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January 25, 2017

Question: What percentage of your clients don’t return?

love1Answer: It’s a lot higher than you think!

Creating a “client for life.”

True story. I’ve been working with a large firm in our industry for the past several weeks… and one of the data-gathering projects we did early on was to look at Revenue by Client, for each of the past several years.

Of all of the insights that this exercise can provide, the most interesting – in this case – was that 40% of their clients only did one project with them… and then never returned!

We’ve done this “one-timer” analysis for many firms and the resulting information is ALWAYS a surprise… because the percentage of one-and-dones is ALWAYS higher than the client expected!

What’s causes this?

In some cases, it’s just one of those weird, one-off projects and going into it, you know they’ll never be back. Fine.

In a few other cases, the project is billed through a third-party and you know that business won’t ever show up on your books again. OK.

But generally, it comes down to one of two main reasons:

  1. Your screwed up the project and there’s no way that client is coming back. But to be fair, this doesn’t really happen all that often… because we’re all pretty good at what we do.
  1. The #1 reason you have those one-timers on your books? You stopped “loving on your client” after the project. You put all kinds of time and effort into landing them as a first-time client… and have done next-to-nothing to keep them since you cashed that first check.

So, what happens? Unloved and unwanted, the client just sort of drifts away and finds another supplier who will give them some attention. I wish it was a more sophisticated answer than that… but it really is that simple.

How do you fix it?

Creating a “client for life” is about maintaining a strong relationship and it isn’t all that difficult… but it does require a little effort and some consistency. Here are 7 ideas to get you started:

  1. Send a hand-written ‘thank you’ note immediately after a client accepts your first proposal to them. And maybe after other proposals moving forward.
  1. Send a ‘thank you’ gift after that first project is over (and maybe, occasionally, after other projects in the future).
  1. Make sure all of your client contacts are in your sales database so they receive your monthly e-newsletter. You are sending one, aren’t you?
  1. When you come across an interesting industry website article or blog post, make sure to send a link to it to those clients for whom it’s relevant.
  1. Make sure you’re connected with your client contacts on LinkedIn and Twitter. That way, your contacts will see all of your social media activity in their daily feeds. You are active on social media, right?
  1. Pick up the phone and call them… and not to make a sales call – but just to deepen your relationship. Get to know your client contacts as people, not just as sources of money. Remember: All things being equal, people do business with people they like. All things not being equal, people still do business with people they like.
  1. Go visit them. If a new client just spent $40-50-60,000 (or more) with your firm, you can afford a plane ticket to go visit them in their offices. Maybe conduct a lunch-n-learn presentation for their staff. And certainly take your contact to dinner.

So, remember, just because you’ve worked hard to acquire a new client does not mean you have acquired a “client for life.” Keep up the effort… be consistent in your communication… target your activities when you can. Do those things and you’ll have a long, healthy relationship with all of your clients.

Want a few other ideas to keep clients coming back? Download our latest eBook, “I Hate Selling!” – Part 2: Ensuring Repeat Clients at

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