One of the most overlooked elements of any marketing campaign is the relationship the sender of the campaign has with the list being sent to. Often this is the big variable in campaigns and why one member can get unbelievable response to an offer or a campaign and others fall flat. Current Spokesperson Tom Malesic of EZSolution comes to mind. His “Tom Bucks” referral campaign drove insane results for his company, securing him over 50 referrals at the time he first launched it. Others who mimicked the campaign got far less impressive results, some coming up with a big fat zero. So what’s the difference? The only one that can be identified would be the relationship with the list. This is why you’ll hear me tell newbie members over and over again NOT to start sending direct mail to cold lists. It’s one of the more expensive ways to grow your IT services business; and unless you’re willing to send at least 1,000 pieces, scrub the list, follow it up with telemarketing and then send 5 or 6 more campaigns out every 3-4 weeks thereafter, don’t bother. Yes, members occasionally send out 100 letters and get a dozen responses; that’s not totally uncommon. But the reason I don’t want new members starting there is simply because building a relationship with the list so that they start not only to recognize you but pay attention (and ultimately) respond takes TIME.
Starbucks has a tremendously valuable business not because of the buildings, sales, etc., but rather the loyalty and relationship it has built with its customers. Apple is the same. Their clients will stand in line in the cold for HOURS to be one of the first to get the latest iPhone. Zappos’ entire business strategy was not based on shoes, but on customer loyalty through amazing service.
I often hear MSPs brag about how they locked their customers in with a 36 month or other long term contract. And that’s good—except for the fact in some cases it makes them lazy about building and maintaining a good relationship with the customer. This weak relationship extends into very little if no referrals, difficulty in getting your clients to take your advice and risk of losing them. Frequently I get calls from members who have lost all or a majority of their clients because a technician left and took several big accounts with them. And when the client leaves with that tech, it’s largely due to the fact that the tech did a better job at building a relationship with the client than the owner did; so when they leave, the client automatically wants to continue to work with them. Therefore, even if you could legally STOP the tech from working for that client, it’s of no use to you. The client will end up being mad at you for getting in the way—again, not a great relationship builder.
So the big question is, what are you doing on a monthly, weekly even daily basis to build a relationship with your clients? Truth is, it doesn’t take all that much to impress a client, mostly because everyone else is doing a crappy job of it. Everyone sends out a greeting card once a year in December. Big deal. You might as well not even do that because a) everyone else does too so there’s nothing special about it, and b) it’s expected. Therefore, if you do anything beyond that—send little thank you cards, gifts or simply go the extra mile to get something done for them—it blows them away.
Idea: Divide your customers into groups and create a calendar of touches that include thank you notes, gifts and other fun items. For those who represent the most money, have the gifts show up more frequently (like once a month or every other month) and the rest once a quarter. Naturally you can use holidays as a “reason why” to send something. We always send our Producers Club members a gift on Valentine’s Day for example. If you opened and read this in time, you can still capitalize on the opportunity to send a Valentine’s Day “we love you” gift. If not, you have St. Patrick’s day right around the corner and Spring on its heels. But keep in mind that building a good relationship with your clients is NOT just about sending them the occasional gift or taking them to lunch. If you think that’s all you have to do, you’re going to end up very disappointed. It is ALSO about developing a brand they trust. It IS about delivering a consistent service so impressive that they wouldn’t consider using anyone else. It’s also about YOU, the owner, having a viewpoint and sending frequent communications to your list to truly connect with your clients beyond technology.
In my business, I don’t have long-term contracts. I publish outrageous guarantees AND I fulfill them. This forces me to be far more attuned to customer service and building relationships than the ‘average’ company. For example, we have an extensive relationship building sequence that is sent out to all new customers to thank them and to encourage them to use the materials. Very few companies even bother to thank new customers, much less have a carefully planned sequence of touches to onboard them. How about you? Personally, I know of many rip-off artists who try (or have tried) to mimic what I do, only to get very disappointing results. That’s mostly because they don’t understand how to build a relationship with their clients and think that having a hyped-up sales letter is all that’s needed to be successful. They’re copying the PRODUCT but not copying (or understanding) the PROCESS. I just gave you a VERY key lesson there…don’t zip by it.