Eight Years Later
Eight years is a long time to maintain a relationship with a client, especially if they haven’t had a need for your services. It would seem that the risk of losing that client would be high. As I came to learn this week, that assumption isn’t necessarily true.
I am the Business Manager for a Woman-owned remodeling business that specializes in Kitchens and Baths. This weekend my client and I celebrated her latest assignment over a glass of wine. Her client is a couple she worked with in 2008. At that time this family had considered their options to provide a more livable home for their growing family. They had evaluated the cost of building or buying a new home, vis-a-vis remodeling their existing home. As their home is in a good neighborhood they could afford to invest in upgrades, which they viewed as a better financial decision at the time.
This wasn’t a major project, but it did present some challenges. The Kitchen had a simple layout with space constraints. They wanted an Island but did not have enough space. There was a problem with the proximity of junction boxes to the Secretary desk. My client worked through these issues to the satisfaction of her client. In fact, she found a solution to the space constraints by putting the island on casters so that it could be moved out of the way when necessary.
Today, eight years later, this couple is in a better financial position and the real estate market has increased the value of their 20-year old home, a Georgian Colonial. Now they can build their dream home and want my client to design the kitchen and baths, and help them acquire cabinets and appliances. They also want her to help stage their existing home when they put it on the market. This is a big project as the new home will be about twice the size of their current abode.
This wasn’t the first time my client has been called back to take on bigger projects for past customers. I know the power of referrals and repeat business but I was curious as to what set my client apart in this highly competitive market. I assumed that she had met her client’s expectations and established rapport and trust. But, what was it that motivated them to call her, eight years later? So I asked my client “what did you do for this family that made them want to hire you again?” She responded by breaking the project down into three major components. She said that she kept the project on time and within their budget; she helped them make timely decisions; and she helped them save time, so as to be more efficient. She went on to say that she advised the client about problems they may encounter down the road. In most cases, her predictions were accurate. I don’t doubt her project management skills, but I found it a bit amusing that she did not mention another very important point.
Eight years is a long time in “The New Normal.” Relationships wax and wane. Many companies in the construction trades failed and went out of business. My client had to scale back her business. The fact that she received a follow-on call from these folks is remarkable. But, my client had some help. I have been working with her to maintain and build on her relationships, employing an email marketing strategy. This effort was not that difficult. We established a Mail Chimp account and imported her mailing list. After that, it was just a matter of developing interesting posts to share with her network. Periodically she has communicated with her contacts keeping them updated on her activities and projects. Former and prospective clients know that she is still helping homeowners with their remodeling needs. By staying front and center with these folks, she has maintained these relationships, generating calls even after eight years time.
We live in a fast-paced, rapidly changing world.
Fortunately, we have tools to keep our networks alive and healthy. Email marketing platforms like Mail Chimp and Constant Contact are viable solutions. Starting a blog is another useful strategy. These services are easy to use and relatively inexpensive, a real force multiplier. Whether you are working to grow a business or manage your career, maintaining a healthy network is fundamental to success. Using social media and other digital solutions is a viable solution for most.
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Jim Weber, President
New Century Dynamics Executive Search
Author of: Fighting Alligators: Job Search Strategy For The New Normal
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