Client relationships are the only truly valuable asset in your business

Business HandshakeWhat’s the most important asset in your business?

A lot of IT consultants might say their building, or their servers, or their tools and equipment. Some might even say their team, or their knowledge.

I would argue it is none of those things.

Buildings, servers, tools and equipment can all be damaged, lost or destroyed. People leave. Your knowledge has to be constantly updated, or it is quickly worthless.

The only asset you have as an IT service company that can be kept safe from every threat and made to grow in value year after year is the relationship you have with your clients. This doesn’t mean your customer list is valuable – because it isn’t. The relationship you have with your clients is where the value lies.

Most computer guys do an awful job managing this asset. They take it for granted. They won’t invest in it. They abuse it by communicating with it only when it comes time to send a bill.

Client relationships depend on a number of factors, but the most important one is how often you communicate with your clients. Frequency of communication will increase the value of your client relationship – neglecting to communicate with clients (or prospects) will cause the value of this asset to drop, usually by about 10% for every month it is ignored.

If you don’t consistently communicate with your clients, after 10 months, your list is probably worth less than random names pulled from the phone book.

The communications you have with clients and prospects needs to be frequent and welcomed. It should be interesting, entertaining, informing and personal. Professional, but personal!

In our business, our clients are hearing from us at least monthly, and our goal right now is twice per month. By April, 2013, it will be weekly. For most computer consultants, this number is zero, to a few times a year. Which may as well be zero.

You cannot sustain a relationship with an occasional, random drive-by and kiss thrown from the window of your car.

The second factor to maintaining and increasing the value of your client relationships is consistency of communication. Some part of your client interaction should be dependable and ritualized. The way we do this in our business is with a client newsletter.

It is consistently published every month. Check it out here: www.TechTidBit.com. We mail it via postal mail. I hear arguments about this often… “We’re computer guys, can’t we just e-mail it?” No, you can’t.

When was the last time you read an e-newsletter? I’d bet that unless it was something you were passionate about, or paying for, seven times out of ten the e-newsletters you receive are deleted without being opened. And while your clients might love you, it is probably rare that you have clients that are passionate about your business.

It isn’t personal – they’re just overwhelmed, and they’re probably not going to read your e-newsletter. Some will – most won’t. A postal-mailed newsletter, however, will get read. As long as it is interesting and well put together. It probably will get passed around the office.

Your client newsletter should include some sales pitch – but that is secondary! Your primary goal in sending a client newsletter is to get it read. And to accomplish that, it should be interesting, topical and even a bit humorous. Long, boring stories about the intricacies of Exchange migrations and SQL server deployments aren’t going to cut it.

An article about how you saved a client a boatload of money by upgrading their e-mail service works nicely.

Some other ways to stay in touch with clients:

  • Birthday cards (send your clients a birthday card for their birthday, or yours!)
  • Personal greetings and thank you cards.
  • Client anniversary (send them a gift card on the anniversary of their first service call).
  • Holiday greetings (but avoid the major holidays, especially Christmas – everyone mails Christmas cards).
  • Periodic events such as meet and greets or coffee clubs, which you use only to facilitate introducing clients to one another, not for selling something to your clients.
  • Lunch and learns where you do try to sell your clients something… And this should be something they really need. The lunch and learn is to teach them why they genuinely need it.

PLEASE! Comment here with other ideas you use to keep in touch with your clients.

What do you think

*