In the days before the internet
In the days before the internet, businesses gained referrals through word of mouth. It was high service standards that earned those referrals and that is still the case now, even in this current era of flashy websites and social media. The best service providers may or may not have a bells and whistles website, what they do have is a good reputation that supersedes Google rankings thanks to plenty of referrals.
The Value Of Trust
Trust is a qualities worth ten times its weight in gold, it’s an asset that you should invest time and effort in attaining. Each one of us have a trusted friend or family member, it may only be one person but the vast majority of us have that one trusted advisor and confidante. Business doesn’t have to be cold and corporate, in fact, it should be warm, reliable and trustworthy. The definition of trust in a business relationship is slightly different to that of a relationship with a friend/family member. While there they may not be intimacy, there should be confidence and assurance. The client should always feel that the service you give them is one of value and it should be one of value.
These days, the measure of your value can be partially ascertained through review sites, something companies place great consideration upon. If you have ever purchased something from Argos, you will have received an email asking for feedback and ratings. As good as review sites are, they are susceptible to ‘trolls’ and can be manipulated. For the cynic, a testimonial or a list of favourable reviews may pique interest but they will want to see for themselves if you really are what you say you are. If that person happens to have friends who have used your service, it is their words of either recommendation or condemnation that will influence their final decision.
Types Of Relationship To Build
Potential Relationships – Potential or ‘prospect’ relationships are people who connect with you in some fashion via your online channels, they could be
- Social Media Followers
- People Who Have Visited Your Website
- People Who Have Downloaded ‘Lead Magnet’ Content From Your Landing Page
It is the traditional method to place such ‘prospects’ or ‘cold leads’ into your sales funnel. In the hard sell corporate era, such people would be bombarded with marketing material, often with no relevance to them at all. Today you can utilise ‘social listening’ techniques to learn about the individual needs of such people.
A cision.com article entitled ‘Listen, Then Speak: 10 Quotes on Social Media Listening’ gather some useful and insightful quotes from leading social listeners:
Remember during your interactions that social media was made for people, not businesses – Neal Schaffer.
It is important to prepare potential new customers so they are ready to take on your services, be they accountancy services or otherwise. The process of engagement must be as natural as possible and the potential clients you are reaching out to through to via your microchannels must each individually feel they are gaining benefit from those interactions.
The Long Yet Invaluable Process Of Client Relationship Building
Business growth requires a steady stream of new paying customers. There is much talk of ‘millennials’, ‘generation z’ and now ‘generation alpha’. Since the early 90s, a seismic shift has happened where each new generation is more tech savvy than the last, a fact that elderly businessmen lament. Businesses that can align themselves with the needs of these so called ‘millennials’ stand to make profit and earn respect and authority. It takes time, a lot of flexibility and the willingness to understand and adapt. It’s a long task which is why many businesses shy away from the task.
No one likes to have to repeat themselves over and over again. The good news is there are some simple and effective solutions to the repetition. Well written and regularly updated FAQs on your site act as a hub where customer questions get answered. Regular blog posts, video explainers and infographics are not only a great way to solve your client’s dilemmas, they look nice and are highly shareable on social media. Fill your content with tips, tricks and proven problem solvers. If you don’t have the time to invest in content creation, consider hiring a content marketer. Ignore content creation at your peril, every business needs it.
Use well crafted, engaging content to grow your email list. A bi-weekly or monthly email newsletter with some of your best content helps to remind customers you are there without being aggressive or ‘salesy’.
Leverage social media tools like Tweetdeck and Hootsuite to conduct social listening campaigns. Look for relevant hashtags, follow like minded companies and brands and discover where most of your prospects like to consume content. If the majority of your prospects spend time on LinkedIn, this is where you should be or whichever social media platform they favour, be it Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest. Be ready to share content from other brands and individuals, if it is relevant to your product, it is worth sharing. This also gives off a signal that you are prepared to work with and support others and that is something your future buyers will want to see.
Relationships With Existing Clients And Client Networks
Even with existing clients, the principle remains the same except that you are not trying to create awareness, you are trying to ‘nurture. When referring to ‘networks’, this refers to the decision makers and business associates of your clients. By creating a good impression with your existing clients, you are by extension creating a good impression with their network, one that could lead to on boarding key prospects. Once again, it’s all about listening carefully for ‘pain points’ and nurturing your clients with applicable content. This may require more sophisticated forms of content like white papers and webinars, free consultations and software demos. As your clients discover more obstacles in their work, be one step ahead and solve them. If you can do this, watch those referrals fly in!
The Importance Of Relationships
Relationships in the sphere of business are important for all kinds of reasons, but the most important reason for your business is growth and revenue in an environment that is not just competitive-it is often very slow moving. Convincing people to buy is not easy at all. Clients may be boot strapped, they may be using a service like yours already or they are just not interested. Whether they turn to you now, later or not at all, they need to be aware you exist.
Making a connection can sometimes be the deal breaker. It is highly probable there are other companies out there doing the same service as you to the same standards. What gives you, or them the edge? The ability to speak your clients language could be one reason.
The Strange case Of Politicians
Any business wanting to connect with their audience would do well to study the lives of politicians. Politicians are part of our lives, love them or hate them. Certain politicians have the uncanny ability to resonate with their audience in such a way that voters throw all rationale out of the window to vote for them. Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson, Jeremy Corbyn and George Galloway all fit into the category of ‘polarising politicians’. Their message and their actions can often be deemed controversial by sections of society, yet it is that controversy that elevates them to the front pages of media publications and onto the screens of our national television broadcasters.
Agree or disagree, these men (and women) have a certain charisma and a vision that carries them and keeps them in the public eye. To a lesser degree, influencers on social media are able to do something similar. You don’t have to cast a vote for Jeremy Corbyn and Nigel Farage to know who they are, the fact is, there is no escaping them. The media is desperate to mention these personalities at every opportunity, why? Because they generate debate, online newspapers get clicks, the very appearance of these people cause surges in TV viewership and lively discussion on social media.
Of course, as a business, you don’t want to putting out polarising messages but you can for example, point out the pros and cons of a particular selling method, product or service. Using balanced arguments and proof, you can point out flaws in a particular system and recommend a better one (yours!).
Make full use of all your online assets to send a message that not only attracts clients but matches up with exceptional service. You may have the most up to date technology but if you’re not aligned with your customers hopes and expectations, you might as well not have a business at all. Invest all the time necessary to get to know your customers, learn how to deliver the service they want and get referrals through a first class service.