Make it Hard for Clients to Stop Doing Business with You

John Tabita
John Tabita

In last week’s article, I gave you five proactive steps you ought to take before your client contact leaves a critical account:

  1. Build relationships with others in the company
  2. Connect with key employees on LinkedIn
  3. Attend their events
  4. Have a Secret Weapon
  5. Make it hard for them to stop doing business with you

Here’s one way to make it hard for clients to leave: register their domain in your name and make sure you hold the copyright to the design of their site, so that leaving means starting from scratch. This was a common practice in the early days of web design. Yeah, that’s not what I’m recommending.

Making it hard for clients to stop doing business with you doesn’t mean holding them hostage. It’s much more difficult than that. Instead, you must provide such exceptional value that they wouldn’t dream of leaving. Here’s how.

Bundle Your Products or Services

My company sells a mix of print advertising and online marketing services, and over the years we’ve noticed a trend—the renewal rate for clients with both a website and print advertising is higher than print-only clients.

That’s because business owners tend to think of advertising as an expense—and are quick to cancel when business gets bad. But a website represents an online presence and brand that’s hard to part with. Print advertising is easy to cancel and renew later. But the difficultly of creating a new presence is more challenging.

Here what’s happening in the advertising space. Faced with declining revenues, every “traditional” medium (radio, newspapers, Yellow Pages, direct mail, etc.) is offering digital marketing services. So instead of competing for marketing dollars, you are now competing directly against their product offerings.

If your existing clients already have established relationships with these types of companies, do you think they aren’t soliciting them for this business? If not, think again. The more of a one-stop-shop you are, the less likely your clients are to purchase marketing services from their other vendors.

Learn All You Can About Their Company and Industry

There’s a lot to be said for targeting specific verticals and becoming the “go to” expert in that industry. I know a designer who specializes in building websites for business coaches. While I’m sure he wouldn’t turn down work from outside the industry, his coaching clients keep him very busy.

Having deep industry knowledge gives you a competitive advantage over firms or freelancers who are generalists. And that knowledge goes a long way toward providing value that keeps clients from leaving. Which leads to my next point.

Understand What Your Client Values—Then Give it to Them

“Value” is quickly becoming a buzzword that’s ceasing to have meaning. Unless you understand that it differs from client to client, value is hard concept to wrap your head around. Simply put, value is anything your prospect is willing to pay for.

What makes someone “willing to pay” for anything? Many business owners aren’t willing to pay to have a website professionally developed. They’ve been seduced by the do-it-yourself options and would rather invest their time rather than their money. These people are not your target audience. Don’t waste your time trying to convince them otherwise.

Value is largely perception. Business owners and decision-makers will pay for that which they value more than money—security, safety, convenience, peace-of-mind. They will also pay for anything that brings back more money than it costs. (Which is the whole point of marketing and advertising, isn’t it?)

So how will you know what your client values? By asking. And that brings us to my next point.

Meet with Your Clients Regularly

My youngest son has says he’s going to own business so he “doesn’t have a boss.” (Ah, the ignorance of Youth.) Of course, you and I both know that every client is your boss. And most career advice recommends you have as much face-time with your boss as possible.

The same applies to your freelance bosses.

Remember, “regularly” is a relative term. Will your client want to meet you for coffee once a month? Perhaps. In our business, reps typically meet with clients once a year to renew their advertising. Unfortunately, this business model leaves the rep vulnerable to cancellation, because they aren’t up-to-date with what’s happened in that client’s business since they last spoke. Meeting with clients more often gives you the opportunity to adjust.

How often is enough? I don’t have a hard answer, but if you aren’t touching base at least every six months, you’re on shaky ground.

Do You Have a Client “Ecosystem”?

Between July 2012 and June 2013, 20 percent of iPhone customers switched from Android, and 7 percent of Samsung customer switched from iOS—which means the majority stayed with the same device. Apple, Google, and now Amazon have created an ecosystem of convenience, making it easy to buy apps, music, books, television episodes, movies, and more.

Have you done the same?