It’s a simple principle of business that it’s easier to sell more to your existing customer-base than it is to find more customers for the same product, and service-based businesses like graphic design are no different. It’s easy to fall into the trap of spending too much time worrying about how to get more clients, when we should spend some of that time thinking about how to get more work from the clients we already have. Here are a few ways to do just that.
The Classic Upsell
We’re all familiar with the classic upsell, yet most of us fail to use it on a regular basis. The upsell is the familiar “Would you like fries with that?” phrase. There’s a reason that fast food employees are trained to always ask if you want fries and a drink. It’s because it works. These simple and inoffensive questions result in a significant boost in sales. So why are most of us afraid to do it?
I think part of the reason we don’t try to upsell our clients is because we’re afraid of offending them, but this fear is totally unfounded. For starters, when was the last time you saw someone get mad at a fast food employee for offering them fries? Likely never. For designers, the upsell can really benefit the client too. If you’re designing a brochure, often putting together a small flyer while your at it doesn’t take much more work. If you offer and they accept, they get twice the marketing materials at a nominally greater cost, and you increased the value of that job. Everybody wins.
Proactively Generate Ideas
Closely related to our reticence to upsell, is our hesitation when it comes to suggesting new projects. In my experience, many designers tend to play their cards close to their chests when it comes to ideas for fear that if we share them the client will take the idea and get someone else to do the work. Yes, that is a possibility (though it is a rare occurrence), but even if they do, the only thing you’ve lost is work you didn’t have in the first place.
So, if you have nothing to lose, and potentially new work to gain, why not give the client some ideas. Even if they don’t use your idea at all, they’re appreciate that you’ve been thinking about their business, which builds loyalty and increases their chances of referring new clients to you. So, go ahead and suggest that guerrilla marketing campaign, or the new signage, or whatever. What do you have to lose?
Create A Followup Schedule
Checking in with your clients on a regular basis is a great way to get more work from them. As a rule, I try to follow up with every client once every month or so. These can be an explicit request for work (“just checking to see if you need any design work done”), a followup on the success of previous work (“I was wondering if you’ve seen new business from that promotional piece I deigned for you”), or just a friendly exchange (“I came across this article that I thought might be insightful for your business”), depending on the situation.
There are three great benefits of regular followups: they often result in new work, they foster a relationship with your clients, and they help to cut down on those last-minute deadlines by forcing the client to think about design work in advance. If you use a CRM (customer relationship management or client retention management – depending who you talk to) system, followups can often be set as a recurring task at regular intervals. Otherwise, there’s always the old fashioned method of writing it on your calendar.
Supporting Skill Sets
Another way to get more work from your clients is to gain some additional skill sets that compliment your design skills, which you can offer in addition to your usual design services. For example, learning copywriting skills means that you can offer to write the copy for the brochure, website, or advertisement that you’re designing, and learning markup languages (like HTML and CSS) allows you to offer basic websites in addition to print design.