A colleague sent this through. The Author is the Barcelona Creative Group.

I have to share it as its so important we keep sight of the clients we have.

The dreaded "We have to talk..." conversation. It's scary when those words come from your significant other, it can be even scarier when they come from one of your valued clients.

As we move into the end of year push for new sales, it can be easy to lose focus on the needs and interests of your existing clients. Your customers need to feel the love, too, or they may decide to move to a more attentive business partner. What's more, if you work to keep your clients happily engaged, they can be a tremendously valuable resource for your marketing and sales strategies.

Love Grows. Everyone know it's much more expensive to acquire new business than it is to retain an existing customer, but have you considered:

  • Happy clients share the love. If you have a business that regularly develops new or improved products or services, your clients can, and should, be your first target prospects – offering a lower cost of sale and higher profit margins. Take those early adopter clients a step further and they can become your greatest selling tool – featured in case studies, media releases and video clips; and providing ROI data you can utilize across a wide array of marketing, sales and communications vehicles.
  • Happy clients share their feelings. Studies show that the current RFP-driven environment is undermining the effectiveness of a typical solution sales approach. A more effective 'insight selling' approach requires targeting organizations in a state of flux and identifying previously unrecognized customer needs. A close relationship with members of your client base will help you be first to uncover emerging needs and first to market with insights that enable you to develop strategies that coach prospective clients as to what they should do – driving them to your solutions.
  • Happy clients tell all their friends. In today's social media world, the impact of every bad review is multiplied exponentially as friends and associates share opinions across numerous online platforms, slowing or stopping the sales process as prospects consider whether or not to invest in your products/services. Do all you can to keep clients happy and online reviews now work in your favor – generating greater interest in your offerings and encouraging increased trust and acceptance, which translates to a shorter sales cycle.

So, what can you do to ensure that your clients are happy, without sacrificing profitability?

  • Listen
  • Take Action
  • Communicate

Listen. It used to be all about word of mouth. Now, it's about providing multiple forums and methodologies that allow your clients to share their opinions with you. It's also about you being proactive in capturing your clients' perspectives. Annual customer meetings, a user forum on your website, executive meetings, annual customer surveys, account calls and visits – whatever the combination of listening strategies you implement, you need to really hear what your clients are thinking about your products and services. You can't fix what you don't know is broken.

Take Action. The absolute worst thing you can do in a negative client situation is nothing. Clients will assume that they don't matter to you and will soon take their business elsewhere. Once you've uncovered a client issue, do something about it – fix the problem or explain why it can't be done. Many companies conduct regular customer surveys and then go silent without sharing survey results or addressing identified problem areas. When this happens, it undermines the effectiveness of the survey process (as clients will be reluctant to provide feedback if they think it won't matter) as well as your relationship with the customer (who will see the survey as a worthless endeavor you're forcing upon them).

Taking action when customer concerns arise should be a corporate priority that permeates throughout your organization from the top down to the bottom up. This doesn't mean constantly giving away products or services to mollify complainers. It's about making considered decisions (or compromises) that are in the best interests of both your client and your company strategy. It some instances, this could even mean walking away from a customer you will never be able to make happy.

Communicate. You can make all the changes and improvements possible, but they won't matter if you don't let your clients know about it. Companies that have a major investment in your products and services want to know how your company is doing. They want to know you'll still be around next year, as well as learn what changes you've made to make their lives easier. Post a blog to your website that provides regular updates – at a minimum, you should have your top executive share news on a high level. You can include additional blogs from people in key operations or service areas, if you feel the information will benefit clients. If it's a negative online comment, offer a well thought out response that shows respect for the offered opinion while submitting a solution or service that will improve the person's perception of your organization.

Other key client communications vehicles include quarterly newsletters sent via USPS, email links and posted to your website; personal phone calls and visits; annual client and industry conferences and social media tools such as LinkedIn and Twitter. The types of tools and methodologies you can use to communicate is extensive, but it is the message itself that is key. Make sure you have the right team of people sending the right message and be sure to have safeguards in place to protect your organization from costly missteps in your communications.

Don't wait for your clients to come to you for "the talk". Take steps now to keep your clients engaged and you'll be feeling the love yourself with better market recognition and increased sales potential.

A professional branding and marketing agency can be your best resource in establishing, implementing and monitoring an effective client communications program. Your focus is on growing your business. Our focus is growing your brand.