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Start: Mark Evans

How to keep clients happy now, and forever Add to ...

One of the realities of running a business is the constant need to find new business.

It means splitting time between handling existing customers and hunting for new ones. It can be a delicate balancing act because when you're doing the work, you're not selling, and when you're selling, you're not doing the work. In other words, it can be a vicious cycle.

In talking with a fellow entrepreneur recently about the time and energy devoted to business development, one of the most insightful comments was the importance of nurturing and growing existing customers.

Clearly, it is a straightforward statement given the challenges of getting a new customer but, at the same time, the value of that customer should not be underestimated given how the client can generate revenue in the short and long term.

In other words, it is important to not only get revenue in the door from a new customer but make sure that customer continues to send business your way. Again, it is a basic business proposition.

That said, there are two mistakes many companies make with their clients.

One is a sense of satisfaction after the business has been attained. After all the work and effort to get a new customer, complacency can set in. The danger is being too focused on the job at hand rather than also recognizing that it represents the start, hopefully, of a long-term relationship.

Another common mistake is failing to provide existing customers with other ideas and options once they have become part of the fold. It is one thing to make a sale or win a project, and it is another thing entirely to nurture the relationship by being proactive in pursuing new opportunities.

It can be a matter, for example, of providing the customer with more information about the services or products you offer. Or it may be coming up with new ideas that show customers you're interested in helping them do more or different things. This could lead to more business or, at the very least, position you as a value-added part of their supplier ecosystem.

If you have worked hard to get a new customer, it makes complete sense to keep that customer happy now and for the long-term. It may mean spending more time with existing customers rather than running around seeking new business but, as the saying goes, a bird in the hand is better than two in the bush.

Special to The Globe and Mail

Mark Evans is the principal with ME Consulting, a communications and marketing strategic consultancy that works with startups and fast-growing companies to create compelling and effective messaging to drive their sales and marketing activities. Mark has worked with four startups - Blanketware, b5Media, PlanetEye and Sysomos. He was a technology reporter for more than a decade with The Globe and Mail, Bloomberg News and the Financial Post. Mark is also one of the co-organizers of the mesh, meshmarketing and meshwest conferences.

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