8 Tips to Creating a Loyal International Client Base
Most entrepreneurs are familiar with Thomas Friedman’s “The World Is Flat,” a book that has become somewhat of a bible for those of us engaging in international business. Globalization has done both wondrous and horrifying things for business, many of which fall under both categories at once. The ability to reach an international roster of potential clients for instance, has both amazing and difficult consequences.
So how do we create a loyal international client base in a globalized era where stiff competition exists at every turn? Strategies will vary of course depending on what particular industry you’re in, what stage your company is at (brand new, somewhat established or very established) and whether you’re hoping to simply snap up clients for the short term or whether your goal is to establish long term relationships. Regardless of the variances though, there are fundamental winning strategies that work across the board.
- Know your own strengths and weaknesses. If you can’t be honest with yourself about what your strengths and weaknesses are, you will inevitably get caught off guard by your client’s line of questioning. The typical “why should we choose to work with you” will end up with you providing a boring, generic answer instead of a unique, honest one that will more often than not, stick in your potential clients’ memory.
- Know the full spectrum of rates in your industry in all the countries you’re interested in marketing to. Unless you’re already at the top of your industry with a stellar reputation, you can’t always command the highest prices. If you’re great at what you do, you should also never undersell yourself. Once you start doing that, it’s a vicious cycle. Find a comfortable middle ground where you’re demanding rates that cover your own needs but are still competitive enough to win clients over. You can’t compete with rates in third world countries but you can still win clients there by demonstrating your level of talent and professionalism.
- Be flexible with your schedule. When you’re building your brand and reputation in an international market, flexibility is key. If your clients are working, you better be available for them given the time differences.
- Familiarize yourself with your potential clients’ cultures. Nobody likes working with people who are rude and ignorant to standard business etiquette. Problem is, standard business etiquette changes from one country to another. Take the time to learn at least the basics of your clients’ cultural backgrounds and traditions. All this information is available online these days so there’s no excuse.
- Go the extra ten miles for your client. If their business means that much to you, then show it in ways that matter to them. Whether it’s providing a one-time discount or solving a particularly difficult issue that you weren’t hired to do, find something that means a lot to them but doesn’t kill you to accomplish.
- Endear clients to you on a personal level. The cardinal rule that everybody easily forgets- treat others as you would like to be treated. We are all human. Establish a more personal level of interaction within appropriate parameters. Get to know if they have families, their hobbies, favorite foods, etc. Find common ground that mutually relates you as people, not business entities.
- Stay in touch between projects. You don’t like being another number in a company do you? Why would your clients? Extend yourself to clients between projects to show that you genuinely care about their well being and that they’re not just dollar signs to you. Being genuine pays off in huge dividends when clients’ friends and colleagues are looking for your expertise and your client remembers you.
- Add value to their business and lives. Nobody gets through life alone. Throughout your life and business, people have done small and big things to help you progress whether you remember or not. Do the same for your clients. From something small and detailed like sending a thoughtful, appropriate gift on their birthday to introducing them to others in your network where meaningful connections may be established, you should strive to be a value adder.