Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Landing Old Clients is as Important as Finding New Ones

Keeping in touch - your key to paying the bills.

I'm sure it's a familiar scenario. Carrying out work week-in week-out for a regular client and then it all goes quiet. But why? What went wrong?

  • Maybe they're struggling?
  • Closed/gone out of business?
  • Or worse (for you at least), they've found somebody else!

What can you do?
Well, assuming that they are still in business and looking to continue, contact is the first thing needed. But be careful, although a phone call is personal, it might be too personal at this stage. If somebody's struggling in life or business, they probably don't want to talk about it. Pride is a strong emotion and the last thing you want to do is offend somebody by offering a load of advice, no matter how heartfelt.
And if they have jumped ship, it could end up as an argument if you go in guns blazing - stamping on any chance of reconciliation.

While we're on the subject of phones, a text message is a definite no-no too. Text messages are too easy to read wrongly. How often have you read a text message that could have meant two different things? I've read plenty (probably guilty of a few too).
So put the phone down for a little while and hit the keyboard, not literally, but carefully craft an email message that doesn't plead, and is not condescending or patronising.

What should I say?

As with most copywriting, pretend you're at the shops or in the pub. How would you talk to a person you've done business with in the past, face to face? Probably something like this...

"Hey, how's it going?"
"Dave, how are ya?"

Not too informal, this isn't your best mate, but friendly and easy going. Express that you haven't heard from them in a while, and hope everything is going ok. If they've just been too busy, or tied up with other aspects of their life, the very least you've done is put yourself BANG in front of them again. And that matters.
You've not been nosey, just showing genuine concern and sometimes this is enough to make another person open up. 

If money is owed to you, and it's a company that normally pays promptly, don't even mention it (not yet anyway). They might be avoiding you due to embarrassing circumstances. Give them the chance to sort themselves out - even offering to help them in the meantime. 

I've used this technique to my advantage several times. Helping a business to get back on their feet is good for future return work - don't just look at the short term because: 

  • They'll want to retain you
  • They'll tell friends and other businesses how good you are
  • One day, you might need their help

What if they take advantage?
As ever, discretion is needed. I'm always inclined to look at the past relationship and decide from there. If they've always messed you around, complained continually (while others are happy) and regularly fail to pay their bills, walk away and say good riddance. It's too taxing on your own business to put up with people like that.

Feel good about yourself.
That's what you'll get from sorting out this dilemma. Being the "bigger" person and showing that you're there, but best of all, showing you care. It'll take you minutes to write an email and send it. The rest is up to them.

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