We’ve had some particularly good news at Tanner Friedman in recent weeks. Two “old” clients have come back into the fold, after years of hiatus. One has potential to remain with us as a long-term client with traditional and emerging PR priorities. The other now just has budget for occasional strategic communications services that we’re happy to provide. In both cases, it’s gratifying for us to form new partnerships with clients we enjoy doing business with and respect.
In professional services, it’s inevitable that some clients will become former clients. Circumstances change – from budgets to business priorities to management. So how can you get former clients back? Here’s some advice based on our recent experience:
-When good clients are caught in bad situations, blame the situation not the client. One client has struggled with a changing business model and “outside services” took a backseat to internal cultural change. That led to an elimination in our budget once upon a time. We didn’t take it personally because the door was left open by the client at the time. We went out of our way, during that process, to make time stay in frequent touch with insiders there and were in position to work with them as soon as opportunities arose.
-Whenever possible – remain friends. Regardless of the circumstances, it’s tough after a “breakup” to maintain friendships, in business relationships, just like in personal life. But it’s crucial. Stay in touch with past clients during an amicable hiatus. Keep them on your email list. Call to offer congratulations when you hear about good news happening at their company. Spend time with them at events. You don’t have to get paid to have a business relationship with people.
-Be ready to redefine the relationship. Over time, recognize that the client’s needs are going to evolve. So if there’s talk of “getting back together,” you probably can’t pick up exactly where you left off. The client will appreciate fresh thinking, a revised scope of work and, likely, a different financial structure in the new era.
It is reassuring to know that sound relationships can prevail, even in a business climate that has put a strain on relationships overall.