It typically starts with an email or a tweet or a FB message and goes something like - "Hi, I am John Doe and my business does XYZ. Our website is outdated and Mr. Smith referred you to me. We need help, what are your rates?"
We are excited because we have a lead and even better it is a referral from an evangelist aka a happy client. Great, right? For sure! Well, ok, most of the time it is, but sometimes it turns into us walking a tight rope balancing our reputation and referral with the demands and issues of the new client.
The thing is when a friend, past/current client or whomever refers someone to us, we have a stronger need to do our very best, to go above and beyond, to sometimes bend over backwards for this new prospect. We want to make sure the new prospect is happy with our service and product so that they will continue to trust the person that referred them. It really doesn't matter to us if the project is something small or large, we take pride in helping our clients. We treasure the people that refer us and we do not want to let them down. So whether it is updating a logo or managing social media marketing or building out an enterprise website, our goal is to deliver top quality and hope that our new client turns into an evenagelist just like the client that referred them is.
It is a balancing act to set boundaries so that as a business we deliver excellent work and yet refrain from giving away too much. It is far from easy to balance all the pieces that go into referral work. But it is something we have done since 1999 and we are good at it. We keep our rates consistent and fair. We are upfront and honest. We try to over-communicate to ensure nothing is misunderstood. We help and go out of our way to ensure the client's needs are met, sometimes at our expense. Most of the time these practices work to our benefit.
There has been a case in our history that didn't go well and we will continue to analyze and evaluate the issues from that project. Our biggest concern was how the fallout would affect the the client that referred us, but luckily they were able to maintain a good working relationship with the person. In addition, they continue to refer us to new clients.
In the long run we'll learn and grow to be stronger and better. This includes having a contract that defines both ours and the client's deliverables, it protects us from unethical practices and lack of payment. Because of our good and bad experiences, we have learned how to set better expectations and boundaries. In addition, we have learned how to structure our services and program offerings to best fit our clients.
"Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning." - Bill Gates
We will continue to walk the tight rope balancing the nuances of the project, our reputation, and the referral...trusting this new client will refer us to our next client.
What lessons have you learned from client management? How you implemented new practices as a result of a lesson learned? Share your experiences in the comments below.