July 9, 2017 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Google+ General

Few years ago, I used to save a lot of my clients’ phone numbers. Especially when am still chasing them to pay for my services. In those days, if you scrolled through my phone, you will see names like Clt Adamu, Clt Okechukwu, Clt Adegoke, Clt Peter, Clt Folake, etc.

In case you don’t know, CLT stands for CLIENT in my own dictionary. This CLT took up a large chunk of my phonebook space. At a point, I become uncomfortable with CLT blocking spaces for “important” contacts. And I started deleting them once I have finished business with each client, in order to create space for other clients and people that I know personally. To me, clients are not among friends and family. They are just strangers. How wrong I was!

Moreover, I would reason that the likelihood of a particular client to call back is very slim, since building projects are capital intensive and not something one could engage in, often, forgetting that they could recommend their friends or relatives. If only I knew the damage I was doing to my business.

I was busy creating space for new contact while at the same time destroying the foundation and lifeblood of my business- my past clients. If only I knew what I now know back then…

Remember, each loyal and well-nurtured client in your database can represent thousands of Naira in referrals and repeat business down the road. If you’re not keeping in touch and building relationships with clients long after the transaction, you’re throwing money down the drain.

Are you in the habit of deleting your client’s phone numbers, once you have delivered their jobs, in order to create space in your phonebook? If yes, let me ask you, “Who are the people more important to be in your phonebook than your clients? Ok, I see! You are actually deleting their numbers, so that you can accommodate fresh and new clients. Ok, that’s a good point? But I’m sorry to burst your bubble. That is the most foolish thing any young and upcoming architect would do to his fledging architecture business. Do you know that it’s easy to convince a paying client than a fresh client? One existing and established client is worth more than ten prospective clients. I will tell you why.
It takes five times the amount of time and money to acquire a new client than to retain an existing one. The business you receive from past clients in the form of referrals and repeat transactions is “low-hanging fruit” compared to the business you get from having to search for prospect, advertise and cold call.

An existing client knows you, he knows how good you’re, he trusts you, he likes you- if he doesn’t, he won’t patronize you. Your existing client can hop in at anytime and seal a deal with you without hassles. I have received several instant calls from past clients for new jobs and before you say jack business is sealed without long “turenshi” (grammar). But above all, your existing client is your number 1 fan. He markets your architecture firm to his friends and relatives, he recommends you to people who do not know and may never know you in this life.
But to convince a prospective client, you will talk and talk and talk before he pays. But would you blame him? Of course not! He has not done business with you before and thus does not know your capabilities to deliver the goods. He is skeptical and doubtful.

If you need to re-connect with clients and just don’t know what the best approach is. Start by making a phone call and doing the following:

1. PROVIDE AN INTRODUCTION: If it has been years since you’ve last made contact with a client, it’s important to introduce yourself. The client may not remember you. You can say, “Hi, Alhaji Dangote, it’s Frank Ilo from XYZ Architecture firm. How are you? It’s been a while since we spoke last.”

2. LEND A HAND: Make it clear that as an architect, your job extends beyond simply designing and building homes for clients. Ask if you can be of assistance in any way. You can also ask if they need any kind of recommendation on a reputable home-service professional such as a landscaper, electrician, plumber or interior designer.

As you may already know, keeping in touch with your past clients is an essential ingredient to building referrals and generating repeat architecture businesses.
Once you’ve helped your client design or built a home, and the transaction is complete, you need to continue the relationship-building process if you want referrals to flow your way and clients to come back to use your services time and again.

Past clients are your lifeline to generating a steady stream of repeat business and referrals, but how do you keep in touch without becoming a nuisance?
In the building industry, there’s a fine line in keeping in touch with your past clients and becoming that annoying pest who’s always calling, e-mailing, or mailing. So how do you make sure you aren’t annoying and stay within that helpful professional or friend zone?

“It’s all about making it personal, making it magical, and making the experience unforgettable. There is a way you will also do it and you will appear desperate and needy, and this will lower your clients’ respect for you.
There are plenty of ways to keep in touch without them turning off, such as through memorable gifts and personalized cards.

A lot of it comes down to intuitively judging what your clients want in a relationship with you after a transaction. For example, is your relationship more of a friendship or strictly professional? How do they prefer to be contacted—which of them are phone persons and which are e-mail types?

Want to reconnect with some of your old real clients but aren’t quite sure how to go about it? Staying connected to past customers can lead to repeat transactions and increased referrals, but first you have to bridge the gap.
Here are five ideas to help you get back in touch:

1. Go social
Spend an afternoon looking for past clients on whichever social channels you use the most. Twitter is a great place to connect because the fast-paced environment and strict character limit can make for more frequent, casual interaction. Also, if you find out that one of your previous customers has a blog, you can take the time to read that, too, and comment as appropriate.

2. Give them occasional calls
Some people are most comfortable on the phone. If you had good phone rapport when you were working together, leverage that to reconnect. You can say something like, “Hi Madam Ezekwesili, I was just driving through your neighborhood and thought of you. How’s it going? Still loving your house?”

3. Share some news
Did you change your office address, phone number or business name? Or maybe you added a new service or associate? Anytime you have news is a great time to send an email or personal note to old clients to spread the word.

4. Celebrate an anniversary
Another natural time to reach out to former clients is on the anniversary of their closing. Switch it up a little every year, so you’re not just repeating the same boring greeting. The first year can be a congratulations message, the second year you could include home maintenance tips, the third year a catalogue of some of the best building designs in Africa and tips on what makes a good design.

5. Buy a client a lunch/drink
Everyone likes getting together over a bottle of drink, alongside isi-ewu or Nkwobi. Or better still a bottle of coca-cola alongside fried rice or jollof rice at Chicken Republic. Call your past clients once in a while and invite them to meet you for a drink at Mr. Biggs or at Nwanyi Owerri Isi-ewu and Palmie joint. Don’t push an agenda, just say you would love to catch up and see how it’s going in their neighborhood. Never discuss anything business on this meeting. It’s purely for socializing; just as you would invite your regular friends for a drink.

See, friend, if you don’t know it, better know it now that your client ceases to be a stranger, the moment he has committed money into your hands and you delivered his job. A relationship begins from that very moment. After all, it only took just one day for any of your so called close friends to become your friend. They were strangers before you met them. So it is with your clients too, the very day they stepped into your office, marks the beginning of a relationship journey. Nurture and grow the relationship. It will bring you more jobs.

I hope this was helpful to you? What do you think about this subject? Are there some other tips I left out? I would like to know at the comment section. You can also tell us the unique strategies you use in your architecture business, to stay connected to past clients.

My name is Frank Ilo
(AfriDezign Group)

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