A little while ago, Graphic Design Blender explored the phenomena of clients returning after a serious lapse in time. The article brought up various circumstances and offered solid advice that everyone should take into consideration. But what about those designers who rely on return clients in order to stay in business? How do you keep them coming back and how do you keep all parties involved satisfied?
A little background
1. Organize your work
Drafting a design brief is an excellent way to establish a common source of information for a project. When a client requests work from my department, I gather any supplied information, whether it’s from emails, meetings or phone calls, and write up the design brief.
The design brief is a simple document with general information about the project. The brief usually documents things like primary contacts, project overview, audience, tone and imagery, and any other direction giving by the client.
Before any work is done on the project I share the design brief with my client to make sure they agree with the information. This ensures that the project starts off on the right foot and if there is a problem down the line, you can always refer to the brief to back up your work.
2. Communicate with clients
I physically work with most of my clients, they are located on campus or in the surrounding satellite buildings so it’s easy for me to meet with them. But still some clients will want to communicate strictly through emails or over the phone. If this is the case, make sure you clearly explain the project and how you came about your solution.
When I am working with a client this way I don’t just send them PDFs or JPEGs of designs, I draft explanations for my work. Creating a document with detailed notes of your design process and how you reached the solution may be tedious work, but it will help the client see your intentions. I always call the client after I email the work and try to better explain what they are seeing.
I find that the more I am at their disposal; the more clients want to work with me. This can’t be 24/7, and you will always need to prioritize but following up with clients or returning calls or emails diligently will earn you points.
3. Reflect a professional attitude
We all know that clients can be very demanding and sometimes overly annoying, but they are still your financial livelihood. While you aren’t required to be best friends with these people outside of the office, you need to maintain a professional relationship during the course of a project.
If a client is being very demanding there are simple tricks to keep them happy. I often compliment them right off the bat, something like ‘That is a very good idea, I think we can use that in some way’ often keeps the client happy and gives them a sense of contributing. When you next meet, be sure to bring up their idea and how you elaborated on it.
If you disagree over work, it’s not professional to argue over a conference call or storm off during a meeting. Try to remember that they are paying you for your services and that while you should try to influence them with your design advice, they may not be open to it. If you handle these conflicts in a professional manner, you will ultimately gain their respect. If you are acting like an amateur, why should you be treated like anything else?
What else can you do?
These are just three quick tips that I use everyday. They help be work with repeat customers and my client retention is steadily growing every month. These aren’t the only keys to bringing clients back, but they are a good foundation for any professional. What do you think? I am sure there are tips you can share and I would love to hear them.