In my last blog post, I wrote about how to cultivate loyal clients—actual tactics that build loyalty and relationships. The feedback and comments I have received (often better than the post itself) revved me to take this a step further to write about what this type of loyalty allows you to do as a valued partner. The basic assumption is that if you have loyal clients, you are viewed more as a member of the team or partner (vs. consultant or vendor which can have negative connotations). I am fortunate to enjoy the relationships I have with my clients but these have been built on a solid foundation of years of hard work and lots of laps around the track. There is no shortcut to create loyalty but once you have it, you can bet it will pay off. My writing comes from inspiration I get from my daily work with my clients. So here—from the marketing & public relations office at Howell are my thoughts on what you can get away with if your clients are loyal:
· Expect client acceptance for accelerated strategy, ideas, execution: Once you have gained a client’s confidence and have been there with them thru thick and thin—you can more effectively advance the objectives. This trust that you know what you are doing of course hinges on the fact that you do, but once you are a trusted team member, you can get more done for your client. An example of this is a physician group client of mine recently developed a new service that needed promoting. Because of the relationship and past successes, our team was able to put together a plan and get approval in record speed and we are now in production of the campaign.
· You can by-pass gatekeepers: Every successful organization needs gatekeepers and trust me, I’ve seen many. Sometimes they are lawyers, sometimes accountants, sometimes HR executives. Good gatekeepers can be worth their weight in gold but they can also prevent you from doing what needs to be done for clients. Loyal clients have gatekeepers who become advocates. I have a client that has had to work through some legal issues and thanks to my relationship with the CEO I have been able to accomplish client messages in the media with the blessing of corporate counsel (have I mentioned I work with lawyers a lot?). In this case, I prepare my work and get buy in from legal prior to any execution and as lawyers and CEOs don’t like surprises, this works every time.
· You stand a better chance of not being run over: I’m not saying here that if you have loyal clients, they’ll never fire you. I’m saying that if you have loyal clients (because you do kick ass work—see previous post) it’s harder for them to leave you. Think of the investment you have made in your client and vice versa over the years. That is worth something to everyone. That invested time in relationships means you can pretty much predict what your client needs or thinks. It allows you to be more proactive and results-driven because you are more focused on what your client needs, not what you need. Being secure in your client relationships breeds healthy results for everyone. True and funny story: About 3 years ago I had a client in the financial services industry who had a new CFO. I had been working for the client for a few years when the CFO decided to put my contract “out for bid” (as a self-viewed team member and not a “vendor” this was tough). My gut reaction—while often good but not in this case—was to tell the client to find somebody else. Instead, I bit my tongue and went through the bid process which included the CFO interviewing some of my other clients. Long drama short, I ended up keeping the work and was able to increase my fee as I realized after reviewing my work from the previous year that I had left money on the table.
· You become part of the engine in the day to day branding: If you are really passionate about getting to know your clients and good at helping them succeed, you will become part of the team, an extension of their brand. This is beneficial in the relationship as your knowledge of their product or service allows you to be credible as an educated, informed spokesperson. I’ve only had this become problematic a few times as it can prevent you from getting new business if you are too close to one particular entity. For example, if I bleed one certain bank’s blood, you can be sure the competition won’t hire me. That’s alright with me though and I’d rather take that risk.
· Clients will climb on board with others you recommend: I had a client who recently had to switch CPA firms. My client mentioned it to me during lunch and asked me what I thought about some of the CPA firms around Memphis. Immediately I thought of one that could truly help his business and was able to facilitate that introduction. That’s the “value add” of having loyal clients.
· Expect to engage in client confidentiality: Loyal clients will include you in corporate confidential discussions including mergers, acquisitions, layoffs, etc. As a public relations firm, we often know of things long before they occur to plan and map the strategy of the distribution of the news. This is a huge compliment but at the same time it is critical to respect the privacy and confidentiality of client news. This means being careful where you put documents, keeping emails private, etc. In this increasingly “viral” world, it is getting more challenging to keep information secure.
So buckle-up in your vehicle, drive fast when you have to, drive slow when
you should and by all means enjoy the journey alongside your clients.
Oh, and yes, don’t text or tweet while driving!