Customer-focused business people understand the importance of staying connected with former clients. It’s not hard but does require a concerted effort. You should be thinking of ways to stay in touch gently throughout the year.
I was reminded of this value just recently. A former client contacted me for assistance on a short-term project. It helped that I had worked for them on a freelance basis for nearly 3-1/2 years. And, I did the same type of work (writing catalog copy). But I like to think that my actions since we parted ways helped me.
How you handle these situations plays a large part in whether you’ll see that employer or customer again. Follow these four suggestions so you leave a positive impression.
1. Never burn a bridge. How often have you felt the urge to sound off on an employer or client as you were being cut? Of course, a lot depends on how the other person handles the situation. In my cases, the terminations (being let go from an agency and losing clients) were based mostly on economic conditions. Times were and still are tough. I was treated well during the transitions and responded in kind.
Except for extreme situations, resist the temptation to go negative. Act and speak professionally. Thank the employer or client for the opportunity, and ask about references. Many are happy to oblige. They, after all, want you to succeed.
2. Send a follow-up note. Further cement your professional image by sending an email or card reiterating what you mentioned on that fateful day. Include any details about you that could be useful to an employer or client. You never know just who that person knows. But the main reason for this step is to make your last official contact with that person even more positive.
3. Stay in touch. Send messages, notes and cards throughout the year. I like to be witty, and will look for humorous cards. You will find many around St. Patrick’s Day and Halloween. However, your card store or online source should have an abundant supply to offer on other dates.
I sent cards to current and former clients just before Independence Day. Of course, I hoped to remain top of mind. But I also genuinely wanted to offer my regards for the weekend.
Approximately three weeks later I was contacted about the project mentioned above. Can I say for certain that the 4th of July card did the trick? No, but it didn’t hurt either.
4. Be patient. Don’t expect old clients or employers to respond immediately. Indeed, you might never hear from them again. But you might be pleasantly surprised one day with a call or email.
How do you stay in touch after losing a client or finishing a short-term project? Did any opportunities return? Feel free to share your experiences and suggestions below.
For another angle on this topic, see “Customer service is a two-way street.”
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