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18Sep/071

The Client Cycle Explained


We all know that developing a relationship with a client takes work. It sometimes is neglected at every stage in the process. This should never be the case. You need to be actively building a relationship with that client, beyond just the project. This client becomes a mouthpiece for your web design business. Whether you think they were the biggest pain to work with or whether you want them to or not, they will be. So how do you build this relationship?

We need to know the various stages that a client goes through so we can build a fruitful relationship. These stages circle around creating what we'll call the client cycle. This cycle consists of three distinct stages, identified by various aspects of a project. They are the Prospect Stage, the Proposal Stage, and the Project Stage. Let's look at each one individually.

Prospect Stage

Everyone starts off as a prospect. This is the stage where your relationship building is introductory. You are striving to build the relationship so that you can sell them your service. At this point they might not know you from Adam, so it is your job to foster the kind of relationship where they trust you enough to want a proposal.

Relationship building tips for this stage:

  • Keep them informed via a newsletter.
  • Actively invite them to partake in your service.
  • Get to know them on a personal level, if possible.
  • Provide some sort of value, whether they become a client or not.
  • Demonstrate your abilities through examples.

Proposal Stage

As your prospects begin wanting your services and when they ask for a proposal, they enter the proposal stage. It is at this stage that generalities are thrown out the window. When a person asks for a proposal, they are asking for a quote on a specific service. You are now trying to sell them that specific service. You can now focus your energies to presenting it in its best light. This simple adjustment can make the difference in a prospect feeling comfortable enough to make a purchase. Even though they've asked for a quote do not stop building the relationship. The stronger a relationship is the more trust exists and that genuine trust is what turns a prospect into a client.

Relationship building tips for this stage:

  • Reinforce your trustworthiness.
  • Continue to demonstrate your abilities through examples.
  • Educate your prospect on the various aspects of the proposal.
  • Don't stop providing value.

Project Stage

This is the stage where your prospect has actually turned into a client. Even though we'd like to consider them clients when we send them a proposal, technically they aren't until they sign on the dotted line. So let's say they've accepted the proposal and made that commitment. This stage is the project stage. In this stage you are completing that service or making that product. While it is easy to neglect the relationship during this stage because you are busy fulfilling their requests, it is important to involve them in this stage as well. The more involved and knowledgeable they are throughout the process the better insight they have when referring others to you. After all they will know exactly how you work not just what kind of work you do.

Relationship building tips for this stage:

  • Continue to educate them.
  • Yes, keep providing value.
  • Demonstrate your abilities, by going above and beyond.

After you've completed a project with a prospect turned client, they then turn back into a prospect and repeat the cycle. You see building a relationship is key to client retention. Many clients will be repeat clients and may be the foundation under which your business grows. Do not neglect them!

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