Are you leaving money on the table?

February 25, 2013 4:35 pm

How to ensure that your brand is the constant enabler of profitable, long-term, high-value relationships.

First impressions matter. We all know that. And many of us are outstanding at delivering that powerful and memorable first exchange, especially when it’s person-to-person. We’re really good at bringing the “wow” that kicks off what might be “the start of a beautiful friendship.”

All too often however, after lighting the spark of a great relationship we begin to slowly wander off the path. We take for granted the fact that a new customer or consumer relationship, once established, needs to be continuously tended to. While we may be great relationship igniters, we sometimes fall short when it comes to building and sustaining lasting high-value partnerships with our customers. Full disclosure – I’ve been guilty of this, too.

By the way, lack of existing customer communication is where we are often leaving money on the table.

While new business development should be a never-ending process, we find that the fastest way to smart growth comes from being more attentive to your current customers. In a recent survey, companies we spoke with said they could realize an additional 40% of revenue simply by communicating more effectively with existing customers. 40%! That’s significant.

Think about your customer relationships in three basic phases: initiate, build, and sustain. We often knock it out of the park when it comes to initiating relationships; building and sustaining them are where many brands need to do the most work. They can also realize the greatest ROI on marketing expenditures.

Please note, I’m not suggesting that once you have a customer, you bombard them with special offers, chances to buy more stuff, and daily e-mails. Consumer brands please pay special attention to this last point. What I’m suggesting here is that you recognize the three relationship phases, and align brand communications to further your customer’s journey to the next phase, en route to a lasting, mutually valuable relationship.

Initiate.

Initiating a relationship requires absolute clarity and focused delivery on the unique value you bring to a potential customer or client. If they don’t get it in a few seconds, they’re gone. Because we are hit with so much brand messaging on a given day, we’re accustomed to tuning out more than tuning in. Marketing that’s designed to initiate a brand relationship must be clear, powerful and thought provoking. Anything less just won’t work.

Take away: Make it Relevant. Make it Bold.

 

Build.

Demonstrating caring and accountability in the relationship-building phase is huge. Personalized communications – that personal touch – shows thoughtfulness. Even if a customer hasn’t explicitly asked for something, openly share ideas and insights anyway. The goal here is not to try to upsell at every turn, but to demonstrate proactive concern. Customers may not sign on for additional products or services by virtue of your outreach in the build phase; it doesn’t matter. You’ve made an impression of caring that will propel the relationship forward. And in this phase, that’s really all you are trying to do.

Show accountability by being proactive. Don’t wait for a comment or complaint; drive the discussion through meaningful outreach. Create an environment of open exchange wherever possible. Even if your customer doesn’t take you up on it at that moment, simply knowing that they can, and seeing your openness to dialogue, will go a long way.

We’ve won a number of new client engagements from incumbent firms, not because the current provider was failing; it was simply that they were operating on autopilot. They never called, never did more than asked and rarely offered insights or ideas. The customer felt the lack of attention and caring. We would often hear comments like, “It’s not that they are a bad firm; it’s just that we have to be the ones to initiate discussion or new ideas all the time.”

It’s extremely easy to switch providers when the fundamental attributes of a relationship are non-existent. Person-to-person communication would be one of those attributes. If there’s a great customer that you haven’t spoken to in a while, pick up the phone . . . Do it now!

I recently left a brand that had served me very well for over six years. Want to know what one of the deciding factors was? The CEO of that organization – which wasn’t that big of an entity – never once in six years reached out to personally thank me for my business. And while not their largest customer, I was nowhere close to their smallest either.

Take away: Show the love. Always make the first move.

 

Sustain.

A balance of discipline and freshness are required to successfully sustain a customer relationship over time. It is very easy to fall into the trap of taking a relationship for granted that has been solidly built in the long term. You fall into a routine. Do the same things, over and over. While the routine may be convenient for you, it’s what starts to create staleness to the relationship. It suggests to the customer that you are taking the relationship for granted. Never take a great customer relationship for granted. You’ve worked too hard to get it to this point.

Keep the relationship fresh by regularly offering new concepts and ideas. Note that they may continue to stay with the “tried and true,” but let them be in the driver’s seat. Again, just because they don’t always jump on board when you float a new concept, doesn’t mean they don’t appreciate the effort. These types of actions demonstrate that you’re thinking about them and have their best interests at heart. Be especially attentive to little details and keep adding to the relationship

Thank them when they least expect it. Doing the little and big things that make any relationship special. Take note of birthdays, anniversaries, special hobbies, and your client’s family.

Take away: Keep it fresh. Make it personal.

Wrap-up.

In each phase, thoughtful, personal brand communications can play a role in helping you maximize every outreach and make the most out of every brand touch point.

There’s a quote on my wall. I’m not sure who to attribute it to, but it is a fitting point on which to end: “People don’t care how much you know. They want to know how much you care.”

Need help with building a meaningful brand touch program for your company or sales team? Feel free to reach out.

If you would like to visualize your brand in the three phases outlined above please download and print this free PDF and get started.

About The Author

Delia Team
We specialize in b2b, supporting the clients who are the "The Brands Behind the Brands." These are the supply chain partners of brands, either in Tier 1 or Tier 2 positions, who drive value through the delivery of goods, services and technologies. We enjoy blogging about all things related to Branding, Marketing, Inbound, Tradeshows, etc... And we're always happy to talk about any ideas you may have that might Get You To Your NEXT!