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No more “one night stands” – Ways to build long-lasting client relationships – Part 1

Posted by Ilise Benun on

Did you know that the concept of a one-night stand actually originated in theatre, and referred to a one-night performance? Of course, nowadays we think of it as describing a certain kind of (ahem…) "encounter." The one-night stand I am referring to here is neither of those, but closely relates in many ways. 

I am referring to that new prospect, no more than a stranger, who needs a "quickie" job to be finished yesterday. Perhaps they found you on the web or you met them briefly at an event of some kind. They may try to rush you into getting started without so much as a down payment or signed agreement because they are just in such a hurry to get the job done, and seem uninterested in a relationship of any kind with you.

Here are a few reasons this type of situation can be less than lovely. I'm sure you can add more:

You find out too late that he/she's not your kind: Imagine you're hard-pressed for cash-flow and you rush into this with the great expectation of making a quick buck, only to find out that your new client is completely clueless. Before you know it, you have scope creep, endless phone calls, emails that take hours to scour, and what was supposed to be a "quickie" drags on and on into infinity…with someone you hardly know.

The guilt of cheating: Whether you realize it at the time or not, you are actually cheating yourself, AND your current clientele. By spending so much unnecessary time with this new person who is eating up 80% of your time (at 20% profit), you don't have any time left for marketing your own business or relationship-building with your loyal clients. You become exasperated, and these feelings start to leak out into all of your business goings-on. You begin to feel a little guilty, maybe even a bit slimy.

Unexpected complications always arise: Be prepared to handle these, as they always occur without fail. Imagine that you already have a project going for loyal Client A and you choose to put it on hold to take care of this project for new Client B that "must be taken care of immediately." There may be promises of more business to come if you can prove yourself with this one, but regardless of the justifications, you are putting Client A on the back-burner. What if you are found out? It can completely ruin your long-standing and trusted relationship.

You get stiffed: A friend of mine teaches swimming technique and just moved into a new neighborhood. Eager to make new friends, his neighbor asked if he wouldn't mind giving her children private lessons, to which he quickly said, "Of course! I would love to." Needing the cash, and not wanting to appear rude, he waited until after he had finished the lessons to present her with the invoice. She said, "I don't feel it was worth this much, so I'm only going to pay you for half of it." The lesson here? ALWAYS GET AT LEAST A DOWN PAYMENT WHEN DEALING WITH SOMEONE YOU DO NOT KNOW, regardless of how badly you want (or need) the job. Being a patsy is not impressive.

Bad reputation: Clients talk. If loyal Client A becomes unhappy with your inattention, you could lose potential, profitable referrals… and let's face it, these are the lifeblood of your business. Another situation could be that your new one-night stand starts referring all of his/her friends to you, telling them that you are "easy" and will take any job that comes your way. This can seriously compromise any successful positioning in the marketplace you may have been able to achieve for yourself.

Tomorrow, I'll share tips on how to turn this fickleness into loyalty before the job even begins…

PAMELA SAXON helps those in arts and entertainment visually express themselves through integrated marketing, as well as helping them to get organized in their social media efforts. You can find her on Twitter, and on Facebook, or sign up for her newsletter here:

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