Delivering return on investment through relationship engagement

By Donna Kessler on 18/04/2017

It is a common adage that it takes a lot less time and money to grow existing relationships than it does to secure new customers. So why aren’t we putting all our efforts into engaging and nurturing our current client base?

To build and grow a successful relationship with your current clients, they need to have an emotional connection with you personally and confidence in your business.

By providing value to them and their business, beyond discounts and incentives, can assist with developing your mutual bond. Your clients will be time-poor but knowledge hungry, so do the research, read the articles and share anything relevant to your client.

Successful client engagement is built by consistency, effort and trust.

Consistency – get it right, every time. No matter who is working on the business, the service levels must remain consistent and deliver a high-quality product. Clients have an expectation that their needs will be met and often exceeded. Communication within your business and to your client is essential in developing this. Customer Relationship Management tools (such as Salesforce) can help you streamline your internal processes and communication to maximise a client’s potential for growth.

Effort – make it known you are invested in the success of your client’s event or project. Showing that you are making an effort to over-deliver will help to engage your client.

Trust – put the client’s needs ahead of your own. Follow-ups, proactivity and future-proofing will help your client trust you. If problems occur, the client will look to see how you manage the situation and learn to look to you for guidance and problem-solving skills in future.

Understand what clients want better

Listening creates understanding. Listen to what your clients are telling you.

With less face-to-face contact than ever before, clients have become less loyal and less trusting. Events like Get Global can connect you to new buyers, but it is up to you to nurture the relationship. With the growth of digital communication and social media, clients have more power to compare services than ever before. They are provided with other service options on a daily basis. If small cracks appear in your relationship, it is an easy transition to another business offering a (perceived) similar service. Stay in relative regular contact and especially if they have confirmed an event with you and it has been handed over to operations. Don’t assume someone else is managing your relationship with them.

But by having an in-depth understanding of your client’s needs, will help you secure their business and loyalty, no matter what incentives are offered to them to go elsewhere.

  1. Stand in their shoes.

How do you and your services fit into their wider business need? How can you help your client do their job better?

  1. Make yourself available.

Be aware of how your client interacts with your business and track their experience. Be on hand to deal with any roadblocks.

  1. Resource your team.

Employ experts (where possible) and/or train and continuously develop the team to meet your client’s needs and develop a deep understanding of how they can serve them better.

  1. Learn with your client.

Invite your client to join you at events and seminars you both may find useful. This will help your bond and understand what issues and concerns they may have.

  1. Help them future-proof their business

Listen to what your client’s issues are and be a source of knowledge, so they grow to trust you and your judgement. Build your industry knowledge to find it easier to anticipate market changes and what they may need tomorrow. By being well-read, not only of trade publications but business publications, you can better understand their challenges and also be a source of inspiration.

Maximise potential revenue through client engagement

According to Constellation Research, loyal clients are more like to engage your services again, and buy more than before. According to R “Ray” Wang, Principal Analyst and CEO, “We see companies who have improved engagement increase cross-sell by 22%, drive up-sell revenue from 13% to 51%, and also increase order sizes from 5% to 85%.”

Loyalty has a direct correlation to sales and repeat business. It is easier to sell an increased service to an existing, satisfied and engaged customer, than it is to pitch, win and manage a new client.

These loyal clients are also your best advocates to help you grow your business and talk to potential customers. Positive word of mouth across digital channels will help you attract more prospective customers and increase your brand presence.

Sustaining that relationship

Train staff who are client facing to be aware of their role in sustaining the client relationship. It is as important as the work itself.

Communication with your clients (and potential clients) is essential. By being a source of knowledge you can help to build trust. Are there any industry trends that could potentially affect them? Communicate your vision for their success and how you will help them achieve that.

Social media is a great way to create two-way communication with your clients. Keep all lines of communication open and listen to what your customers are saying. Respond truthfully and do not shy away from any negative comments.

Build trust and truth by:

  • learning about your client’s needs
  • sharing your knowledge with them
  • managing issues swiftly and professionally
  • encouraging them to take credit for any wins.

Personality clashes

Not everyone is going to like you. You can be the most amiable person in the world, but if someone doesn’t like you, it may be difficult to overcome.

You can try to minimise this by:

  1. Don’t be overbearing at the first meeting.
  2. Listen to your buyer and respond accordingly.
  3. Don’t make promises you both know you can’t deliver.
  4. Be measured in your approach.
  5. Communication – is there a reason why there is a clash (a previous unresolved issue?)

If there is still a personality clash, implement a different account management person and process. Or if this is not possible, refocus your efforts on strengthening your relationships with other clients.

Donna Kessler is the founder and Director of Tourism Portfolio. Since the company's inception in 2002, Donna has represented high quality destinations, venues, resorts and event suppliers to the meetings, incentives and tourism markets. Donna understands the process of driving sales through professional credible representation and her personal commitment to her clients and the events she supports is undeniable. Donna has more than three decades of experience in all aspects of tourism, and is also the co-director of Get Global, a new trade show dedicated to the Australian outbound market that is set to take place at ICC Sydney in July 28, 2017.

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