Today, we are going to be talking about how to build profitable, long-term relationships with your clients.
When you want to look for clients and close a deal with them, it can be quite difficult. It’s not easy to find clients nowadays, much less make them sign contracts with you.
Now, I’m in the services business, so contracts—particularly long-term contracts—are very valuable for me.
So if a client churns, which means that they would not renew the contract in a short time (or even cut the contract midway), that is damaging to my business. And in general, I think that any other businesses desire a long-term, fruitful partnership with all their clients.
Returning customers are, after all, the best kind of customers because this behavior shows that they are happy with you. They see you as having a win-win relationship with them, and you don’t need to spend much more money advertising to them and marketing to them again.
But here’s the problem. A lot of companies today treat their clients or their customers in a transactional way. You buy something, we sell you something, we charge you, and you pay. That’s it.
That’s a problem. Why? Because people don’t like the feeling of just being sold to.
Let me give you an example. When you would go to a doctor because you’re experiencing a problem, which doctor would you rather keep going to? The doctor will tell you, “This is your problem. Okay, here’s the medicine, here’s what you need to do. I need you to do these tests and that’s it.” Now, they might be a perfectly fine doctor, and they might be able to solve your problems.
But wouldn’t you rather go there or to a doctor who would tell you, “Hey, how are you? What are you feeling? Oh, is that your concern? Here’s what I think is happening with you right now. And this medicine or these tests will reveal more about your situation. And the medicine I’m about to prescribe to you will help make you feel better in so and so ways.”
Which doctor would you rather keep going back to? Especially when all other things are considered equal—they have the same skill set, and they’re able to solve the same health problems. I could argue that most people would go to the latter doctor.
That is because we want to feel cared for by the professionals that we get, by the suppliers we get, and by other companies who we are willing to do business with.
Another problem is there are a lot of companies who see business as a win-lose or a lose-win scenario, and they always have to win.
The relationship is just not there. Their mentality is that they win because they make more profits from their clients. In reality, however, they’re not really going to be winning that big, because their products or services won’t go that far if winning and profit alone is the bottom line.
Or, some companies think that they’re on the losing end. They think: “We should have charged more, we should have not promised to do this and that, we should have added this to the contract” following that line of thinking after every deal. What ends up happening is that, because they feel like they’re losing and the customer is winning, then they’re not going to serve this customer that well.
There are a lot of companies that deal with contracts either way, especially small to medium companies. And that is because they’re still studying how to improve and solidify their branding, their product placement, and their service placement in the market.
Another reason why it’s hard to build long-term profitable partnerships with clients or customers is that companies tend to get too thrifty. In Tagalog, mabilang. You can’t be mabilang, you can’t be too thrifty because customers or clients will feel like you’re always trying to get the upper hand.
So in SEO Hacker, what we do is we give a lot of free stuff. We don’t charge clients for every little single detail they ask us to do, like changing banners, changing some designs, or trying to see which fonts would work better or would look better. We don’t charge them for these things anymore.
We go the extra mile for them because we care about the relationship. If I would be too thrifty as a CEO, all of these things would have some form of bureaucracy. I would always ask the client to sign a new contract and pay for this and that, and it just adds a lot more friction to the relationship. And that kind of relationship will not go very far.
True story. I have a client who called me up one night. It was pretty late, and this person asked me, “Hey, Sean, can you help? Because one of our suppliers is going to put down our website.” Now, this person is not my client anymore during that time, but we know each other.
And he said, “My website supplier, the host, is threatening to put down the website and they only gave me five days. What should I do?” So I told this person, “Don’t worry about it, I’ll get your website, we’ll just scrape it, recode it however way we can. We’ll try to stay as faithful to the design that you have as possible.”
So I mustered my team and had the website recoded and it looked and felt exactly the same. That supplier put down the website of this friend of mine in just two days. This friend of mine called me again. He was panicking, saying, “My website is down, my website is gone, what am I going to do now?”
And I told him, “Don’t worry about it, we got you covered. Just point your domain name to this address and you’ll see it’s back up again.” Notice I did not talk shop with this person. I didn’t talk about how much I would be charging him. I didn’t talk about timelines.
I just said, “Okay, you’re in trouble. Here’s what I’ll do. I’ll help you.” And what happened is his board called me up. They set up a meeting with me, thanked me for what I did, and they said, “We will do business with you.”
That was nine years ago. And up to today, they are still a very valued client of SEO Hacker.
We have gone the long way because I wasn’t too thrifty, too mabilang, and had their best intentions at heart. And because of that, we have been able to experience a very good, long, and fruitful partnership with this client.
Now, I do realize that not everyone has the opportunity to go the extra mile as we did to genuinely help out a potential, previous, or current client in need. But, I’m sure there are so many small but impactful ways that you can show your clients that they will be cared for.
One of which is simply to message them, ask them how they’re doing, and visit them in their office one day without having any agendas. Just say, “Hey, I just dropped by. So how are you doing?” Things like that matter a lot.
Maybe you can bring some food along with you or some drinks. It could be something as simple as coffee or wine. Whatever it is that you believe your client prefers, you can bring some of it to represent your goodwill to them.
Another thing that you must do is to deliver your promises.
Whatever it is that you agreed to deliver to them, whether it’s a service level guarantee, or whether it’s a product that has a warranty, you have to deliver on your promises.
Not delivering on your promises will break the trust between you and the client, and that relationship will be very difficult to repair. Oftentimes, it will lead to the breakdown of your relationship with them.
One other thing that you must allow your clients to feel or your customers to feel is that you really care about their success. Whether you’re selling something small, maybe a gadget, or whether you are serving other businesses like we are in SEO Hacker, you have to make them feel that their success matters to you.
So for us, it’s about their ROI. We are a marketing company and what matters to our clients is they also make money from their websites. So us being able to deliver our guarantee to them ensures that they would also be able to experience a lot of success on their end.
One other thing you should do is to open the floor to complaints and concerns. Now, why would you want to do these things? You might be thinking it’s a hassle to do this, Sean. I don’t like to do that.
However, when clients would ask me, “Why is this happening?” and list out their concerns, I see that as a good thing.
Complaints and concerns when taken constructively will help you improve your business. And opening your relationship up for them to talk about these things won’t just be a good touchpoint with them, it will also increase your bottom line. Maybe not immediately, but it will in the long run because you’re making your clients feel that you care about them.
And clients who feel like you really care about them would talk about you, especially if you have given them a lot of success.
At SEO Hacker, we experience a lot of word-of-mouth marketing from our clients, and you can even visit our clients’ testimonials page.
We shoot videos of our clients saying how they feel about our services, what we have been able to do for them, and also giving us a score from 0 to 10. Although some of them didn’t follow the rules and gave us a score of 11. I’m grateful for that of course.
You could also get more business from them if they have more businesses to give you, or if you grew their business enough that they have opened a lot more branches, or they’ve opened a subsidiary company. They might also be thinking of giving that to you if you have done a fantastic job, they feel like you care about them, and they feel like you care about their success as well.
So here’s my challenge to you. If you have clients or customers, do send them a message. It could be as simple as a text message, a Viber message, or maybe an email and ask them how they are without talking shop, without talking about work, just making sure that they feel like you care about them.