In any business, one of the big challenges but most fulfilling – and profitable – outcomes is creating lasting client relationships.

It’s so much easier to sell products and services to clients who already know and trust you. And not only will they make repeat bookings at your agreed rates, they also have the potential to be your brand ambassadors and greatest source of referrals.

“Just having satisfied customers isn’t good enough anymore. If you really want a booming business, you have to create raving fans.” Quote by Ken Blanchard

With this in mind, I wanted to take a walk through the client journey and the different stages that can affect how you attract and keep your clients.

It all starts with your ideal client

Ideal client, target customer, client avatar – these are all names that marketers give the people/businesses that are most likely to buy from you.

Whatever you call them, they play an important role because it’s so much easier to target your marketing at a specific person/group of people than to try to appeal to everyone.

Who your ideal client is will depend on a number of factors: who you enjoy working with, who would most benefit from the training you offer, the location, budget, industry and so on.

I’d always recommend devoting time to identifying and getting to know your ideal client as it will propel your marketing to the next level.

There’s much more detailed information and advice about how to do this in my article about How to identify your ideal client.

Understanding the buying journey

Once you know who your ideal client is, the next step towards creating a lasting relationship is to recognise the buying journey that they will go on to reach you.

As I discussed in How to win more clients through the buying journey, people tend to go through three key stages:

  • Awareness – when they hear about you for the first time and then start to build up a picture of who you are and what you offer
  • Evaluation – when they compare you to other trainers and weigh up whether you’re right for their business
  • Purchase – when they decide to hire you as a trainer and commit to a booking

You can build up your presence in a potential client’s mind by giving them content of value at each of these stages.

This might be blogs, ebooks or a whitepaper during the Awareness stage; case studies, webinars and testimonials during the Evaluation Stage; and a phone consultation, pitch for a bespoke training day or a taster session during the Purchase stage.

The purpose of having different offerings for each stage is to provide value throughout the buying journey and create an ongoing relationship that builds up over time. You want your clients to know that they matter at every stage.

Ultimately, if you can make people feel good about buying from you, the chances are they’ll keep coming back.

Reaching your potential clients

Having identified your potential clients and mapped out what you can offer them at different stages of the buying journey, you also have to think about how you’re going to reach them.

Understandably, many trainers are keen to reach local clients because it’s more convenient for providing training, attending meetings and building up rapport face-to-face.

If this is relevant for your business, you can attract local clients through methods such as:

  • Having an up-to-date and complete Google My Business page
  • Adding your details to reputable online directories (make sure your name, address and contact numbers are written in the same format as on your Google My Business page)
  • Getting Google reviews from existing clients
  • Having location-specific information on your website and featuring your name, address and phone number on the header or footer of your site
  • Focusing on local search options for your Google Ads

I’ve put together more information in my blog called 15 easy ways trainers can reach local clients.

Creating healthy client relationships

In my experience, the most enduring client relationships are the ones that have healthy boundaries from the outset.

Simple things like sticking to your opening hours, not answering calls in the evenings or over the weekend, having a contract with transparent rates, and following up meetings with notes all contribute to a good working relationship.

Clients also appreciate it when you value their time and your own.

In my blog about 15 ways to get the most out of client meetings, you’ll find suggestions about goal setting, who to invite, and keeping track of the to-do list. These are all designed to make your face-to-face time with clients as productive and enjoyable as possible.

If clients enjoy your company but can also see the value you bring to the table, they’re likely to keep coming back.

When a good client turns bad

Although it would be good for every client relationship to be positive and long-lasting, everyone comes up against a ‘bad’ client (or two) the longer they’re in business.

No-one sets out to be a bad client, much less a client from hell.

Client relationships often break down due to a lack of boundaries, which is why I recommend setting your boundaries at the start of a new contract.

The following can all help get a floundering client relationship back on track:

  • Providing a contract that outlines your role, availability, the project, deadlines, fees and payment terms
  • Counting to 10 before you reply to consider their perspective and your response
  • Restating your terms and conditions
  • Communicating with the client about challenges they might be facing or what they’re expectations are

You’ll find more about this in the article, How to stop a bad client from running your business.

"Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning." Quote by Bill Gates

Client from hell? It’s OK to fire them!

Part of being able to create lasting client relationships is knowing where your cut off point. In other words, recognising when it’s time to walk away.

With the best intentions in the world, some client relationships will come to an end and that’s OK. You are entitled to end a working relationship that no longer serves your business – and sometimes your physical and/or mental health – so that you can free up space for a client that’s a better fit.

Firing a client is always nerve-wracking but it doesn’t have to be ugly. You can find some hints and tips about ending things professionally here.

Above all, try not to let a bad client experience crowd out or overtake your good client relationships.

Let your clients know they matter

Many trainers make the mistake of constantly looking for new clients while forgetting to nurture the ones they already have.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, it’s so much easier to sell to an existing customer than to someone new.

For this reason, the client journey shouldn’t come to an end once you’ve delivered the training you were hired for.

You should make it a priority to find ways to show your clients that you value them.

This could take the form of offering a training follow up, creating a complementary or advanced training course as a progression for trainees or even just finding ways to say thank you.

"There's a place in the world for any business that takes care of its customers after the sale." Quote by Harvey MacKay

Conclusion

Targeting clients who are a good fit for your business is a great starting point. Every aspect of your marketing can be designed and written to speak directly to them. This can help you to reach them throughout the buying journey.

Then, as we’ve seen, setting clear professional boundaries makes sure you all have fair expectations about how the relationship will work. If this goes off-track, it’s in everyone’s interests to reinforce the boundaries before it becomes a problem. You’re also allowed to walk away.

The advantage of recognising these things is that you’ll be able to foster lasting client relationships that strengthen and empower you as a trainer.

How confident are you that you know your ideal client? Is there anything you struggle with when it comes to finding and keeping clients? What do you to keep client relationships current? I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments below.

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