By Maria Orozova
Everywhere I turn lately, it seems there’s a growing nostalgia for the glory years of American business. Audiences are cheering shows like Mad Men for celebrating the golden age of the ad industry on Madison Avenue. They see something exciting and unusual in this portrait of a business where double martini lunches and wining and dining was simply the norm. Which makes me wonder, is this positive reaction the result of a serious void in business today? Has running a business in our digital world left us, as business owners and executives, a little rusty on the basics of customer relationship building?
Today, managing a business means we must be constantly plugged-in to the digital world. We sift through an ever-growing stream of emails, tweets, news feeds, LinkedIn Connects, G+ Circles, Facebook Updates, and the list goes on.
But this so-called “connectedness” can sometimes lead to a breakdown in the quality of relationships – especially with clients. We’ve started to believe that allowing clients into our “behind closed doors” lives through our personal networks like Facebook, Google or Twitter, is all it takes to engage them in meaningful ways. But can that digital presence really compete with old-fashioned hospitality & customer service?
The Importance of “Wining and Dining”
“It costs seven times more to find a new customer than to keep one”
“Clients’ loyalty and willingness to spend more time together vastly increases when they’re treated well”
It seems pretty logical, doesn’t it? After all, who wouldn’t prefer to work with people we know and trust? It’s simple human nature to desire and respond to recognition and to find and build community.
So what’s the magic formula? What is it about the “good old days” that has drawn so many ardent fans to Mad Men? Apart from the typical TV elements that make a series successful (scripting, actors, etc.), we’re talking about one really simple concept: treat clients with the same importance and understanding as a friend.
So, how to begin?
When considering how to make customers feel special and, consequently, get them to spend more, take the time to evaluate [at a minimum] the following:
It doesn’t have to be driven solely by number crunching, but it is important to have an idea of the cost to acquire a customer versus the cost of “optimizing” one through an effective customer appreciation program. Take a look at marketing initiatives and evaluate those efforts against these questions to find previously unrecognized opportunities for building deeper relationships with existing clients.
Customer appreciation varies by industry, company and client
I’ve often found that it’s not as much about the venue, but more about taking the time to meet in person. There’s no need to host a gala or buy out a stadium suite to make clients feel appreciated; it’s all about the informal, non-sales environment.
A simple happy hour, a small client event or an afternoon coffee opens doors. They will see there is more in common than they may have imagined; not just as a business owner.
In addition to this in-person time, find other little ways to share – here are just a few of the ways I’ve found connecting with clients:
Remember special occasions like birthdays, anniversaries or graduations. Even passing along a small gift makes a difference; it could be anything- a bottle of wine, cookies, etc.
Give away swag. We help several non-profits and with that come perks like tickets to sporting events, galas, charity events and others. When I know a particular client enjoys the arts or is a sports team’s biggest fan, I love the opportunity to pass along my tickets so they can have a fun night out.
Are there elements of this customer appreciation that are already in place, but need to be more cohesive? Perhaps sending thank you cards and following up post-project is the norm, but there are no continuing connections the rest of the year. Or maybe there are “rockstars” at keeping the social media circles updated, but the in-person time hasn’t been a priority before. What characteristics of the business can be effectively tailored to enhance client relationships?
Whatever it is, consider the uniqueness of clients and plan ways to engage with them this week.
Maria Orozova is the President and Creative Director of The MOD Studio, a boutique marketing and design firm in Austin. Her work has earned 16 ADDY awards for creativity and 19 American Graphic Design Awards. http://www.themodstudio.com/
April 24 in Houston: Vistage - Create and Implement Breakthrough Strategies