There's something exhilarating about getting a new client. I love the buzz of working with a new creative direction, team, and objective. But new clients are expensive, and repeat clients are where businesses thrive.
Firstly, let me unpack "new clients are expensive". What I mean by this is simply that acquiring a new client, generally speaking, takes a lot more time, effort, and therefore money (and sometimes even money directly through advertising), which means your profit margins are smaller. That's not to say acquiring new clients isn't desirable and wholly worthwhile, it is. However, a client you have already worked with wanting to hire you again has a lot of benefits.
Firstly, they know exactly what it is you do and how you go about doing it. They probably know if you're reliable, your time frames, your rates, your expectations from them, and so on. If they come back to you for more work, the likelihood is they are happy with what you did last time. There's nothing better than a client calling you out of the clear blue sky to book in more work when you spent no time acquiring the job. While it might not be as exciting as a new company or person insofar as it's more familiar, it is a healthy and important aspect of any business, photography or otherwise.
Client retention has been an area I've been fortunate to have a lot of success. In fact, with my commercial work, it's rarer that I work with a company just once than it is more than once. To work that out, I have used numbers which include me warm contacting past clients with ideas for future work, but I wouldn't get those jobs if they weren't happy with what I produced last time. So, rather predictably, the goal for photographers ought to be to end a job with a happy client, but is that enough to get them to rehire you? Maybe, but I believe there is a simple and effective way to give yourself a better chance at repeat work from clients: over-delivering.
Almost every commercial client of mine, I have over-delivered on what we agreed. This isn't a spur of the moment idea I have towards the end of a job, a mistake, or even over enthusiasm, it's one of my fundamental aims with any job. My prices, even for bespoke quotes on unusual jobs, list everything the client will get for their money; the images they will receive, the retouching, the expenses covered, the promotion, and so on. What they don't know, is a small amount of my time while working them will be allocated to doing something above and beyond. I usually use this approach for doing something a little off brief (albeit not too off brief). I will do this whether or not it comes at my own expense, even if a job overruns.
Going this extra mile, even when carefully planned, shows the client you're conscientious and driven, however the bulk of its value for me is creating unexpected additional results and the reaction that provides. It's a great business practice to get in to and will dramatically increase the odds you will get rehired, or even that they will recommended you to people in their network, and word of mouth referrals are powerful. Be creative with how you over deliver too. Sometimes I offer some extra shots, sometimes I create a bespoke image to show another area they might be interested in, sometimes it's championing the brand and helping them in any way you can.
Be more valuable than your client expected and they'll gravitate towards you again and again. Do you over deliver, and if so, how?