Building Long-Term Client Relationships – Part 5: Example – The Relationship Continues

I’m sharing the story of how I developed a long-term relationship with a hypothetical client, Susan, who is really a composite of several clients. As in the previous post, I’ll share my client experience and intersperse comments about how a long-term client relationship developed.

Now that Susan’s book was edited, we discussed the next steps. She had read the Self-Publishing Primeras well as several of the resources listed in the primer. She had registered her company name, got a mailbox and a business phone line, and opened a business checking account. Although she had the information she needed to purchase her ISBNs, she gave me her credit card number and asked me to place the order online. She didn’t mind making phone calls or even going to the county office to register her business name, but she wasn’t comfortable placing an order online.

Susan had developed enough trust in me during the editing process that she was more comfortable giving me her credit card information than placing an order online herself. By respecting the confidentiality of her information and ensuring the order was placed properly, I reinforced her trust.

I offered to provide Susan with a list of cover designers, formatters, and printers. However, she asked if I would get quotes and give her my recommendation in each category. Along with the quotes, I showed her samples of work done for other clients. I gave her a quote from a formatter who had many years of experience in book layout, and I gave her a quote for me to do it. The price quotes were the same, and I pointed out to Susan that the other person had more experience than I did. However, she said she preferred for me to do because she knew me and trusted me.

She chose the cover designer and the  printer that I recommended. In comparing printers, I had asked for quotes for 500, 750, 1000, 1500, 2000, and 2500 copies. I shared with her in general terms – without identifying individual clients – the quantities of books my other clients typically order. She should consider the following in determining how many books to order, I suggested: the unit cost, the total cash outlay in relation to her budget, her available storage space, and the amount and kind of marketing she intended to do. I also mentioned that other clients who had written similar books had discovered new information they wanted to add or other changes they wanted to make in a second printing, which was much easier if the original order wasn’t a huge quantity.

Susan had a statistician help her determine the number of descendants of her ancestor who was the main character. She learned there were probably at least 10,000 living descendants, and she expected that descendants of other characters in the story as well as people interested in history of the period would also be potential book buyers. Although the unit price was the lowest for 2500 copies, Susan decided that 1000 copies was the best quantity for her.

Giving Susan the information she needed to make the right publishing decisions showed her I was working in her best interests and continued to build a collaborative working relationship. Susan felt that I was as interested in the success of her book as she was.

Throughout the process, I was available to consult with Susan on any aspect of self-publishing. I gave her feedback on the cover design and proofread the text in final format. We discussed the timing of the release of the book and scheduled it in time for Susan to have copies available for a family reunion. I suggested a news release about the book; Susan agreed, and I wrote a release for online distribution as well as for local media and the media in the community where the family reunion would be held.

I registered Susan’s domain name, provided Web hosting, designed her Web site, and installed the shopping cart. To encourage early orders, she took my advice to offer a free e-book that could be downloaded immediately when someone ordered a print book. Susan asked me to create a business card with her contact information on one side and the book cover and blurb on the other. I also made up a pre-order flyer that we sent to Susan’s family mailing list. At my recommendation, she offered a discount for books ordered in advance for her to deliver at the family reunion. We started a blog on her site – Susan sent me draft blog posts in e-mail or dictated them over the phone.

Susan began to think of me first for whatever advice or services she needed for publishing or marketing her book. By this time, she felt that I knew her book as well as she did so I could do a better job of just about anything to do with the book than someone who had not spent months getting to know Susan and her book.

Since the book was published, Susan has continued to call on me – to send out review copies of the book; to register with and with a distributor; to submit her book to contests and promotional sites and her blog and Web site to directories; to maintain her Web site and to edit and post blog posts; to send news releases about booksignings; to make the initial contact for potential appearances …

Susan doesn’t have to learn to do these things herself, and she doesn’t have to look for a different provider for various projects she wants done. She is confident that if I can’t provide the service myself, I can recommend a reliable person or company.

I stay in regular contact with Susan and all my author clients. I have a distribution list in Outlook, and whenever I find something that I think would be interesting or helpful I sent the e-mail to myself with a BCC to my author client list. A marketing tip in a blog, a new promotional opportunity, statistics on the publishing industry, anything they might want or need to know. Often Susan and several other clients respond to these messages asking me to take advantage of the promotional opportunity for their books.

For example, an acquaintance e-mailed me asking for donations for a silent auction at a gala fund-raising event for a literacy organization. They wanted to keep the auction items related to books and reading and would provide good publicity for the donors. I passed the request along to my author clients, and I’m assembling a number of donations – individual books and a gift basket of several books. The literacy organization benefits from the income generated at the auction, and my clients benefit from the publicity.

The messages provide valuable information to my clients, and the regular contact keeps me top of mind. Several of my author clients give me anywhere from as little as two or three hours work to as much as thirty  or forty hours in a given month, depending on where they are in the publishing process. I keep a running tab of the hours worked (not charging for a quick phone call or e-mail but rounding everything else to the nearest quarter hour) and invoice monthly for all the work done.

Two recent comments, the first in an e-mail and the second in a phone call, exemplify my long-term client relationships:
“You make my life easier.”
“You know me and my book so well it seems like you can read my mind.”

In the final installment of this series, I’ll summarize tips to build long-term client relationships. Ask any questions or make any suggestions of tips of your own in comments.

[tags]client relationships, freelancing[/tags] 

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