Retaining a new client is just smart financial sense: Recruiting new ones costs anywhere between five and 25 times more than acquiring new clients. But retaining legacy clients is easier said than done, and it’s all too easy to get stuck in a rut.
Here are 10 strategies to help you get back the excitement of the early days and retain your legacy clients, from sending them corporate swag to celebrating milestones together:
1. Don’t rest on your laurels.
When you have a long-term client that shows no signs of leaving, it’s easy to get complacent and simply coast along on what you’ve been doing. While this strategy works sometimes, many times it will backfire when the client realizes you’re no longer trying and decides to seek out a new company that does. Instead of waiting for that to happen, commit to constantly changing and improving so you can retain your valuable legacy clients.
2. Solicit client feedback.
A great first step in this process is to solicit client feedback. Even if they don’t offer suggestions of their own volition, many clients may have ideas if you ask them directly. These could include new projects they want to pursue or current projects that they don’t think are going so well. You might be surprised what kind of feedback the client is willing to give you if you just straight up ask them!
3. Identify areas of improvement.
Sometimes you will point blank ask a client for areas where you can improve, and the client won’t have any ideas at all. In that case, it’s up to you to do the legwork to identify areas of improvement. Take a look at each area of work that you do for the client and see where you could try something new or do a little better. If the client team is big enough that you have multiple managers overseeing different aspects of the client work, come together to brainstorm ideas so that you can each offer new perspectives on each other’s work.
4. Communicate proactively.
Many legacy clients won’t reach out much unless there’s really an urgent need, as they are content to let things hum along instead. In these situations, it never hurts to keep them up to date on what’s happening with the account and also your company at large. Regular check-ins on either a weekly or monthly basis are a great way to accomplish the former, while email newsletters and social media can help you promote the latter.
5. Offer them personalized perks.
Legacy clients deserve special perks as a reward for their long-standing business. These perks should depend on both your business and the clients’ wants and needs. Some clients absolutely love getting together for a social dinner at a trade show or receiving branded merchandise, while others are more business-like and would prefer to receive discounted services or to beta test a new feature for free. Tailor your perks to the individual clients, and they will feel the love.
6. Think even longer term.
With newer clients, you have to think about how to get them results in the fastest way possible so that they will be impressed with your product or service and keep using your company indefinitely. However, with legacy clients you’ve already accomplished all those easy wins, so you need to think longer term in terms of what projects you are planning for.
Instead of focusing on this month or quarter, you can be thinking six or even 12 months out (or even longer, if you have a true legacy client). This will show the client that you are serious about continuing your relationship and your history of quality work.
7. Consider taking some risks.
The awesome thing about legacy clients is that you don’t have to worry that they will drop you over a small setback. This means that you have more freedom to pursue high-risk, high-reward projects that could pay off big or which might not pay off at all. Hopefully, you will already have built enough trust with the client that you can explain the potential advantages and disadvantages of your proposal to them — and they will agree with your vision and say yes!
8. Celebrate milestones.
When you have a legacy client, it’s easy to let accomplishments that you would normally celebrate pass by without comment. After all, the first time you increase web traffic month-over-month is exciting. The twentieth time … maybe not so much. Try to recapture some of that early enthusiasm and celebrate both big wins and consistent performance over time. This gives you a great excuse to reach out to the client, and it will also remind them what awesome work you do, so don’t be shy about celebrating with them.
9. Tell them thank you.
Clients who give you a lot of business deserve to feel your gratitude. Obviously an end-of-year “thank you” gift is traditional, but that’s run of the mill and only happens once every 12 months. Look for other opportunities to tell the client thank you throughout the year, such as the completion of a big project or the date of their signing anniversary. Handwritten cards, promotional products, and fun experiences are all fantastic ways to show your gratitude.
10. Start an official client retention program.
Got a bunch of legacy clients that you want to retain? Consider starting a formalized customer retention program that is specifically designed with this end in mind. This will make it easier to replicate your successful retention strategies and pay off in the form of more repeat business. In fact, your customers would probably be flattered to be part of the pilot program and would be willing to give you feedback on how to make the best retention program possible.
Retaining legacy clients takes work, but it’s so much easier than trying to get new clients in the door. Follow these tips to retain your legacy clients and keep your business going strong.