There’s a saying that 80% of your future business can come from 20% of your current clients. That can be a great ongoing stream of new business – so how can you help make it happen? The first step is to pay careful attention to your current clients, identifying who will be that critical 20%, and the second step is encouraging them - and giving them reasons - to refer you to colleagues, friends, and even family members.
I learned this lesson years ago, when I owned an insurance and financial services agency. I saw that my clients were divided into three groups:
- those who come and go, whose loyalty is to “the best deal” they can find
- those who are content to stay with you, as long as you provide adequate service and keep their best interests in mind
- the evangelists
Ultimately, you want to convert and nurture the evangelists, and grow their numbers. Not only are they loyal clients, but they are also the ones who will refer co-workers, colleagues, friends, and family to you! This type of customer is as precious as gold.
So how do you identify and nurture these valuable clients? Here are my top five tips.
Tip 1: Use a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Tool
It’s really important to have an up-to-date system tracking clients, and to have data about them and their businesses (size, location, number of employees, etc.). This information includes when you last contacted them and how well they responded to your communications. It helps to use a CRM tool – there are many to choose from!
Whether you use Salesforce, Insightly, Zoho, or Hubspot, or any other, keeping track of the data for your clients and business colleagues is critical because it allows you to understand lots of details about your customers, as well as how well your network responds to you.
Tip 2: Recognize Loyalty
Once you have visibility to the "big picture" of your professional network, you can begin to pick out those customers who represent your “evangelists,” your 20%. Again, having good record keeping helps, as you can efficiently record and track client seniority, where referrals have come from, which positive business relationships have had positive outcomes, etc.
Developing a system that allows you to identify these resources is critical to executing the subsequent steps. It can be as simple as classifying contact via a system of stars (1 star is a low-level contact and 5 stars is an evangelist). Create a ranking that makes sense to you and keep it organized!
Tip 3: Nurture Loyalty
We all like to get something for nothing. Unfortunately, the world does not work that way, and when it comes to business, it shouldn't! At the end of the day, growing your business is about people and relationships. So showing those who help you how much they are appreciated is a great way to ensure that the 80/20 rule continues to apply to your business.
Nurturing loyalty is more than a quick email, thanking someone for their business or for a referral. It’s about truly showing your appreciation for their patronage and support.
Phone calls, cards, and gifts are fantastic ways to show your appreciation. Once you do, your 20% will continue to reciprocate, sending more business your way, as they sense your gratitude and appreciation. Givenly.com offers an easy and convenient service to nurture loyalty, such as sending personalized gifts. It’s like an automated CRM but with gifts!
Tip 4: Consistency is Key
Once you have a process established for recognizing and rewarding loyalty, it’s important to stay consistent. Sending a “thank you” for a referral is important, but wouldn't it be nice to encourage that person to send a continuous stream of referrals your way?
That is where consistency counts; stay in front of your network! Stay top of mind, always, in a highly visible and appreciative manner. Even if you are not getting referrals from your contacts, keep at it! You will not only develop an attitude of reciprocity with your evangelists, so they feel almost "obligated" to send you more business, but your name will always be at top of mind the next time someone asks them about a real estate agent, attorney, banker, etc. It’s all about keeping you in front of your best referral network in a friendly and appreciative way.
Tip 5: Surprise!
When was the last time you sent a valued client or partner a gift on their birthday? Or for their new baby? Or for a wedding anniversary? Or for a “deal closing anniversary?”
We all love to send gifts over the holidays; it’s almost expected these days. But you are doing exactly what everyone else (and your competition) is doing! You need to stand out!
Show your clients and professional contacts that you know them outside of a formal business context. Demonstrate that you paid attention the last time you spoke; that you listened and asked questions. Show them that they mean more to you than a paycheck by surprising them with something unexpected.
Follow these five tips to ensure your name, your brand, and your services are always top of mind with your evangelists. This is also how you will get 80% of your future business from that reliable and faithful segment of your network!