When it comes to growing your creative brand, there are two basic ways to approach expanding your sales. You can cast a wider net and get MORE clients or customers -get your work on more store shelves, in front of more customers, and grow your potentials audience of buyers. OR you can focus on getting the people who already buy from you to buy MORE and to work with you for more of their customer life cycle. In today’s mini episode, we’ll focus on an easy and effective way to make this 2nd option a reality so you capitalize on creating longer relationships working with the people who already know and love you.
When I started out as a web and branding designer, I was often caught in the constantly looking-for-clients hustle. I’d wrap up a big project for a client that I loved, send them on their way, then fill my time with looking for an onboarding the next client. Not only did this create some income instability for me, making it tough to grow or even know what my business could or would look like from month to month, I was also feeling constantly drained as I tried to produce great creative work AND keep the client pipeline flowing.
When I started working to extend my client relationships so I could extend their client life cycle, it made a HUGE difference for me. My business exploded, I was able to hire help, and I had a much better and more confident view of my income and growth potential. I also felt like I was able to really dig deep and do my best work because I wasn’t constantly getting to know new clients every few weeks.
The first step? Figure out your client life cycle.
Now I could, and likely will, do a whole episode on this process- and in fact I’ll be covering it in some upcoming resources I’m creating, but for the sake of this mini episode, let’s do a quick version of this! Basically, we want to look at your best clients and do an analysis of their “before”, “during”, and “after” situations. What are their problems before they work with you? What do they need? While you’re working together, what assistance do they need? What makes the process go more smoothly? What transformation do they see or what do they experience?
And importantly, when you’ve wrapped up, what does their situation look like? (Its likely not all sunshine and rainbows!) they probably now have new needs and challenges!
And that’s the key…how can you be there to fill those NEW needs for them?
Which brings us to the second step: always asking “what’s next”?
Asking yourself, or even asking your clients, what do they need next when they’ve finished a transaction with you? Here are some examples:
- A web design client may now need branded social media graphics, an email header, a catalog, a trade show booth…
- A client who hired you to photograph their wedding may want photos in their first home, or future family photos…
- A stationery design client who hired you for a specific event may now need thank you notes, or want every day stationery/notebooks/homegoods with your designs on them since they now know they love your style
- A customer who purchased your handmade soy candles may now want one delivered automatically every month
- A wholesaler who stocks your art prints may have seen great sales and be ready for new designs every few months- how can you anticipate their needs and make it a no-brainer to reorder from you?
So, you’ll see there are options here! Just by asking the “what’s next” question, you can start to figure out your next product idea, service idea, or packaged offering so you can keep showing up and serving that audience you already know you love and want to keep on working with.
One bonus step: When do you bring up this next or extended offering?
My favorite way to do this is to plant the seed right from the beginning of the client relationship. I actually include some information about retainer services or other services we can offer right on the last page of a project proposal, so the client knows we’re available after the initial project wraps up.
And certainly be ready to introduce this concept after the sale or service is complete- show them how the things they loved about working with you the first time can keep on going with this new offering or service- many times clients will jump at the chance to keep the good times going.
That’s it! That’s my simple step I take to extend my client relationships. Come find the How To Create private community on Facebook to tell me what ideas you’ve got for continuing your client and customer relationships- we can brainstorm and continue the discussions there. If these topics about creative business are helpful to you, you’ll love our NEW Friday Live episodes over on Facebook. These “biz break” episodes will feature live interviews with experts who specialize in helping creatives grow their businesses, from SEO to copywriting, to pricing, and more. Joining the Facebook group is the best way to stay up to date on those episodes and to get your questions answered live.