I just recently participated in one of the most impactful and insight filled exercises of my speaking career. It was an activity that took 3 hours with 12 top notch speakers/facilitators during a weekend retreat. We divided the group in half and created two concentric circles facing each other. The inside circle took on the role of “mentor” and the outside circle became the “mentee.” Across several rounds, we rotated around and each time the “mentee” would share their question or challenge with their “mentor.” It’s important to note that as a mentee, your aim or intention is to ask (roughly) the same question to receive multiple layers and perspectives on that one challenge or topic.

The visual diagram below may make this process more clear, so you could choose to repeat the process at a future meeting, retreat, or workshop. 

My mission during this exercise was to get better at client retention. Over the years, I’ve had the joy of partnering with hundreds of universities, organizations, and conferences to offer interactive keynotes, on-site workshops, and off-site retreats. And…

My greatest weakness over the years has been reconnecting and staying in touch with those clients months or years afterward. And this is where “intention” comes into play. 

“Intention for Retention”

Before trying to “increase retention,” it’s good to channel a bit of wisdom from the first chapter of Ask Powerful Questions: get clear about your intent and share it with the people it affects. A really great intention includes the needs of the whole too. It’s not just about you.

For me, my intention behind reconnecting and recollaborating with past clients is to continue the momentum we created in the effort to gently eradicate small talk and build a culture of connection belonging in trust. Sure, client retention also has an impact on the bottom line, but I care about that a lot less than I care about creating conversations that matter.  

Below are the top 27 tips I received from this group during the peer mentor/mentee exercise. I’m sharing them with you because I believe many of these tips can be adapted and applied to boost student retention, client retention, and employee retention as well.

By far, the most important tip underpinning the 27 to follow is: be clear about your intent and share it with the people it affects.  

27 Tips to Increase Retention

  1. Measure retention. “What gets measured, gets done.” So if you want to increase it. Measure it.
  2. Practice either “client astonishment,” “student astonishment” or “employee astonishment” by aiming to over deliver at each and every touchpoint you have.
  3. Share a meal or several meals together before/after/during your partnership.
  4. Offer to listen. Simple. Yet there isn’t a person on the planet who doesn’t have a desire to be heard.
  5. Give personal gifts that represent their superpower—which you need to discover.
  6. Keep notes on “what they love” to help with personal gift giving above.
  7. Never put branding on a gift. Branded gifts are called “marketing.”
  8. Get on texting basis (perhaps a bit controversial depending on your job, but remarkably personal nonetheless).
  9. Seek common connection points in each conversation—even logistical.
  10. Ask about new groups that they are a part of that might benefit from your work.
  11. Follow up calls simply to ask who else within their team/network might “click” well with your message/offering.
  12. Keep a Google Doc full of creative gift ideas to pull from when the time is right.
  13. Buy them ridiculous slippers.
  14. Create a 5 step journey that each student/client/employee can go on to clearly mark progress.
  15. Have a clear system of reminder for each touch point via calendar, email, etc.
  16. Send personalized videos via text or via email using BombBomb or VidYard
  17. Ask yourself, “What am I doing that nobody else is doing?” and actually write down your answer to that question.
  18. Write hand written notes. In an age of dings, bings, and notification bubbles, good ol’ fashioned paper and pen sent through snail mail sticks out.
  19. Give a gift that is unbranded but on message with your mission to encourage continued momentum.
  20. Use stories to organically educate students/clients/employees on new or deeper offerings that may interest and benefit them.
  21. Give other peoples’ books away for free to past clients/students/employees.
  22. Give any newly released products to past clients for free with a note of gratitude.
  23. Ask your students/clients/employees to email you what they loved about your product and program, and send that feedback to the decision makers who support your programs and products.
  24. Make it clear in your message that this is not a one time thing, and that a repeat partnership is normal for you.
  25. Remember that your first engagement or touch point is intended to add value and provoke curiosity for the next step.
  26. Offer a follow up virtual workshop or conversation with the top performers in the audience.
  27. Research what the top 3-5 indicators for retention are and encourage or incentivise people to meet those status markers. 

Remember, this list originated from 12 top speakers and facilitators and was focused on improving “client retention,” yet it sparked some really creative ideas for enhancing student retention and employee retention as well! 

When was the last time your boss sent you a personalized video message thanking you for something specific? Probably never. And while out of the ordinary, I bet it would make an impact. 

My challenge to you: pick two from the list above and try them out. See what happens. Should you choose to work with me, you can expect some moments of “client astonishment” as well as a really memorable gift along the way. 

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