While it’s never a good idea to focus too much attention on what not to do in business, analyzing negative outcomes allows us to determine where the missteps occurred so that others can avoid them.
In this series, we’ll look at our Top 10 Serial Killers of Business – the ones that seem to be repeated over and over again. The take-away is that old adage, “hope for the best, but plan for the worst.”
#10 Loss of a Key Customer
The highest risk here is to freelancers and smaller businesses, but even the multi-nationals sometimes get caught without ready options. It is admittedly very easy to ride high on a long, profitable project that has no end in sight. You work hard, and you play hard, and you don’t worry about spending. The most common problem with this scenario, is that the end is never in sight. It often happens very suddenly. You’re out. The client has no further need of your services, no matter how vociferously you point out your worth. And, this particular client has no idea when they might need you again. It’s maybe the worst kind of break-up, hurting your feelings as well as your livelihood.
So, you except it up and make a plan to start searching for the next big thing. The problem is, you only now realize that it’s been two years since you’ve had any contact with any of your other big clients; since you’ve attended a networking event; since you’ve done any active marketing at all. You have no leads and no prospects.
Stay in touch with existing clients and contacts: Your goal here is to strengthen or at least maintain, positive relationships. Schedule a half day twice a year to send a personal email or greeting card to your best customers. If you can create a formal Customer Relationship Management (CRM) program that includes all of your contacts, that’s even better.
Continue networking: Make it a priority to attend at least one event each month. Consider assigning a staff member to do the rest, or better yet, seek out some new networking venues.
Continue marketing: It may seem like a waste of money to advertise when you don’t need the work, but it’s not. Let the inquiries continue, and be sure to respond to them promptly. If someone wants to hire you, find out how urgent it is. If you can’t fit it in yourself, bring on a recruit or associate. If you have to say no, tell them you’ll get in touch when you’re available again, creating an opportunity for a future sales call.
Create a “Flying High Fund:” Set aside 10 to 25% of your monthly earnings every month while you’re “Flying High” with this fabulous customer. Consider it the “shock absorber” you’ll need if a break-up occurs.