Keep Clients Engaged: The Step-by-Step Guide to Designing a Client Communications Program
Want to keep clients engaged and grow your business more easily? We’ll walk step-by-step through setting up a program to delight clients, and grow the revenue you get from them in a win-win way. Click to download the following content in a handy printable PDF-workbook format.
Across the board, relationship-building is becoming cost of entry.
How are you staying top of mind for clients between visits? Getting their input?
Clients are going to leave for various reasons, so of course you’ll always want to keep attracting new patients–but replacing those who leave is costly!
Depending on the industry, it can cost 5-25x as much to acquire a new client than to retain one.
Your existing clients are your greatest asset. They already know you, and hopefully trust you. They’re more likely to be open to any new product and service solutions you offer. They’re more likely to refer you to another.
Someday you may be interested in selling your business, and the number of active, engaged clients you have will have a tremendous impact on the value of your business.
For all these reasons, taking the time to define a process for building relationships, staying in touch over time, providing consistent value and care, and expanding your ability to listen to their needs and wants, is absolutely a high ROI activity.
Engage with Your Clients, So They Engage with You
Just as with any human relationship, client retention—a.k.a “loyalty”—requires that you MUST prioritize factors like listening, empathy, dialogue and relevance.
Fortunately with a little advance planning and the right tech you can pull the pieces together to create a communication program that will support the positive relationship seeds you plant while providing your services.
The following guide will help you grow client engagement and retention by:
- developing a plan that’s customized to your business;
- incorporating the people and technologies available to you;
- engaging with clientes and serve their needs in a more natural way.
It’s not something you’ll knock out in a day, but it’s the essential step that effectiveness-focused businesses are doing.
Want to jump right to the action steps for developing your plan? Click to download a PDF of the full guide, with worksheets!
1. Define the OBJECTIVES for your Communications Program
Take 5-10 minutes to list your objectives. The top objective for all practices should be something along the lines of: Break down perceived barriers and support the positive seeds you and your staff have (hopefully) planted during clients’ visits. You will undoubtedly have more.
2. Clarify the Distinguishing Aspects of Your Business
An ideal client-provider relationship requires trust, naturally, but it doesn’t stop there. Sharing a fundamental agreement on approach and style of care helps establish a basis for good rapport—critical for any relationship.
Take the time now to clarify the elements that distinguish your business, perhaps differentiate you from others, and the ways in which your ideal clients connect with your approach. You’ll carry what you learn into your communications program later.
A. What are the non-negotiable elements in how you and your business deliver care? For how you operate as a business? Or for what makes your business distinctive?
B. How might you serve clients if you could clone yourself, or if you could find a way to share your knowledge and care without having to be physically in front of them or on the phone with them?
C. Consider your ideal clients: What do they have in common? What do they seem to like in your approach, style, and systems? What do you think would make them even happier or more satisfied?
D. Finally consider the not-so-ideal clients: What do they have in common? What prevents you and them from seeing eye to eye?
3. Identify the Important Segments in Your Client List
You wouldn’t engage with your spouse, your mother and your best friend all in exactly the same way; if you want to keep clients engaged, you have to be more personalized with them, too.
By all means set standards for procedures, quality of service and consistency in how your business presents itself to the world (e.g.,, your “brand”), but when it comes to keeping clients engaged, you’ll need to tailor your communications program to the individual as much as possible.
The more often and the more genuinely you show caring for a specific client situation, the stronger your ties are likely to be.
A. Create a list of the main segments or sub-segments you can address in your client base; at a minimum you might consider: Demographics (gender and/or gender identification, age, income, location); major concerns, interests or needs; stage of the buyer journey or of your process.
B. Create a list of the data you’d need to capture in order to automate more-personalized communication, e.g.,: Date of last meeting; categorization for last project or service type; referral provided; main trouble areas or interests.
When, where and how do you connect with your clients?
Each of these touch points is an opportunity to build (or erode) your relationship.
C. Itemize each possible touch point you have with clients, using the suggestions that follow as a thought-starter. Add any additional touch points you incorporate. Then, imagine what care looks like through your clients’ eyes… are there touch points that clients might want that you aren’t currently making at all?
- Finding your business (Google search, Facebook, your website, industry or networking site)
- Initial sign up to an email list on your site (before they set an appointment)
- Welcome email
- Call/online booking of 1st appointment
- Appointment confirmation
- Pre-appointment testing, screening or input docusment
- In-office greeting
- Pre-appointment time with staff
- Appointment with you
- Payment and Scheduling next appointment
- Post-visit follow-up (feedback, homework, test results, general follow up, follow up on a referral to another professional)
- Reminders to schedule another appointment (even if that’s down the line)
- Ongoing “accidental” contact (email news, social media posts, ads they may see, podcasts, radio/TV, YouTube)
D. For each of the above touch points, decide which channel should be used for your outreach and mark each item to specify which method you will use in your new Communications Program.
Use C, T, E or P as follows: phone call (C), text (T), email (E), portal message (P) if you business uses those. Download the guide for an easy-to-fill-in chart.
TIP: Consider time, cost & feasibility for your business, but also consider what matters from the client’s viewpoint.
When you have permission to engage with a client, sharing content tailored to their needs and interests by email is among the most successful channels; it’s also one that you, rather than a 3rd party platform, control. Read more about email marketing for patient enagement.
Might there be a major lift in satisfaction by changing to a more personal channel (e.g., call vs email)? Note any tests you should implement to determine impact…
4. Lay the Groundwork for Ongoing Dialogue as part of maintaining client engagement
As a service provider today, you’re probably well trained and practiced in good listening one-on-one. Using the communications tools available today to expand your listening and grow opportunities for dialogue will help set you apart and facilitate the engagement that will support client success and retention.
Consider how you can use your communication programs to extend YOUR listening and THEIR sharing:
A. When do you currently follow up yourself? What method(s) do you use for each?
B. When do you have a staff member follow up? What method(s) do they use?
C. When and how do you (or could you) use surveys — printed or emailed — to learn more about clients’ satisfaction, likes and dislikes, interests or needs? When and how do you reflect on input?
D. How do you respond to their answers? You’ll create a stronger relationship if you validate the clients’ side of the conversation after you collect any input. How can you plan ahead to respond to them, not only with a thank you message but also with some indication of the impact their voice has had in your dialogue?
A word about portals & keeping clients engaged…
Many businesses are using portals to facilitate information sharing. If yours is among these:
- How often are your clients using the portal?
- Which clients are using and which are not?
- What sort of training, feedback and dialogue in general have you had with clients about the portal?
Wishing you had a place to write down all your answers? Download the FREE guide and workbook now!
5. Define Your Success Metrics & Key Performance Indicators
You undoubtedly measure many aspects of your business to determine success and adjust strategies and tactics. Before rolling out any Communications Program, you’ll want to be able to decide what is working and how you define success.
A. Recap the Communications Program Objectives you outlined on page 1; also list any new objectives you’ve thought of.
B. What Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) do you track — e.g., about keeping clients engaged and active? What client segments will you need to monitor? What touch points?
C. What additional factors do you suspect might influence engagement or retention? How can you test and track those?
D. Are there any other KPIs you need to monitor to see if you’re making progress toward the objectives above?
6. Define the Value You Can Offer to Keep Clients Engaged Beyond Service Delivery [a.k.a. Content]
Your clients have turned to you for expertise. In a world full of incomplete and/or conflicting news, providing helpful or interesting information and insights to your clients is a true service.
(If you’re worried that you don’t have the time to develop all that content, freelance writers, like yours truly, can assist—often far more affordably than bringing on a new staff member to do the job.)
Now that we’ve set that concern aside, come up with an initial list of the types of content you’d like to share. For instance:
A. What sorts of non-confidential information, education, news, products or services would you want your clients to know about? Here are some ideas to get you started:
- News about your business, and/or about related developments or studies
- Your insights on trends
- Special services or products you offer
- Tips related to your discipline
- Links to other community resources
B. What do you wish your clients knew—about your business, discipline, self-assessing, etc?
C. What other things do you wish you had more time to educate clients about?
D. What types of content would make clients feel more connected to your business, proud to be a client, or just generally feel more warmly towards you and your team
- Staff and provider profiles, highlights and motivations
- Stories about community works you, your staff and/or business are involved in
- Special “thank you” items or offers—your own, or in partnership with other providers
Personalization & the Goldilocks factor
A certain amount of personalization in your content creates much-needed relevance; too much can be downright creepy. Go for the happy medium! Don’t overuse their name or link diagnoses. Generalized info about likely concerns is typically safe.
E. Scan the patient segments you listed earlier to see if you can identify any other data points you might capture in order to share these things by email without going overboard (or conflicting with industry rules if that applies to you)
7. Develop Your Timeline and Content Calendar
Because very few businesses actually reach out regularly to their clients, one easy way to set yours apart is through consistent outreach.
Your goal is to be present often enough to stay familiar, and be welcomed, when your message crosses your client’s path.
Staying in touch consistently reminds them that you’re available, and can also show they’re more than just a billable transaction to you.
The actual interval between outreach will vary at different stages in your relationship with each client; the touch points you developed earlier will make a good general guide to those stages.
Look back at the major client segments and touch points you defined earlier, and start to sketch out a few communications you can start to commit to. Start slowly—you’ll be able to add more to your calendar over time.
Once you’ve worked through the above you’ve completing the deep thinking and planning needed to get your Communications Program underway!
Now it’s time to get started. If you’re unsure what your next steps are, refer to the checklist on the last page of our free PDF now.
Psst: If this is seems like an overwhelming job given all the other responsibilities you have, don’t worry. We can help: Click to schedule a 30-minute consult on Wendy’s calendar to learn about the options for getting started. No sales pressure, promise!