Why do so few remember that keeping clients is the most important part of the PR jigsaw puzzle? The importance of retention is so often forgotten amongst the excitement of new business pitches, so how do we ensure this isn’t the case?
Having just spoken to one of my all-time favourite clients on the phone, I started thinking about the huge importance of positive client relationships – both old and new. As we reminisced about our strategy meetings in The Woleseley many years ago, my mind raced ahead to those I am currently working with. Am I doing enough now to ensure that in years to come I will be lucky enough to reconnect and ‘chew the fat’ with them in the same way?
I think we can all acknowledge that winning new business is an exciting part of the job. From the frenzy of preparing the pitch document, to the pitch itself, which is then quickly followed by an overanalysis of every individual in the room – and an in-depth debate around the potential outcome! But whilst this is all happening, our loyal clients are sitting on the sidelines patiently awaiting strategic counsel. We must ensure we have the correct mechanisms in place so that everyone can be happy.
Here are 4 things you can do that will keep your clients coming back:
1. Team infrastructure
It is important that everybody does a little of what they fancy in a team, but even more so that there is a clear framework for who oversees what. Every client will be serviced by an over-arching team but it is imperative that there is one clear lead – someone that is a ‘go to’ for the Client and that ideally is the most readily available. This person is responsible for the ongoing relationship. In fairness it is the same for new business pitches so we can learn from both sides of the business. So often team members on a new business pitch take on their role very effectively but if there is nobody allocated to be the ‘glue’ it won’t work – in this instance retained and potential clients are very much the same.
2. Ditch the email
Email is undoubtedly an integral part of our life, but I strongly believe it is the most ineffective mechanism to develop and maintain good client relationships. Pick up the phone. Have a chat with your clients. Engage in their personal likes and interests when it is appropriate, and most importantly, be interested in them and their thoughts. It is true we are the PR professionals and this is why we have been hired to do the job, but a good PR practitioner takes all thoughts into account and this is what makes a client feel valued again and again. As relationships develop we become sounding blocks and truly part of the team.
3. Don’t stop thinking
Once a client is won, it can be so easy to keep within the agreed parameters and ‘follow the plan’. This is nonsense. The reason the account was won in the first place would undoubtedly have been the result of creative and thought-provoking ideas – we can’t stop this as soon as there is a signature on the dotted line. We need to be at the forefront of innovation. Put aside the scope of work and keep brainstorming with your team to develop new and exciting initiatives – it’s the work done outside of the retainer that is so often the most cherished.
4. Stick to regular meetings
In no circumstance should you start to neglect the face-to-face contact which makes great relationships. Forums where everyone sits together often generate the best ideas and just to sit alongside clients makes future working practices easier. Mix it up though – don’t stick to the boardroom. There is nothing wrong with a cheeky 5pm cocktail!
When it comes to it, no business can survive working on a continual cycle of new clients. To grow, we need to retain and clients need to feel as important on day 613 as they were on day one. However it is also important to remember it’s not just about the business, and in actual fact, retaining clients helps us to grow and develop and be better at our job – we are suddenly experts in a specific field!
It’s great to shout about new business wins but we also need to shout a little bit louder around retained client milestones.