I'm coming to you from New York this week at the Legal Marketing Association's Northeast Conference where James Kane, scientist and all-round expert in loyalty is giving an excellent keynote.

The first lesson James shared is to let people get to know you. Properly get to know you.  Share enough about yourself that your audience can find something in common. Something familiar. Something you like.  Because you have something in common they will like you more.  James shared everything from where his grandparents came from to his speeding tickets, social security and hatred of the NY Yankees.  Hundreds of data points in under 2 minutes!

The brain is an energy hog.  20% of energy and oxygen we generate goes straight to the brain.  Brains like patterns.  Brains look for short cuts. Brains are not analytical or logical most of the time.  This is true for relationships - brains look for patterns and shortcuts.

Our brains look internally and externally.  Brain asks one question Are you a threat or opportunity.  That is all the brain does.

In the middle of this spectrum is a transactional state.  This can best be understood as a deal or exchange - I sold you something.  You paid.  We are square.  

You might think that actually people should love us, be loyal to us, advocate for us.  They do not.  You just did your job!  In a transactional relationship, nothing is owed. Therefore to gain loyalty you need to move toward the opportunity side of the spectrum.

Trust and loyalty depend on three things:

Make your clients lives safer

The main consideration in this category is "will I be safe with you"? Safety is why the power of reputation and recommendations are so powerful but also why they are difficult to acquire. It is a risk for someone to refer you, you need to reach a level of trust where your clients trust you and feel safe.

Safety relies on TRUST but trust is not one thing.  It is a million different things but what James said is that there are 4 key considerations:

  1. Character 
  2. Competency 
  3. Consistency
  4. Capacity

We define trust for ourselves.  It is not universal it is about alignment.  People can like you without trusting you.  There has to be alignment in your values and beliefs.

Are you making your client's lives safer?

Trust is about alignment.  Do a trust assessment.  Know your clients.  

Assess the relationship around character, competency, consistency, and capacity.  Assess it yourself and get your client to assess it.  Look at the difference.  If you are aligned high or low at least you both know where you are and what you need to work on.  It is when there is a difference you must look out for.  You could be wasting your time or you could have lots of work to do!  If you think you are good at it but the client thinks you are bad at it you have a problem!

Make your client's lives easier

Make it easier for your clients to survive and thrive.  That is why we form relationships whether it is your spouse, your friend, or your client/supplier. If you are not making a Partners life easier they do not want you around!  They might like you but they do not need you.

We expect our partners in life and business to know what we want without us telling them.  That is because we have invested time and effort.  They should help us without us asking. Have you paid attention to those you want to trust you?  People tell you what they love, like and are passionate about.  They want you to notice things about me.  LISTEN.  Care about what they want.

Are you making your client's lives easier?

Do you actually know your client's business?   Understand a client

  • What is happening outside the firm?
  • What is happening inside the firm?
  • What gives the firm its competitive advantage?
  • Who runs the firm and what motivates them?

Do things your clients do not expect you to do? Consult with them. 

Know them.  Know the individuals. Understand them properly!  Check out their LinkedIn, their Twitter, their bios.  Find out what you have in common.

Do you make life better?

Humans solve problems non-stop.  Help the people you want to trust you make their life better in any way you.


Relationships need a strategy.  They do not happen by accident. Think about where you want the relationship to be in 12 months. James suggests we make a 'stewardship plan' with every one of our clients.  

Ask all your clients for a stewardship meeting in 6 months, more on that below:  

Never discount.  If you have to give a10% discount ask for a meeting in 6 months which is a stewardship meeting. Ask in exchange for a discount we want a relationship with someone other than just you. You are important but we also want other relationships. Get a meeting with the senior decision-makers.  Get feedback and make a plan together.

The stewardship meeting looks something like this:

  1. 10% Show the value you bought to them.
  2. 90% Tell a story about how you are going to fit their world.

To do this you must know who they are and what makes them tick.  That is the only way to build trust.