I have recently come to the conclusion that there are 3 basic criteria that need to be present for me to have a good relationship with someone. Whether client, partner, spouse or friend.
- Do we like each other?
- Do we believe in each other?
- Do we have the resources to make this relationship work?
If you read Jim Novo's post on relationship marketing, he says " it is not about having a "buddy-buddy" relationship with your customers. Customers do not want that. Relationship marketing uses the event-driven tactics of customer retention marketing, but treats marketing as a process over time rather than single unconnected events. By molding the marketing message and tactics to the LifeCycle of the customer, the relationship marketing approach achieves very high customer satisfaction and is highly profitable."
I admire and respect Jim, really I do, he is an incredibly smart guy I've learned a lot from and hope to one day meet. But for the love of simplicity and plain English- what does that mean?
For me it means that over time, we learn if we like each other, if we believe in what the other is all about, and we if have the means and committment to make a relationship work. That happens in stages, and what we say or do will depend on that.
Relationship Marketing (and Sales!) Happens in Stages
What you call those the stages of your relationships and how they happen will vary depending on your sales process, your business model, your customer's buying process, and your industry, etc.
Just like with every and any relationship you have, there is your idea of how things should be, their idea how how things should be, and then there are always going to be outside influences that influence how things are.
Saying the Right Thing at the Right Time
Most people do not meet and marry within 24 hours- outside of Vegas. If you try to french kiss a girl you just met at the bar, she will most likely smack you.
Not only is the relationship between you and your B2B customer one that happens in stages, (very similar to the way you might meet a spouse or partner). It is also about being able to identify those stages and say or do the right thing at the right time.
Put another way: where your prospect or customer is in their process is going to alter your approach. The trick is how to know where they are in their process and matching your approach.
Relationships are Not One Night Stands
Don't treat your B2B clients like a one night stand. You know, all chase and hunt, and no call (customer service) in the morning. We are looking for marriage material here. Enough said.
Make Your Analytics Personal- Beyond CRM
CRM (customer relationship management) software allows you to track and analyze every interaction you have. It's like the spouse that never forgets anything. That can be both good and bad.
Good because if used and designed correctly, that data can help you to learn more about the behaviors of your customer and prospects and customize your offers to them. Like the spouse who never forgets your birthday and doesn't have to ask you what you want- they know because they know you. (hint guys: that's why we hate it when you have to ask us what we want for a gift.)
One of my favorite example of a good use of CRM data: Based on a set of qualifying behaviors (clicked on the form, talked to a rep, etc) marketers can personalize documents with the info in their databases to send automated, timely and relevant direct mail pieces. Much better ROI for a small targeted direct mail campaign then a general mass mail that ends up in the junk box.
Bad: Don't be obesssive wife who brings up the argument you had 10 years ago- because it might be relevant! Be careful not to spend all your time entering and analyzing and not doing. Yes, database marketing is garbage in, garbage out. Not every piece of data is so vital it stops progress. Ask yourself, how important is this big picture? Is it critcal to make a decision on?
Lastly, be nice to each other. Court one another. Have fun with it! As I was recently told, "If you are not having fun- then something is wrong."
Where do all good relationships start? With an honest evaluation of ourselves and what we bring to the table. Start with a sales assessment to find out what you bring to the table with your customer relationships.