- Client management is a crucial part of building your business and increasing profits
- Align your client management strategy with the goals and needs of your business to see the best results
- Client relationship management software can help you streamline the process
As a small business owner, managing your clients (aside from scheduling their appointments) might not be at the top of your priority list. However, businesses large and small can benefit from purposeful client relationship management, the goal of which is to build relationships, improve customer satisfaction, and help you sell more.
Read on to learn what client relationship management is and why it’s important. Then discover what skills you need and several strategies for success.
What is client management?
Client management is the process of managing both client relationships and client data. It helps you and your team members know precisely what’s happening with potential and existing clients.
When talking about client management, it’s important to clarify the difference between customers and clients. Customers tend to buy products, and they usually make one-time or occasional purchases. Clients can buy products but more often buy ongoing services. Because of their potential to supply your business with reliable, recurring revenue, building long-term relationships with these clients can substantially boost your bottom line.
To build long-term relationships, you’ll need accurate data. That means understanding the client’s needs, knowing what, when, and how they buy from you, and how they prefer to communicate.
Why is client management important?
You’re always working to attract new potential clients and encourage them to make their first purchase. Client management helps you or your sales team know exactly where in the sales process those new customers are. With this data, you can give them what they need so they move smoothly through your sales funnel.
In addition to nurturing new clients, client management can help you improve client retention, which can be even more profitable than gaining new clients.
Client retention is key to your business for many reasons. For starters, it can cost six to seven times more to get new clients on board than it does to sell to your existing clients. Existing clients are also more likely to convert and spend more per purchase than new clients.
Retention involves creating customer loyalty through a great customer experience. It’s all about how the client feels. If they’re happy with your product and pricing, and you build trust through ongoing communication, the result will be increased client satisfaction. Happy customers come back again and again and can be easier to cross-sell and upsell to, potentially boosting your profits.
Additionally, word-of-mouth marketing from those satisfied clients brings you referrals—with no extra work on your part. The energy you put into retaining customers and keeping them happy now will pay dividends to your business in the future.
Effective client management helps you build a great customer experience that encourages customers to return by keeping you on top of your client data and allowing you to closely manage their customer journeys.
Essential client management skills and strategies
Comprehensive client management requires certain skills and strategies. Here are a few tips to help you build your repertoire.
Understand the client’s needs
To discover client needs, ask questions and actively listen to the answers. Try not to make assumptions. Rather, ask for clarification. Learn about their business, industry, and day-to-day needs. This understanding will help you deliver the best solution for them and start building the foundation for an excellent long-term relationship.
Manage client expectations
Setting expectations is critical to avoid disappointment and miscommunication. Work together to create a roadmap you can both follow that details the deliverables, project, or service milestones, the time frame, and anticipated costs. Establishing this upfront—and putting it in writing—will save you time, energy, and frustration later.
Build yourself a buffer
Your client might put pressure on you to deliver quickly and cheaply. However, it’s often far more realistic to include a time and cost margin that allows you some leeway—within reason. If you’re late and over budget on your client’s project, no one will be happy. It’s better to under-promise and over-deliver to create a great impression.
Deliver regular progress updates and respond in a timely manner when your client reaches out to you. A lack of communication can cause stress and diminish trust. Be transparent and keep clients in the loop every step of the way, helping them feel reassured about their investment and working with your business.
Active communication is even more important when something doesn’t go to plan, like timeline delays or exceeding the project budget. Be honest and proactive in delivering bad news. The sooner everyone is on the same page, the sooner you can ideate solutions.
Establishing your client management system
To help you implement the above-mentioned client management strategies, you’ll need a clear and organized system to track your client information. The best client management system for you will depend on your business, how big it is, and how it operates. Consider the following questions to get started.
What needs to happen with each client?
What are all the steps, and in what order should they be done? Think through the client management process—from sales through onboarding all the way to billing and follow-up. How will that journey be tracked to ensure it all happens smoothly?
What information will be recorded for each client?
At a minimum, you’ll need their name, contact details, and business information. You’ll probably also want to record purchases and account status—for example, whether they’re fully paid up or have a balanced owed. A record of your communication with them can also be very useful.
What is your communication plan?
Determine what needs to be communicated and which channels would be best for them. For example, you might create an onboarding email to thank them for signing up with you and explain the next steps. That might be followed up with a phone call to check if they have any questions.
A confirmation email should go out after each purchase or whenever anything changes in their account. You might also have a newsletter you send regularly to all your clients with the latest news and monthly specials.
How do you ask for client feedback?
Client feedback is incredibly valuable as it tells you how well you’re serving their needs. It can also be a source of ideas for new offerings. Do you regularly check in with clients in-person during or after purchases or projects? Do you ask for testimonials? Do you send out satisfaction surveys?
You can also add or claim your Yelp Business Page to establish an online presence and build your business reputation. As you provide excellent customer service, consumers who had a great experience may be inspired to tell others about it. Online reviews can be an invaluable source of client feedback, helping you improve the customer experience and your retention rate.
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Who will be responsible for managing each of these aspects?
If you wear many hats in your business, you might be the one overseeing all aspects of client management. If you have a team, make sure responsibilities and timelines are clear—otherwise, important tasks might fall through the cracks. The same goes if you’re outsourcing tasks. For example, perhaps you hire an accountant to take care of your monthly billing or a communications company to create and send your newsletter.
Once you’re clear on your client management process, you can decide on the best system for you.
How client management software can help you
If your business is very small, you might be able to manage it with spreadsheets and documents. If you choose to go this route, make sure whoever is managing that process is very good with details. If your business is a bit bigger, you might want to consider automation.
Investing in customer relationship management or CRM software can ease the client management process. For example:
- It’s a central place to store all your client data, including contact details, purchases, and interactions
- It streamlines your workflows so no task gets overlooked
- You (and every member of your team) have real-time access to client information
- It could include AI functionality like chatbots, which support client service
- It can help you track key performance indicators (KPIs) or other metrics
- It helps manage your digital marketing campaigns—from email marketing templates to social media
- It provides dashboards so you can see at a glance what’s happening across your business
If you have several projects active with various clients, a project management system can also be very helpful. Use it to create Gantt charts that show timelines for all your client projects so you have visibility into what’s on track and what’s not.
Client management is the foundation of your business
Client management is about knowing exactly what’s going on with your clients at any given moment. It involves managing their data and customer journey from start to finish. A great business with a solid client management system knows its clients’ needs, manages their expectations, communicates regularly and honestly, and then delivers an exceptional product or service.
When you master client relationship management, you’re able to nurture long-standing client relationships that contribute to your future success. To grow your customer base and attract future repeat customers, learn how to reach more clients with these low-cost and free marketing ideas.
The information above is provided for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice and may not be suitable for your circumstances. Unless stated otherwise, references to third-party links, services, or products do not constitute endorsement by Yelp.