the client and I are located in Europe, they immediately follow up when heartbreaking attacks like the recent one in Brussels occur. They’re not moving any sale forward, just making sure we’re OK.
It’s this sense of caring and attention to detail, especially given that they’re juggling a lot of clients, that help this team of 15 in-house and remote marketeers retain long-term clients.
“We strive to form personal relationships with our clients. We say that we don’t work with companies, we work with their team members,” said Exertus COO Robert Carrier.
“I would recommend making time to speak with clients about things other than work,” he added. “And not simply as a lead-in to a work conversation, but simply to build relationships.” He offered the specific example of a client of who talks Star Wars with him and bourbons with his cofounder Angel.
As for me, I’m no expert on whiskey (sometimes on Star Wars), but I call myself a consummate networker because that’s my true calling in life. I am only a one-woman band, collaborating with a series of teams and freelancers working together for as long as it’s beneficial for all. This means that I don’t have all the services my clients require, but I have an impressive network of talented people that I can connect them with.
And it goes past that — it’s about building relationships with clients even after a one-day project and helping them with whatever they need, from sharing their content on social media with the right thought leaders to introducing them to “this person that does this” or “that person that would certainly want to hire your for that” or “this friend that I totally think you’d like to marry and have 10,000 babies with.” (That last one turned out to be a true wedded-bliss story!)
Remember, your agency is special
Pierre-Alban Waters, founder of Moving2Madrid, says the first step to outshining the Goliaths is to find your niche. “In the end, there are two strategies — to be the cheapest, or to differentiate. For a small business, usually being the cheapest is a bad idea — no economies of scale, with limited resources too,” he said. “Usually your best call is to go for fewer premium clients.”
Waters’ company has four team members working from a coworking and four collaborators for architecture, legal and design, all working together specifically to find the right property for expats moving to Madrid. And who they are is an integral part of their brand story.
“With fewer clients, with a premium service, in a niche you own and focus, with a branding that shows this — the ‘X’ for your clients — it’s usually totally differentiated against big competitors,” Pierre-Alban said.
There are plenty of people looking for exceptional personalized service out there. You don’t have to go the extra mile to race past the big guns, you just have to take a few steps to be memorable.
Keep reading: Get more ideas for saying thank-you to your customers.
How do you make sure that your smaller agency stands out with personalized service? Comment below or tell us @RedboothHQ and @JKRiggins!