October 22, 2004
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Over the past two weeks I have talked about
the thinking that goes into maintaining client relationships. This week
I turn to the practical ideas that I use to maintain my client relationships
and build my career. These methods can be used as they are or adapted
for your own use. The biggest benefit you will gain, though, is in the
thinking they provoke and the action that comes from that thinking.
Getting the word out
For years I only thought about my clients when they called with an issue.
They called, I answered. I fixed, they paid. For the last two years, though,
I have taken a much more active role in engaging my clients. You need
to be in constant contact. For me, the main method of contact is through
my monthly WelchWrite Newsletter. Throughout the month I collect interesting
news stories, web sites and software. Then I add a short article, exclusive
to the newsletter, that discusses an important topic. Finally, I top it
off with a little information from my on-going weblogs and events in my
Every month I get several good comments from various clients. They really
appreciate the effort that goes into the newsletter and the information
it provides regarding new updates or reminding them to backup large projects
or photo galleries. I also benefit. There are always 2-3 clients who reply
to the newsletter with “I have been meaning to call, but…”
emails concerning issues with their computers. These often turn into service
calls that might never have happened without the gentle reminder of my
Recently, I started to include similar Alert and Notes emails to my clients
when circumstances warrant. This could include warnings about new viruses,
information on Windows XP Service Pack 2, or additional information on
backing up their computer or data from specific programs.
If you aren’t “gently reminding” your clients that you
exist every month, get started today. It is a cheap way to assist your
clients and expand their thinking while generating additional business.
You can check out back issues of the WelchWrite Newsletter at : http://welchwrite.com/dewelch/news/
Follow-up or fail
Along with the regular newsletter, I now have a detailed process for follow-up
calls via email or phone. I have integrated follow-ups into my daily work
and it has generated a response beyond any I thought possible. I have
known for years that follow-up was one of the keys to a successful career,
but it is only when I “got serious” about it that I truly
understood its power. Here is how I put it to work.
After each appointment I enter a follow-up task into my calendar. This
might be one day or a week into the future. This task will automatically
remind me when it is time to contact the client again, if I don’t
hear from them before that day. Often this follow-up will generate additional
questions or another appointment. If not, I set up a General Follow-up
task to contact them several weeks or months in the future, depending
on my knowledge of their needs.
This process has become automatic and simple to maintain. Each day I have
a few follow-up emails to send or phone calls to make. I don’t have
to spend large amounts of time on the process since it occurs in on-going
basis. The use of my calendar bypasses my sometimes faulty memory and
frees my brain for other, more useful work.
Additionally, I have started including items such as software updates
or anti-virus expiration dates. In some cases, I set tasks to remind clients
to think about replacing older computers. Windows 98 is on my hit list
at the moment and I am gently pushing clients to discard these older machines.
The Next Action is a special type of follow-up. As you may remember from
the last two weeks, you should be gathering next action ideas every time
you contact your clients. When everything is working well at your client’s
site, you bring out the next actions list to improve their skills, or
simply help them have a little fun with their computer. I am a firm believer
that computers should be used to expand your mind and your influence.
Next actions are a way to act as a computer coach, stretching their mind
and their computer skills so that they can do even more.
Next actions can arise out of many areas. Perhaps your client wants to
view pictures of their grandchildren that have been posted on the web.
Some want to share pictures from their vacation with family members and
friends. Maybe they want to expand their stock trading, investment portfolio
experience, or even their knowledge about the ocean. Whatever interests
they have can, and should, drive action items for your notebook. Sure,
you will want to remind them of new software or hardware being released,
but sometimes the small personal touches have the most influence.
I hope after reading this series you are ready to take your career and
business to a new level. Through some relatively simple methods, and some
good hard thinking, you can expand your career, and your enjoyment of
your career, while helping others to excel in technology and its effect
on other areas of their lives. Even if you work for yourself, you have
partners in your business. These partners are the clients that provide
the reason for your career. Develop this partnership well and anything