About the author:
Steve Slaunwhite coaches freelancers in how to get all the ideal clients and great-paying projects they want. To book your FREE 30-minute coaching session, email steve at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s often been said that if you go the extra mile for your clients, you’ll be rewarded with more repeat business and referrals.
But you don’t necessarily have to haul your butt an extra mile every time. Often, just an extra yard, or even just a few inches, will do!
Here’s what I mean:
You see, I was in Austin, Texas earlier this year leading a series of business-to-business copywriting workshops. It was a fantastic experience. But what made it great, besides the wonderful group of professionals who attended, was the hotel. The staff there did a terrific job of making my stay comfortable and enjoyable.
Now here’s the thing. Most of the services they provided were similar to what you would expect at most good hotels. The room was clean. The staff was friendly and helpful. The food was tasty. (No awful “banquet food” here!)
But they did do one special thing — one seemingly insignificant, but actually very significant thing — that ensures that I’ll stay at that hotel again and recommend it to others.
They bought me a jar of peanut butter.
You see, I’m a bit of a peanut butter nut. (No pun intended.) I have toast and peanut butter for breakfast almost every morning. So when I went down to the hotel restaurant my first morning in Austin, guess what I ordered?
“Toast with peanut butter, please.”
The waitress serving me looked genuinely concerned. “Ah, sorry sir. We don’t stock peanut butter. But we do have several varieties of jam!”
I was disappointed but tried not to show it. “Ah, strawberry,” I said.
Then, the next morning, I got a different waiter. So I took a chance and asked for peanut butter again. No luck.
Then, on the third morning, I went down for breakfast and was greeted by my original waitress. “I’ll have coffee and whole wheat toast with, ah . . . strawberry jam, please,” I ordered politely.
She had a slight sheepish grin on her face. “Would you like to have peanut butter instead?” Her smile broadening.
“Ah, yes. That would be great. Thanks!” I said, as if the offer had made my day. And in a way, it had.
I found out later on that the hotel restaurant had purchased a jar of peanut butter just for me.
Keep in mind that I never made a fuss. It wasn’t like I was irate because, damn it, there’s no peanut butter. I was fine with the jam. But the restaurant staff obviously noticed that the peanut butter — which probably cost them less than five dollars — would make me a much happier customer. And it did.
The lesson here is obvious. You don’t necessarily have to go way above and beyond the call of duty to win over clients — and thereby get more repeat business and referrals. Sometimes all it takes is a little extra or a minor accommodation; an extra yard.
One of my past coaching clients, a freelance corporate trainer, once helped a client develop a skills development survey for his employees. She spent about an hour with him on the phone, walking him through the process and brainstorming questions to ask. And she didn’t charge him a cent for the extra time. “To this day,” she says, “my client still mentions the help I gave him and thanks me for it.”
My guess is, he probably gives her more repeat business and referrals, too.
And by the way, this strategy works just as well with prospects. Remember, prospects, even if they never do business with you, can still potentially refer work your way.
So how do you put this “extra yard” strategy to work in your freelance business? Here are a few ideas:
- A new prospect contacts you about a project you don’t handle. Send him two or three names of professionals you know who do handle that type of work.
- You just wrote a press release for a client. Offer a few tips on how to follow-up with an important editor of a key publication.
- A prospect calls wanting a new website designed. Before you even get the order, provide some free advice on plug-ins he can use to integrate his site with social media.
- It’s the holiday season. Send your best client a stack of Starbucks gift cards to distribute to all his employees. (I do this with my best client and every time I visit his offices, at least one person thanks me for them.)
- Every so often, for a regular client, do a small project for free. Don’t say so in advance. Simply write on the invoice: “Fee waived. This one’s on me. Thanks for the business.”
These are little things you can do that don’t cost you much in terms of time or money. But they can have a huge impact on the experience the client or prospect has in dealing with you.
And the more clients and prospects there are out there who have a positive experience with your freelance services, the more business is likely to come your way.
So when you see an opportunity to “buy a jar of peanut butter,” do it!
- Review your list of current clients. Are there some little things you could be doing to create a better experience with your services?
- Create a “vendor list”. That way, you can quickly recommend other professionals and companies to your prospects and clients. This is one of the easiest ways to “buy the peanut butter”.
- Take a closer look at how you deal with prospects. Are they having a positive experience interacting with you, even if they don’t end up hiring your services?