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Do You Treat Your Old Clients As If They Were Brand New Ones?

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A marriage requires constant work and investment—just ask any couple that has successfully been together for 15 or 20 years. When a couple divorces, the partners will often look back and describe a long period of mutual neglect prior to the eruption of real acrimony.

The basis for successful marriages and successful long-term client relationships are not dissimilar. When you’ve been working with a client for many years, the tendency is to take each other for granted. If you’re like the vast majority of professionals, most of your marketing and promotional resources go to new, prospective clients rather than to your existing clients. As benign neglect sets in, your long-term client may become intrigued by other professionals in your field—competitors whose ideas seem newer and fresher, who are courting him aggressively. Just as in a marriage, the antidote to wandering clients is constant reinvestment that revitalizes the relationship.

When I look at professionals who have long-term, broad-based client relationships, who inspire great client loyalty, they all have a similar approach: they treat each assignment as if it were the first one for that client. They bring the same energy, creativity, and drive to their long-term clients as they do to the new client whom they are trying to impress. They communicate constantly, and the flow of ideas never stops. Even if they aren’t working on an assignment for the client at that moment, they are in touch at least two or three times a year. The courtship, so to speak, never stops.

How do you reinvigorate an old relationship? Try these strategies:

  • If you work with a firm, bring new colleagues into the account. Consider changing the relationship manager—who may be you!
  • Hold a client relationship review. Sit down with your client and gain a fresh view of their challenges and opportunities. You’ll be surprised how much you might learn.
  • Ask yourself, “What would a competitor do to try and make inroads with my client?” Then, consider doing it yourself.
  • Challenge yourself to come up with three new ideas, each quarter, for improving the client’s business. Share these with your client on a regular basis.
  • Build relationships with new executives within the client’s organization. This will not only reenergize you, but it will improve the overall strength of the relationship.

What techniques or practices have helped you revitalize a long-standing client relationship?

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