While John Lennon and the Beatles may feel that love is all you need, in the professional world, things work a little differently. Being a successful web design/development agency takes more than just having talent, and, make no mistake, you do need talent. But, unless you are uncommonly lucky, talent alone is not sufficient. The key to being successful lies in your ability to draw clients, connect with them, and retain them.
Working in the tech world is a major competition: you are competing with everyone from other freelancers to well-established industry giants, offering the same services. It is a very competitive world and failing to master client interfacing will certainly prevent your career from launch.
Connecting with Clients
Again, the tech world is a but impacted right now and it is essential that you know exactly what you want to do and how you distinguish yourself from other industry professionals. You may have varied skills and a big audience to which you can market them, so if you can’t decide on a subset to concentrate on, it’s customer experience that is going to single you, your company, and your work out. The first thing you have to do is to develop a customer base and keep it, if not increase it; a tough lesson to learn for a beginner.
As a smaller company, one advantage that you have over larger companies is that you can offer more personalized services to your clients; this is one advantage you must exploit as much as possible. Building an excellent relationship with your clients is crucial and you can do it by following some simple rules.
Basic Rules of Engagement:
- Face-to-face meetings. Even if your “small company” is you in your living room (with one part-time remote employee perhaps), that doesn’t diminish the value or necessity of face-to-face meetings. While working from home, no etiquette is imposed on you. However, when going to meet a prospective client, you must approach the meeting as a job interview. Dress as you would for one, carry samples (hard copy) of your work, and several copies of your resume. Also carry your business cards and ensure that each contact you meet receives one. Carry one packet containing all of your documents for each person that you meet and a few extra. After the meeting, send a follow-up email thanking your prospective client for the meeting. Keep it to the point and send any information they may have requested from you. Another advantage of a follow-up email is that you can also direct them to your website. Presenting your self and your company as professionals with a deep sense of pride in your work is the impression you want clients to have. If they’re going to trust you with creating their web-presence, they want to know that presentation is important to you.
- Inquiries through your website. Always ensure that your website portfolio up-to-date and there you have an inquiry submission form going to your direct email address or to an inbox that you monitor regularly. You should always try to respond to queries within 24 hrs. and can create some template responses to streamline this. Avoid being overly templated, though, since inquiring prospective clients with value you’re taking the time to address them and their needs personally.
- Managing personal relationships with clients. Once you have the professional relationship taken care of, you have to decide the extent to which you want to build a personal relationship with your client. No matter which way you cut it, there will be pros and cons. Finding the right balance between professional relationship and personal relationship is very important. You don’t want clients getting the idea that good rapport means all sorts of discounts or putting their requests before all else. Client appreciation is important and letting your clients know that they are valued will have a positive impact on your relationship. A good rule of thumb is to be warm, friendly, and keep conversations on task professionally with rare exception.
- The project itself. Some clients prefer to be kept in the loop and to receive regular progress reports, while others just want the completed work. It is a good idea to let your client know what is going on periodically, but the frequency of reports will depend on the client. Ask the client early on in the project whether they have a strong preference regarding progress tracking and reporting.
Managing clients can be difficult at first, and it will take some time to get a regular flow of offers, and client relationships. To some extent, when you own your own company you can choose what work you undertake and for whom. Still, you can’t function as a company without clients and, once you commit to a project, you do have someone to answer to, as well as guidelines and deadlines that aren’t necessarily set by you. Communicate properly with your clients, keep them happy, and they will keep you happy. Happy clients are a major part of the secret to success in business.