According to behavioral scientist and loyalty expert James Kane (who I saw speak at the end of last year at LMA NE event in NYC) you can map a relationship spectrum like this:
Hostile --- Reluctant --- Transactional --- Preferred --- Loyal
Obviously, we want our relationships with clients to be at the loyal end of this spectrum - or certainly moving that way. However, many of us leave where we are on this spectrum a little bit to chance. We have strategies for everything else in life (from career paths to best route for our commute) but we balk at having a deliberate strategy for our relationships with clients. We rely on ‘chemistry’ and an innate knowledge we should have on how to get on with people. As James writes “having a strategy for our relationship feels a little phony, like we are turning something that should unfold naturally into something contrived”.
Of course, the opposite is true. We should have a plan when it comes to our relationship.
Being deliberate and strategic in the way we build a relationship and move a client towards "loyal" is, of course, a great idea. Our clients will not be upset we have a strategy - it shows how important the relationship is to us.
That plan starts with understanding. James advised on how to understand clients and drew the following:
Image James Kane
According to James Kane these are the questions we should be asking our clients and ourselves:
- What forces are shaping your client’s industry?
- What gives your client it’s competitive advantage?
- How is your client doing and does it measure success?
- Who runs your business? What are their goals?
Content creation is a great way to address these questions. Whether it is a blog post, a video or a podcast we can use these questions as reference for our content. We can think of one important client and think about the above.
For example how about this as an idea: Schedule a meeting with the most senior person you can at your client and bring your Managing Partner, CEO or boss along. Call it a ‘Client Stewardship Meeting’ as James Kane does.
Explain that you would love to chat about your progress with the client and talk about their future needs etc but also request that you record a Q&A session (10-15 minutes) for your podcast series.
During the Q & A, you can ask all about them. Ask them what the forces are that are shaping their industry, ask them what makes them so successful and how they measure that success, ask them about their competitive advantage and ask personal questions about the leader you are meeting.
Not only will it make a great podcast I guarantee it will help move your relationship toward loyal with that client. Everyone likes to talk about themselves. Give your client that opportunity!
A strategic approach to loyalty. Our relationship with others – including those that hold the keys to our fulfillment and success – are often intuitive, undertaken without much thought of analysis. That is a mistake. James Kane