How to Use Follow-Up to Renew Old Clients

Everyone has heard a thousand times that it’s easier to renew an old client than to find a new one.

After all, the marketing has already been done, the relationship has been established and, if the work with the client went well, they like, and trust you.

You don’t have to reestablish your credentials, or persuade them that you’re the right person for the job.

However, I’m often surprised that so many independent professionals fail to follow up with old clients to land new business.

Here are some of the reasons I’ve heard over the years.

“I’m not sure they were completely happy with the work I did, so I’m very reluctant to call them back.”

“I figured that if they had more work for me they’d contact me again.”

“I get so busy with current clients and marketing to new ones that I forget about my old clients.”

“I think that if I contact past clients they’ll think I’m desperate for work, which leaves a bad impression.”

“I’d like to get back to some of my past clients but I don’t know what to say, and when I’ve done it in the past I wasn’t very good at booking new business.”

I’ll bet some of these are familiar to you.

Look, the truth is, that if you did past work for a client there’s a very good chance that they’ll be open to working with you again.

You’re not pestering them; you’re not desperate. You’d just like to continue to make a difference with them.

And the reason they don’t call you is that they get also and perhaps don’t think about what else you could do for them.

So that leaves us with what to say when you contact them.

What you don’t do is say, “Hey, just wanted to know if you had any more work for me!”

How would you respond to that?

What I recommend is that you take a proactive, and creative approach to contacting past clients.

You want to let them know that you’d like to catch up with them and that you have some ideas to share.

And the best way to do that is in an email. Here’s a generic sample:

Hi Jason, I was thinking of you today and realized that we completed your project six months ago.

It was great working with you and I’m really happy the project went so well.

I’ve been doing some new and exciting things with several current clients and am getting great results. I wanted to share some ideas with you.

Do you have a few minutes to get together by phone next week? I have these days and times open.

Looking forward to connecting.

Cheers, Robert

See how this simple email hits all the right notes?

1. Everyone likes to know what others are thinking of them.

2. You remind them of a positive experience.

3. You share something new that’s working for others.

4. You make a call-to-action (the phone appointment).

To succeed at this, obviously it helps if they were happy with your previous work. You’d have checked in previously to learn how things went.

And to get the best results, it’s going to help if you do have something new, interesting, and exciting to share with them.

This isn’t always necessary; even if you have an old service that they haven’t taken advantage of yet, it’s new to them.

So what do you say in that phone meeting?

This is where it’s easy to miss the mark.

You don’t want to say: “Oh, hi Jason, let me tell you about this new service.”

Bad move to go right into “pitching mode.”

Instead, you want to get into present time and find out about them. And this is definitely the most important part of the call.

You don’t want to talk. You want the client to talk.

And all you need to start is a good open-ended question:

“Jason, what have you you been working on for the past few months?”

Then listen, listen, listen, only interjecting with follow-up questions:

“Oh, how did that work? Then what did you do?” etc.

The thing to avoid is to use something they say to start your pitch:

“Wow, that reminds me of this new service I’m offering.”

Why doesn’t this work? Well, you’re interrupting their flow. They want to be heard. And until they are completely heard, it’s going to be hard for them to hear you.

So wait until they are done.

This could take 10 minutes or 30. It doesn’t matter. Be patient.

And when they’re done they’ll usually say something like:

“So what’s up with you? You said you’re doing some new things?”

And if they initiate the question, they are now listening. They’re open to hearing about what you’re offering.

So then what do you say about those new things?

If you’re offering a new service that’s really working for your clients, you might say something like:

“Well I have this new service called the XYZ Program. I wanted to tell you a little about it because of the results I’ve been getting.”

And then share a story or two about those results.

Result-oriented stories are almost always interesting. You’re not talking about process, but about outcomes, outcomes the client wants as well.

Then, if the stories are sufficiently intriguing, they’ll likely ask you more. “So how does that work, what’s behind that approach, do you think it might work for us?”

Then you need to be prepared to explain your service or program as concisely as possible: Here’s what it is, what it does, how it works, and how it might meet your client’s needs.

If you’re speaking with an independent professional, you may be able to explain enough that they’ll be ready to sign up for your service on the spot.

If your client represents a larger business and it’s a more complex service, you may need to set up another meeting:

“Look, I’m glad you’re interested in this. I’m really excited about it. Let me send you more detailed information and then let’s set up a more in-depth meeting where I can answer all your questions.”

So, renewing past clients is not only possible, it’s relatively easy if you follow this approach.

To summarize the steps:

1. Get the past client’s attention with an email.

2. Set up a time to talk by phone (I actually use Zoom Video)

3. Start the conversation by asking about them.

4. Really listen, don’t interrupt and start pitching.

5. When they ask you to tell them about your new service, start with stories.

6. If they show a lot of interest, either close or ask for the next meeting.

The Long Lost Art of Being Discovered

One of the most of

fascinating Hollywood legends is the discovery of film actress Lana Turner at the soda fountain in Schwab’s drug store in Hollywood, by director Mervyn Le Roy in 1936.

Wikipedia tells a different story, saying that Turner was discovered by The Hollywood Reporter publisher, William Wilkerson, not at Schwab’s, but at the Top Hat Café.

Nevertheless, this legendary story gave rise to the American myth that “anybody can be discovered, anyone can be successful because of a stroke of luck and the right connections.”

However, Turner’s online biography states: “She wasn’t found at a drugstore counter like some would have you believe, but that legend persists. She pounded the pavement as other would-be actresses have done, are doing, and will continue to do in search of movie roles.”

She wasn’t even born with the name Lana Turner; her given name was Julia Jean Mildred Francis Turner (try putting that on a movie poster).

Turner, one of the greatest Hollywood beauties, had a film career that spanned 48 years.

Why all this interest in Lana, Turner?

I think it’s the confluence of the Academy Awards show on Sunday night and a meeting I had with a client last week.

At the Oscars, I was inspired by the hard work and dedication of the many nominees who had worked, sometimes for decades, before being recognized for their excellence.

My client, who is a brilliant consultant with many professional credentials and accolades, also inspires me. She is smart, committed, and hard working.

But I think she might be working a little too hard on hoping to be discovered by the right person.

For her, this means making connections with influential people who ­- she hopes – will refer her to new clients.

It’s wonderful to be referred by others who are more established, successful, and visible. And this approach to marketing can sometimes work when played as a long game.

But if you put most of your attention on these hoped-for referrals, you may not spend enough time connecting directly with prospective clients right now.

Pounding the pavement is certainly not romantic, but it’s infinitely more practical.

Advice to my client:

Keep an eye out for long-term referral partners, but put most of your effort into connecting with, speaking to, and meeting with those who can buy your professional services today.

Cheers, Robert

P.S. This is a paraphrase of a quote by Lana Turner:

“If you don’t approach clients, you’re called aloof, if you do, you’re a hustler. If you don’t talk, you’re dumb. If you do talk you’re aggressive. Pardon me while I update my website.”

Fighting Truthiness and Hype in Marketing

In 2005, Stephen Colbert, in his TV show, the Colbert Report, coined the word, “truthiness.”

Truthiness is the belief or assertion that a particular statement is true based on the intuition or perceptions of some individual or individuals, without regard to evidence, logic, intellectual examination, or facts.

Truthiness can range from ignorant assertions of falsehoods to deliberate duplicity or propaganda intended to sway opinions. – Wikipedia

We know that truthiness is rampant in politics.

But it’s also rampant in marketing.

Many of us think that marketing is mostly truthiness, not real truth in any way, shape or form.

We expect hype and exaggeration, if not downright deception, when it comes to promoting products and services.

Because of this, many of us become almost immune to the majority of marketing messages.

We assume that whatever someone says about their business, product, or service must be a form of truthiness, a veiled lie that hides the real facts.

So, as an independent professional wanting to attract more clients, you are faced with a real dilemma.

You are puzzled about how you can persuasively communicate the value of your professional services given that most prospective clients will doubt almost everything you say.

Because of this, I’ve noticed that many independent professionals shy away from marketing completely.

While others chose to go to the truthiness dark side, hoping an excess of hype will carry the day.

A recent email promotion I received contained a number of over-the-top marketing promises about an online marketing program:

“You will witness a revolutionary new technology being released that will allow you as a small business owner (regardless of skill level or experience level) to… generate as many new clients as you can possibly handle.”

Would you believe that? No, it’s truthiness and hype incarnate!

And anyone who does believe it is likely a naïve, gullible person looking for miracles with little work on their part.

So how can you eschew truthiness and still market your professional services effectively?

That, as they say, is the million-dollar question!

Well, the opposite of truthiness is honesty.

And yes, it is possible to communicate the value of your services truthfully, honestly, and with integrity.

But to do that you need to watch out for certain things that can become a slippery slope in your marketing.

Truthiness Insight #1

You must realize that what you feel about something is not the same as facts about something.

“I feel that my consulting services dramatically increase my clients’ productivity.”

OK, that’s nice, but by what objective measure are you determining the actual effectiveness of your professional services?

How about doing some measuring instead, such as before and after metrics?

When you have actual proof of what happens before and after, your credibility increases, as does your own confidence in your services.

The best marketing outlines real benefits and advantages based on facts, not hope.

Truthiness Insight #2

It’s not unusual to see client testimonials about how great it was to work with someone.

That’s nice and it’s certainly positive, but it’s not as powerful as reports of real changes.

“I lost 20 pounds in four months working with Ralph on both my diet and exercise program. He really supported me during the challenging times and helped me develop positive new habits that have stuck with me for the past year.”

This certainly trumps something like: “Ralph is a wonderful health coach who I trust with my life. You should definitely consider working with him.”

We often hear about the importance of getting testimonials. However, better to focus on getting solid results for your clients and then getting the testimonials will be easy.

Truthiness Insight #3

When you always speak in superlatives about your services, you again undermine your credibility.

Remember, people are skeptical and understandably so. So many promises made by marketers end in disappointment.

Better to actually talk about some of the drawbacks of your services than paint a completely unrealistic picture of “success without effort.”

I make it a point of telling all my prospective clients that if they engage me it will take a lot of work on their part to get out there and attract new clients.

They appreciate that I’m realistic and don’t sugarcoat things.

But believe me, in the past I’ve been less than realistic and it hasn’t turned out well for me!

We need to turn off the hype and get real. When we do, we tend to build more trust and confidence with our clients.

Truthiness Insight #4

We live in a sound-bite world.

Sound bites are important, as they are effective at getting attention and interest for our services.

But is there depth beyond the sound-bite? If not, you’re going to come across as shallow and insubstantial.

I once attended a public speaking course that stated: “You should know 30 times more than what you say in your presentation.”

That’s what real professionalism is about: deep knowledge, understanding, and experience in your field.

As they say, “If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit.”

This is the motto of the truthiness practitioner and ultimately won’t bode well for your long-term success.

Truthiness Insight #5

One of the hallmarks of truthiness and hype is ever-changing marketing messages.

You think, “Heck, if one message isn’t working, I’ll try another until something sticks.” But you pay little attention to the validity and authenticity of the message.

A message that is clever, catchy, or over-the-top may get attention, but undermine your professional image.

Your message needs to be interesting and believable.

It should make people think, not insult their intelligence.

Take some serious time to work on your marketing messages. Run them past your current clients and get their reaction.

Others will notice truthiness and hype before you do.

But you’ll know you’re on track if they say, “yes, that really hits the nail on the head; that’s the reason I decided to work with you.”

Start banishing truthiness and hype from your marketing.

Not only will you build trust with your clients, you’ll start to attract more of the right clients, clients who are looking for a professional who walks their talk.