It is a great confirmation of your work when clients come back and turn from new into return clients.
This means they made the conscious decision to come back because they value the quality of your work.The sooner a client requires your services after his or her last visit the more likely they are to return.
However, just because you did a great job 10 months ago doesn’t necessarily mean clients will remember you even if you did a great job. Most businesses put a great deal of effort into acquiring customers, but do little or nothing to take care of their customers after the sale.
Just like with any relationship, you need to work actively if you don’t want to let the relationship with your client turn cold. If you manage to stay in the mind of your former client she may even remember you when a friend or acquaintance of hers mentions needing a Makeup Artist. Mouth to mouth advertising is the most effective and cost efficient advertising you can get. For freelancers in any business referrals are crucial, even more so in our business.
But what do you have to do to keep the connections with your clients current?
The answer lies in following up with clients regularly. The regularity is important. Just think about an old friend whom you haven’t seen in years. It is kind of odd if he sends you five emails within a short period out of the blue. Especially if he never seemed to be the caring person in the first place.
The first two follow-ups are easy. One very soon after the gig, probably the next day to check whether your client was happy with your work. The next one between one and four weeks after, for example to ask for a simple satisfaction survey or a testimonial (you can offer a discount for the next time on completion). But that depends on how much time you had spent with the customer, it may not be received as well after short gigs. You can also just casually check in or ask for a referral (if they mentioned other possible clients for example). Don’t underestimate how great it is for a happy clients to share their experience with others.
Obviously the more you know about your client the easier are the next follow-ups. Of course you don’t want to appear too pushy or like you are stalking them, but as long as you are being polite and helpful the chances are good they are positively surprised hearing from you now and then. The time between follow-ups depends on their feedback, how well you know them and what you feel comfortable with.
For reasons of simplicity I compiled this list with a couple of possible topics for your follow ups with your clients:
- tell client about conference near them they may be interested in
- you thank them for a book, movie, etc. they recommended and you finally got to read
- you met someone else and their name came up
- just checking in to see how they are doing and whether you could help them
- for example they are a wedding photographer: ask them how the wedding season is going
- everyone loves coffee. Invite them to a coffee to catch up
- client’s birthday
- great for LinkedIn (you get notifications): Congratulate them on job anniversary, new job, other achievement
- If you are Facebook friends: Well there is always a reason for a quick note or comment.
- you could offer discounts for special customers (those you haven’t talked to in a while)
- the usual seasonal greetings, (New Year, Hanukkah, Christmas, Spring, etc.)
- as counter-intuitive as it seems asking for small favors can have positive impact in how much they like you
- if you know their interests, find something current you could let them know about (link to article,title of documentary, book, etc.)
Pretty much anything goes that is appropriate and makes sure you are getting noticed. So sending a quick email to congratulate them on the new job versus using a Facebook or LinkedIn comment may find more attention.
For someone who is not used to this regular follow-up tactic it may feel uncomfortable to send those seemingly unrelated emails, but at the end of the day they show that you care about the relationship with your client and this goes a long way. I once got a hand written thank you postcard from my body shop after I got my car fixed up. That is something that stuck, because it was so unusual.