I’ve repeatedly said that the single biggest, most valuable asset of any business is your list and the relationship you have with it (prospects, clients). EVERY successful company has a relationship strategy. Some through outright dependence (think utilities), addiction (coffee, fast food, cigarettes), or what Qubein would call “brand insistence” and loyalty, which is what the likes of you and me must strive for. Mike Rowe, the founder of Mike Rowe Works and the star of Dirty Jobs, gets paid millions of dollars to endorse products such as Ford trucks because of his strong influence over the millions of fans who follow him on social media. Joe Rogan recently was paid $100 million by Spotify for his free podcast that generates ZERO income, simply to pull his fan base to the app (now, of course, having trouble because a small band of 20-something “woke” employees are threatening to strike if Spotify doesn’t block/delete some of the conservative guest interviews he’s done – yet another reason to not have a lot of employees).
Point is, you cannot have a successful business if you are not investing time, attention, and resources into building a deep relationship with your “fan” base. Here are three things you can do to strengthen that relationship and put future deposits in your bank account:
Relationship Strategy #1: Frequency Of Communication
I’m often baffled by the number of MSPs who’ve been in business for 5, 10, 20, or even 30+ years who come to our workshops without a LIST. Of course, without a list, they have no means of communicating with clients and prospects, which means they haven’t been. You don’t sustain a relationship of any kind when there are big gaps in communication. Hot leads not followed up on get colder by the day until they revert back to cold prospects who forget you exist – and it happens FAST. Clients not communicated with wander off to buy from someone else IF they aren’t locked into a contract or some other type of subscription income. Even then, if you only RESPOND to their requests and never proactively communicate, you’re falling into a very transactional relationship.
So, a few rules. 1) You need to communicate with your CLIENTS at least once a week via e-mail and at least once a month offline. 2) The communication MUST be more than a sales pitch. Not that I’m against selling something – in fact, promoting and talking about a new solution IS a good form of communication with your clients. It’s your JOB as their IT leader to seek out, vet, and recommend NEW services and solutions that might help them. But if ALL you’re sending are communications when you want to sell something, it will get old fast. 3) I’ve already mentioned this, but you must have at least ONE offline communication. E-mail deliverability is in the toilet, and thanks to many of the changes being made by Office 365, it’s becoming near impossible to even get 100% legit, personal e-mails delivered.
Relationship Strategy #2: Quality Of Communication
This is where many of you will struggle the most: QUALITY of communication. What you communicate must fascinate your readers and draw them closer to you, giving them a sense of connection and “kinship” that goes beyond the intrinsic value of what you do or what you sell. If you are ONLY sending information, you are keeping them aware of you, and that’s better than nothing. But if you want to really have raving, loyal followers, you need to connect with them on a personal level, talking to them about your personal philosophies about business and life. Sharing with them the highs and lows of your business, your hobbies, your dog, your kids, your family vacation, etc. That’s because B2B marketing is a convenient description of a very broad generalization that leads people to think they are selling to businesses – but businesses don’t buy anything. PEOPLE in the business buy things, and those people make buying decisions the same way in the corner office as they do in their homes. Anyone in B2B sales will tell you that having a good relationship is critical to getting in doors, closing sales, and keeping clients loyal. Fortunately, you can use blogs, videos, websites, social media posts, newsletters, and even books to tell your story and get it out to thousands of people simultaneously.
I sometimes talk about being raised in a cult. You’d be surprised at how many people have come out of the woodwork to share with me a similar story. Those people are bonded to me in a way that I cannot get with a good offer or headline. Same with my stories of being homeless at 12 years old and stealing bread from a house I was cleaning because I was starving, unable to buy enough food, and of being flat broke and starting my business from a shoestring budget with no list, no money, no nothing. My struggle with melanoma, miscarriage, and with horrific employees. My “prostitute” story of feeling helpless and frustrated to tears that I had to stay at a job with an unethical marketing company because I desperately needed the paycheck, and promising myself I would get out of this situation and NEVER allow myself to be controlled by poverty (a promise I’ve kept). ALL of these things are common experiences that enable me to connect with my audience on a much deeper level. Does it make my marketing advice more accurate, more valuable? Of course not. But credentials don’t influence anywhere near as much as connection on these other items do. Some are shameful, dark areas of my past that I’m not proud of – and I share them because there are more people out there with similar stories who can understand and appreciate me having the courage to admit my flaws and mistakes. If you can understand this, you’ve just made a giant leap in your understanding of persuasion, influence, and marketing.
Relationship Strategy #3: Appreciation And Thanks
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention this little gem of connection. Prospects and clients alike often feel unappreciated and disrespected by many of the things business owners do and decide, or, more accurately, fail to do.
For example, I left a salon I had been doing business with for nearly a decade because I finally got fed up with the political bashing of (then) President Bush and the constant talk by hairdressers about their “shame” in being an American. Newsflash: I go to a salon to get my hair done, not to participate in an angry political discussion. I didn’t tell them why I stopped coming. I simply didn’t go back. But when I left, I didn’t get a SINGLE OUTREACH asking why I left, why I haven’t been back. Not one – and I was easily spending over $500 a month there between the hairstylists, massage therapist, gift cards, and various products for nearly 10 years – a $60,000 loss. Of course, while there I never received a single note of appreciation either. Must be nice to be so rich you can ignore your best clients when they don’t return. Could they have gotten me back? Probably – if they had tried. The fact that they completely failed to notice me leaving and make any attempt to find out why cemented my decision to never go back.
Clients can also feel disrespected when changes are made in the name of cost savings, their convenience, efficiency, their own preferences, etc. These customers may or may not voice their dissatisfaction, but it’s there and they will take their business elsewhere because the relationship is so thin or nonexistent. Another reason for feeling disrespected: no thanks for a referral, a contract renewal, a big spend. Make sure you recognize these items and show appreciation; otherwise, dissatisfaction will set in over feelings of being taken for granted.
I coach our clients to send “holiday” gifts during Thanksgiving rather than Christmas because 1) you avoid any religious conflicts, and 2) your gift shows up alone instead of being one of the dozens of gifts filling their office all at once. Don’t give yourself ANY credit for sending the cheap greeting card once a year saying, “We appreciate you.” Nuts. Your client spent thousands of dollars and you send them some crappy card? Try harder. Your clients notice your cheapness MORE when you send this than if you didn’t send anything at all. To be clear, not all clients should get the same appreciation. We show appreciation in direct proportion to what you spend with us – and you should take a similar strategy with your clients. Those who spend the most should get the biggest budget. Those who don’t should get something, but you don’t have to go all out on a spending spree.