Carrie Dils: Capturing Clients - How Building Good Relationships can Build Your Business

Carrie Dils delivered an excellent talk at WordCamp Austin on the why and how of building great relationships with clients. The slides are posted online so you can follow along. If you have any questions about my notes, feel free to post in the comments or find me on twitter.

Capturing Clients

How building good relationships will build your business

Not talking about: literally capturing clients (illegal) micro details (invoicing, etc.) We ARE talking about: God habits for maintaining great relationships with your clients The Goal: Pass on a useful nugget: leave today with a Monday morning action to take Agenda: 1. Finding clients 2. Setting the stage 3. Creating a love fest 4. Recovering from a bad situation (just in case!) Carrie Dils

Finding Clients:

We want the right kind

Know your ideal client

  • For Carrie, this is a small business owner - she likes working with the person signing the check
  • For others, this might be subcontracting with an agency
  • Know what's valuable to your ideal client
  • What makes them tick? What do they really want from you?
  • Know where your ideal client hangs out
  • You want to meet them!
  • Is it at a chamber of commerce meeting? A linkedin group? Facebook?
  • Be visible in the space where they're hanging out

Be visible

  • Participate where your ideal client is hanging out
  • Make yourself available - be welcoming with your body language, with how you talk to people online, how you present yourself in general, etc.
  • Have a network - Book called Love is the Killer App (how to win business and influence friends). Her value to her client is not just her knowledge, but also her network - she can connect them to other people

Have confidence!

  • Know the value you provide
  • Put a value on your time
  • Position yourself as someone of service

Offer value

  • Share information
  • Answer questions - you know some stuff that other people don't know
  • Connect people - share your network

Setting the stage:


  • Invite it
  • Insist on a response
  • Acknowledge - at Starbucks they acknowledge someone as soon as they come in the door. Even if you can't help someone right away, let them know they've been heard.

Set expectations

  • Roadmap - imagine if you showed up for surgery and they didn't tell you anything about what was going to happen. This is how clients feel! They don't know anything about the process of building a website, so tell them what's going to happen. This is simple for you, but gives them warm fuzzies
  • Timeline - when you'll start, projected finish date, etc.
  • Costs - be clear upfront

Set your client at ease

  • Be in control - let them feel like you're driving the bus. They don't have to worry about what's going to happen, because you're showing you have a clear plan.
  • Invite questions
  • Drop knowledge (or don't) - depends on the client. For some clients, show them the behind the scenes. Other clients don't care one bit, and that's ok!

Be excited for your client

  • Tie your success to your client's success - if someone has a bad experience with Carrie, that's bad for her business! She wants them to know that when she delivers a successful site, it means success for her.
  • Get your client excited - talk to them about what the website can do for their business, get them pumped up, etc.

Create a Love Fest:

"Satisfied customers are often repeat customers. Thrilled customers are also repeat customers, except they bring their friends with them next time." - Peter Stark in How to Thrill Your Customers

Say Thank You

  • End of project appreciation - be honest, but in some way thank them for their business. Even if you didn't enjoy them personally, you appreciate the business.
  • Yearly, hand-written note - you will blow their minds! - Carrie likes to do this around the holidays, but it can be on whatever timeframe makes sense for you
  • Referral gifts - can be as small as a thank-you email, or flowers, fruit basket, gift card, etc.

Keep in touch

  • Share relevant news that doesn't benefit you - some news article about their industry you saw, whatever
  • Share relevant news that does benefit you - e.g. there's some new gravity forms add-on for taking payments, and you can implement it for them next week
  • Check in periodically

Share and share alike

  • Send business - send people to your clients (if your clients are good!)
  • Give business - patronize your clients if it makes sense for you to
  • Draw positive attention to your client's business

Recovering from a bad situation:

Don't be like Smokey

  • "I second that emotion" - Smokey Robinson
  • Don't rise to meet your client's emotion. Maintain a professional demeanor.
  • A gentle answer makes anger disappear, but a rough answer makes it grow. - Proverbs 15:1

Turn that frown upside down

Own your mistakes - if you did something wrong, admit it, and then:

  • Make it right
  • Give a peace offering (a high-value to your customer, minimal cost to you add-on) - E.g. if you took too long on a project and your client is upset, offer them 3 months of free maintenance, where you would normally charge \$100/month for that.

----- Carrie, thanks for providing advice that's actionable! My biggest takeaway was the idea of sending yearly hand-written thank you notes to clients. This is so obvious, and something I've heard of before, but not something I've done. What's your biggest takeaway?