Tips for Evaluating Repeat Business Clients

A young business woman writing a website

“Growing your own business is great. Watching your ideas come to life, taking care of new customers and watching them become repeat customers, and successfully building your team is a feeling that can’t be matched.” Michael Gerber

As a copywriter, a big part of your revenue should come from repeat business. It makes the marketing end of things much simpler, since you don’t need to spend as much time or money researching and prospecting for new clients. It also gives you the chance to get to know both the client and the client’s market in a deeper, more familiar way. And calling on an existing client is never a pure cold call. Plus, the more a client has seen of your work, the more likely they will provide word-of-mouth referrals — which require no prospecting costs at all.

It’s a win-win… win!

Cultivating repeat clients depends on the quality of your work and the quality of your service, which in turn dictates the quality of your relationships.

This means that in addition to knowing your craft and providing good work, your clients have to trust that you’ll remain focused on their needs and strive to provide them with value. The client also needs to see you as someone who creates new possibilities that bring new benefits and revenues… not someone who will manipulate them into sending work your way just because you want to get paid.

But that’s a two-way street.

If a relationship is to be a long-term one that benefits both you and the client, trust and enabling must work in both directions. After all, repeat business from clients who try to manipulate you into doing extra work for less money are clients not worth having in the first place.

So, to help you identify the right people to cultivate as repeat clients, let’s take a look at seven considerations that should help you sort them out…

1) Are they just shopping for the lowest price? — You can often tell if “getting the lowest price” drives someone’s decision making when one of their very first questions is “What do you charge?” Price shoppers will show loyalty only to the lowest price. And if you do get their business, it will likely be only until the next lowest price comes along. I’m not saying don’t work with a price shopper — perhaps you’ll get fair compensation on your initial job for them. But don’t plan on a return visit, and don’t spend any time or money marketing to them.

2) What is the company’s customer service like? — Examining a company’s customer service practices and procedures is something not a lot of freelancers take the time to do, but it can tell you a lot. Does the company reduce their customer service to the maddening voice mail merry-go-round of “Press 1 for…, Press 2 for…”? How do they talk about customers when there are no customers around? This is important because companies that treat customers like a nuisance that must be dealt with are companies that often go out of business, killing any chance of getting repeat work.

3) How does the company treat its employees? — If a company treats its employees poorly, how do you think they’re going to treat you, an outside freelancer? Plus, an employee who is treated poorly has little to no inclination to do any more than is absolutely necessary to maintain their employment. Enough unhappy employees can undermine an entire business. Also remember, it’s a lot easier for a company to fire an independent contractor (i.e., You!) than it is to fire an employee.

4) Do their service contracts look and sound like a lawyer wrote them? — Treat contracts written in “legalese” that make you feel like an attorney should interpret them for you as a red flag. There are times, of course, when this is necessary such as in the protection of trade secrets and proprietary information. However, at some point, relying on the protection of the law and its written language shows a client is expecting a problem and is unwilling to trust you. Yes, lawyers are sometimes necessary. Clients who approach their relationship with you like a lawyer are not.

5) Does the client see you as a vendor or a consultant? — Vendors are generally interchangeable, consultants not so much. You want to be seen as a consultant that can help your client map out a marketing strategy and then implement that strategy via the services you provide such as web copy, email autoresponders, landing page copy, press releases, case studies… you get the idea.

A client may be no less likely to shop for alternatives to a consultant than to a vendor, but because of the unique services a consultant provides, there will be far fewer choices available. You absolutely want to work for the client who sees you as a consultant and not just another vendor.

6) Is the client always complaining about something or someone? — You can take this to the bank: Clients who complain unreasonably about others will also complain about you. And really, this will hold true even if you do everything that’s expected — it’s just some people’s nature. If, in your initial dealings with a prospective client, you notice they’re always complaining about their employees, their spouses, their customers, and whatever else they can think of, take it as a warning sign that no matter what you do, it will never be enough.

7) Does the client exhibit an “all for me” mentality? — A client with an “all for me” mentality believes they can do better only if someone else does worse. For this type of personality, there is no “win-win.” Instead it’s a life philosophy of “Hooray for me, and the heck with you.” These types of thinkers are much more likely to see you as an adversary than a partner and will keep you around only as long as they can take advantage of you.

One other thing to keep in mind is the types of projects that lend themselves to repeat business. Some tasks are more likely to be one-time only such as a retail store’s grand opening campaign. Even a landing page for an individual product can sit on the Web for a long time before it needs to be replaced or reworked.

Other tasks are almost never one-time only. Direct-mail packages and email autoresponder series, for example, must regularly be tested. And unlike landing pages, web copy needs to be updated and optimized regularly not only for product, pricing, and service information, but also to keep the site relevant in the view of the search engines.

While this is by no means a comprehensive list, some other writing tasks that are likely to be among a company’s recurring needs include:

  • E-zines and newsletters
  • Blog posts and social media posts
  • Downloadable web content
  • Price lists and product information
  • Press releases
  • Newspaper inserts and space ads

Other writing tasks that are not generally recurring include:

  • Basic brochures
  • Order pages
  • E-books
  • White papers
  • Video scripts
  • Speech writing
  • Catalog copy

It also depends on the type of client you’re working with. An Information Marketer, for example, will have a constant need for both downloadable reports and audio scripts, but a custom cabinetry maker only needs the former and even that only occasionally, and a local car dealership will likely need neither one. An international construction contractor serving customers around the world will need extensive web content, while a small contractor building local houses might be able to thrive with only a listing on the “City Businesses” page in the local newspaper.

The point is, when you’re soliciting new business, you’ll want to consider the seven criteria above. Also think about the type of work you’ll be getting from that client and whether it is one-time or reoccurring. Evaluate everything and then make a decision on how much time and effort you want to put into pursuing any particular client.

We’ll pick it up again next week.

Until then…

Good health and good writing!

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John Torre

I reside in North Brunswick, NJ, with my wife, Lynn, and daughters Kasey, Jaclyn, and Shelly. We also have a 110 pound, lovable Rottie named Leo that keeps us on our toes! When we're not hard at work we enjoy spending weekends at our bungalow down the Jersey shore, or take extended trips to Walt Disney World as members of the Disney Vacation Club. For kicks, I draw on my dominant "right-brain" and play guitar in classic rock and blues bands, act for local plays and independent productions, and enjoy writing creative fiction. I'm a published author in short fiction and stage plays and a graduate of a local community college's Commercial Writer's Certificate Program. After graduating from the program I was selected as an instructor and taught "Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror" writing for 8 years. I enjoy many fine relationships I made with my students to this day.

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