Don’t think of former clients as “dead” clients. They may just be “resting,” as the shopkeeper tried to say in the famous Monty Python parrot skit. If you had a good relationship with past clients once, you may be able to rekindle it or encourage a referral by keeping in touch.
The key? “Be direct,” according to the members of my local freelancer group, Communicators Connection. In a spirited discussion at our November meeting, they shared these tips:
Restart old relationships:
- Be top of mind by staying in touch. Send a relevant article or book with a handwritten note, “Saw this and thought of you.”
- Regular newsletters, articles and blog posts can also help you stay in touch.
- Stay visible with regular LinkedIn updates and contributions to groups.
- Let the client know when you have new skills to offer.
- Recognize that clients are busy. Offer to take a specific job off their plate.
- Mention that you’ve just finished a project and have some time available on your schedule.
- No response after multiple emails? Andrea Dubravsky suggests a short message saying, “I haven’t heard back from you on [project description], so I assume you’ve gone in a different direction or your priorities have changed. Let me know if I can be of assistance in the future.”
- There’s nothing wrong with saying, “I’d really like to work with you again.”
Expand the number of people you deal with at a company:
- Is there a similar person (job position, department) in a different division or geographic location? Would your existing contact introduce you? Be direct and ask! It adds value that you already know the company.
- Check and follow the company’s page on LinkedIn. Do you have people in common? Again, ask for an introduction.
- At the start of a project, suggest other people (maybe a VP or directors) who are typically involved in similar projects. Ask if they should be brought in.
- When you complete a project, ask your contact if other areas of the company might have similar needs. Remind him/her of other services you provide.
- Ask other suppliers, such as accountants or lawyers, if they can connect you with [level of job] at [type of company].
If your contact has left a company you worked with:
- Ask the administrative staff if they can connect you with the new person or an alternate.
- Look at past email exchanges to see if other people have been copied on them.
- Get in touch with your contact’s boss or whoever else authorized the project you worked on.
- Remember to keep in touch with the contact. You ARE already connected on LinkedIn, aren’t you?
Above all, as already mentioned, be direct. People assume YOU are busy, too, unless they hear otherwise. If you don’t ask, they may not realize you are interested in doing more work with them or that you would like a referral.
Image: Blue-Winged Macaw by “criminalatt” and FreeDigitalPhotos.net.