How to reignite a client with barter

I supposed every established business has them.  Lost sheep.  Good loyal cash clients from the past that have wandered away.  It’s not that they hired someone else to work with them.  They’ve simply been short on time, money or both.  It’s been years since you’ve worked with them and even though you’ve checked in with them every once in a while, it doesn’t seem likely that you’ll be working for them again anytime soon.

Take heart!  The solution is barter.  Although I would normally not recommend to switch a cash client over to barter, in extreme situations when it looks like you’ve lost a good cash client you should give barter a try.  I specifically recommend offering to work on a specific project for them on barter with the intent of reintroducing your services and moving them back to cash after the project is complete.  I’ve done this twice recently and this is how it worked:

1)  Many years ago I built a site for a good local painter.  A lot of time had passed and their site really needed an upgrade but it just wasn’t a priority for them.  When my wife and I decided we wanted to paint our house, we gave this client a call.  They were happy to do the painting for us in trade for credit to work on their website.

2)  My very first web client 17 years ago is a used office furniture dealer.  Much like the painter, they needed work on their website but it wasn’t important enough to them to get the ball rolling.  A barter client of mine mentioned they needed some furniture for their new office.  When I gave my old furniture clients a call they said they would be happy to provide whatever future is needed in trade for my web services.

Although I would advise caution when considering bartering with a cash client, I have to say that I don’t at all feel like I’ve lost any cash business with these deals.  They hadn’t done any cash business with me for years.  I had nothing to lose.  Plus I think there is a very real chance that when they have new work done and have spent all the barter credit they have with me, that they will go back to cash.  It’s been long enough that they don’t remember the value of my services.  Once they are reminded through our one-time barter deal they could loosen their cash purse strings.

Barter Reciprocity

As many of you know, there can be times when you consistently earn more barter credits than you spend and you need to take a break from earning more.  In those times I continue to service my existing barter clients, but stop taking on new ones.

That being  said, even when I’m not looking to pick up new barter clients, I make an exception for folks that I’m already purchasing from on barter.  For example,  I have been avoiding taking on new barter clients lately in a particular exchange, however, when the drycleaner that I use (from that exchange) asked me about working for him on trade, I took him on as a new client.  It just wouldn’t be right to spend barter credits with a vendor, but not accept them as payment from the same party.

Conversely, if I work for you on barter, even if you are not taking barter from other members, I fully expect that you should accept it from me.

Too much barter?

Last article I mentioned that one of my favorite ways to spend barter is on my kids. I love the fact that I can give my kids just about anything that is on barter. I hate the fact that they know it. Entitlement. It’s a very ugly word. And it’s oh-so-easy for kids to feel entitled to whatever they want if you set the pattern.

Honestly I’m in uncharted territory here because historically my kids haven’t felt entitled to anything. I don’t even give them an allowance. They have their own small businesses and earn their own spending money. But when I talk to them about how an expensive summer camp was that we sent them to (see my last article), they are very causal about it. They say it was fun and that they guess they would like to go again in the future. They also talked about how long they had to wait around for lunch and that the pool was cold. Give me a break! When I was a kid, we did a Polar Bear Swim at camp where the whole point was that it was fun to freeze your butt off!

I haven’t decided quite how to handle this one yet but I’m pretty sure the correct solution has something to do with earning privileges rather than handing out the good-stuff to my kids simply because it’s on barter. Maybe I need to set them up in business earning the barter credits that they want to spend. That’s food for thought. More later.