André Gauci wrote this on July 06, 2017

Finding Repeat Clients: The Complete Guide (2017 Update)

If your digital agency or freelance business is starting from $0 at the beginning of each month, it's time to rethink the way you do business.

First, some stats:

  1. A 2% increase in customer retention has the same effect as decreasing costs by 10%. 1
  2. A 5% reduction in the customer defection rate can increase profits by 5 – 95%. 2
  3. It costs 6–7 times more to acquire a new customer than retain an existing one. 2
  4. The probability of selling to an existing customer is 60 – 70%. The probability of selling to a new prospect is 5-20%. 3

All these stats reaffirm that:

Every business should harness the power of repeat customers and reap the benefits in repeat sales.

What are repeat customers? What is repeat business?

Repeat customers are customers that use your services more than once.

When you're running a digital agency or a freelance business, repeat sales will usually come in one of two forms:


Cross-sell is the practice of selling or suggesting related or complimentary products to a prospect or customer. - Investopedia

An example of cross selling in a full service digital agency would be to offer complementary digital marketing services after launching your customer's website.

Recurring revenue

Recurring revenue is the portion of a company's revenue that is highly likely to continue in the future. This is revenue that is predictable, stable and can be counted on in the future with a high degree of certainty. - Investopedia

An example of recurring revenue in a full service digital agency would be to offer monthly Search Engine Optimization (SEO) services to your customer at a fixed price.

The anatomy of a repeat customer

Not all customers possess the qualities of a repeat customer.

In fact, only a small portion of your customers will turn out to be repeat customers.

So the big question is, how do you spot customers that are great candidates for repeat sales?

Turns out it's not that hard.

Over the years we've learned that a repeat customer looks something like this:

1. They aren't on a shoestring budget.

"We'd love to use your services. Unfortunately, we can only afford to pay $x"

If you've heard those words being repeated over and over again, it's probably because of one of two reasons:

  1. You're selling on price. If your selling proposition includes being cheaper than your competitors, you'll always attract customers on a shoestring budget. Try to sell on value instead.

  2. You're targeting the wrong type of customers. You're essentially trying to target customers that are trying to keep afloat, rather than grow their company.

There are two problems with customers on a shoestring budget:

  1. They'll constantly need support. If they're spending a big chunk of their budget on your services, they will literally try to get a bang for their buck. Expect to receive an email or a phone call every day.

  2. They rarely turn into repeat business. They'll think that by just building a website or a nice modern logo, it will propel their business for success.

2. They know what they want and can clearly articulate what they need.

"We tried content marketing for some while and it turned out to be a great source for lead generation. However, we're interested in diversifying our distribution channels and are seeking expert advice on this matter"

These are the holy grail of digital agency and freelance customers.

If they understand that they need to solve their problems and they trust that you are the one who could help them solve those problems, selling these customers on value would be a walk in the park.

3. They don't bad mouth other freelancers or digital agencies.

If all the agencies that worked with your new prospect sucked, your prospect either lacks proper judgment skills or is someone everybody wants to avoid.

Either way, avoid this type of customer like the plague.

4. They aren't manipulative.

Have you ever had a customer that treats you as if you were one of their own employees?

These type of customers will usually expect that you work on their project from the time you wake up in the morning till late at night.

At the end of the project, they'll propose a "big discount" because they needed to get heavily involved in the project in order for you to properly deliver.

We've all worked with manipulative customers.

The big question is, how can you recognize such customers?

Manipulative customers possess most, if not all, of these characteristics:

They are charming. On your first meeting it would seem like you've known them for years.

They never take the blame. They will always blame others for their failures and say that they always knew that something would go wrong.

They try to control the conversation. They will try to own the conversation and steer it in their preferred direction.

They try to make you feel guilty. They will use the things you've said and the arguments you've provided against you, with the intention of making you feel like a liability.

5. They are great listeners.

Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply. - Stephen R.Covey

Great customers listen carefully to what you have to say.

This way they can effectively determine what you mean and can consequently articulate what they need.

Finding repeat customers

So, the big question is, how do you get repeat customers?

Here's a quick list to get you started:

1. Customer referrals.

Repeat customers refer you to other repeat customers. Problem is, most digital agencies and freelancers fail at getting customer referrals.

Not because they failed to deliver and not because they went over budget.

They fail to get customer referrals because they lack persistence.

"I don't like chasing my existing customers for referrals. If I'm too persistent it could probably ruin my chances of getting future contracts. Better not risk it."


Here's an email template you could use to land customer referrals.

Hey [Name],

Hope you're doing well!

I'm reaching out to the people I trust within my network to help me generate more business.

As you know, we're on a mission to help [type of business] solve their [describe problem here]. Do you know other [type of business] who could use our help?

I'll be thrilled if you could introduce us to them.


[Your Name]

Remember, getting referrals is all about being persistent.

2. Customer retainers.

Customer retainers are meant to help you establish long term customer relationships.

Retainers can either be a single advance payment or a recurring payment.

If you're on good terms with a particular customer, setting a retainer agreement can be advantageous to both parties.

What's in it for the customer?

  1. Predictable monthly servicing costs.
  2. Less surprises on service delivery.
  3. Improved service provider availability and dependability
  4. Improved communication.
  5. Expert advice on demand.

What's in it for you?

  1. Predictable revenue.
  2. Improved customer relationships.
  3. Predictable workflow.
  4. Lower sales costs.
  5. Opportunity for productization or working on side projects.

Best practices when setting up customer retainers

  1. Mix retainer work with new projects.
  2. Don't be greedy. Think of retainer agreements as long-term partnerships.

Ideas for retainer agreements

Administrative services. You might want to offer project hosting and related maintenance services.

Analytical services. Traffic and conversion rate monitoring using a variety of tools, such as Google Analytics.

Complimentary services (cross-selling). Offering services that are in line with your current offering. If you're offering web development services, you might want to offer complementary services such as SEO and content marketing.

Pitching retainers to customers

  1. Focus on niche expertise, availability and dependability.
  2. Sell on value whilst comparing your services to their existing costs.
  3. Make it easy for them to walk away.
  4. List existing relationships.

3. Offer your products as a service.

If you're successfully closing customers in a particular niche, this strategy is a must.

Yes, it will be hard at first.

There's no particular hack or silver bullet.

You'll have to juggle between:

  1. Managing customer work
  2. Finding new customers
  3. Shifting resources
  4. Building your new product

4. Build authority.

If you're well known in your niche, people will feel like your time is worth much more because of your exclusivity and knowledge around a particular topic.

This means that you will be able to charge way above the average market rate, without the need to continuously justifying your price.

So, how do you get to build authority around a particular topic?

  1. Build quality content.
  2. Be the first to deliver industry insights.
  3. Guest post on famous industry blogs.
  4. Highlight your best work.

In this great podcast, Jason Swenk goes into the details of why building authority will be the difference between success and failure.

5. Offer impeccable customer service.

I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. - Maya Angelou

If you've ever felt the urge to tell people about a service you've used and how good it made you feel, then you've experienced great customer service.

In fact, most of our referral traffic at Fusioo comes from great customer service.

So, how do you offer great customer service?
  1. Genuinely care for your customers.
  2. Solve customer problems that are unrelated to your line of work.
  3. Stop reinventing the wheel and script the basics.

Applying this to your business

Start small. There's no need to implement everything at once.

Your customer retention strategy needs to be constantly updated to stay up with the latest proven customer retention techniques.

Meanwhile, did you find some awesome customer retention strategies that you want to share with our readers? How are you implementing such strategies?

Let us know in the comments below.


  1. Leading on the Edge of Chaos, Emmet Murphy & Mark Murphy
  2. Bain & Company
  3. Marketing Metrics