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Building Your Client Base
Keeping your old—and new—customers engaged and invested in your business
By Bill Neal, CDT
Outside of your employees, and maybe your bank account, the most important asset of your business is your client base. Without a solid client base, businesses either don’t perform well or don’t perform at all.
Business Growth Rules
There are three rules of business that are essential to growth: First among them is keep your existing customers. This is fundamental because it costs more to get a new client than it does to hold on to your current ones. If 20% of your customers provide 80% of your business, it is critical to know who they are and take excellent care of them. Next, sell more products and services to these existing customers. Your laboratory already has a relationship with the office, so why not leverage this relationship to increase business and not simply maintain it? A good program of up- and cross-selling to your existing customers also keeps you in constant communication with them. Only after you have a system in place to maximize your relationship with your existing customers, should you apply the third rule, add new customers.
Specific Tips for Building a Client Base
If you give your current customers what they need and want, you’ll have a good chance of maintaining your client base. However, building a great client base is a little more difficult, especially in tough and competitive economic times. Below are some tips to help you build the client base you want for your company.
Offer Something Extra
To get a competitive edge, many businesses offer loyalty or rewards programs or by using direct mail special offers, which remain an effective marketing tool in the dental industry. This can include time-sensitive special offers on products and services. It is also common for businesses to provide personalized calendars, which are a good way to keep your company name in front of your client or prospect. They can also include important dental meeting dates, seminar dates, or lunch-and-learn dates and times.
Keep in Touch
In order to establish the best way to serve the needs of your clients, you need to know your clients. Set up weekly or bi-weekly phone meetings, or use an online collaborative project management tool to help communicate with your clients, and both parties will prosper. Make the effort to know them as people and show you care by sending holiday, birthday, and condolence cards, which should be personalized and signed by someone who has had contact with the dental office. Trade show participation can be a useful way to connect with clients, but it can also be expensive and a waste of time; therefore, these interactions should be carefully planned out in advance.
Provide Education and Information
A newsletter is a powerful tool to keep your company name in front of your customers and prospects on a consistent basis. It provides an ideal way of informing existing and future customers about new products, techniques, CE events, and other services that relate to your business. You can either use printed newsletters, e-newsletters, or a combination of both for the best effect. Lunch and learn seminars enable laboratories to meet with groups of dentists and staff to inform them of new products, techniques, and procedures, providing valuable information on how to best work with your organization.
Cultivate an Effective Online Presence
An optimized website contains relevant compelling content that will help act as a vehicle for customer retention as well as acquisition, while social media provides multiple touch points for interaction with customers, making it easier to establish a rapport with current and potential clients. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and blogs are the perfect tools to achieve this end. Facebook and Twitter pages can, and actually should, showcase both your business and unique company attributes. Your blog and LinkedIn accounts, however, should be used for professional or industry-related posts.
Don’t Forget the Basics
Offering services that go above and beyond is key when looking to elevate your business, but no amount of extras will replace the need to cover the basics. Give your clients a consistently excellent experience with your company. Your customers should be completely satisfied with your product, and if they are not or need some assistance, they should be able to contact your company with ease. This often leads to recommendations from fellow peers and industry leaders, which have an inherent sense of truth and viability to them. Companies should not be shy about specifically asking for referrals, as positive reviews, praise, and endorsements can be used to boost your company’s reputation or even leveraged into full marketing campaigns.
By actively applying the rules and tools described, you will most certainly see your client base grow. After all, what do you have to lose?
Bill Neal is the founder of AMG Creative, Inc. in Fort Collins, CO.