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Courting Doesn't End with Conversation with Sarah Shephard

Existing Clients| Milestones| Vendors| Ecosystem| Team
October 17, 20226 min read

How many times have you participated in some sort of sales or marketing event and the speaker gives an analogy about dating or marriage?   Look at one of our recent blogs and you’ll see we referred to marriage in the first few lines!

Well, here’s a new one for you:

“I feel like you guys stopped showering after we were dating.” 

When presented with a statement like this, it would be easy to be offended and attribute the odd statement to more of a reflection of something happening at the moment, than any true feedback to be analyzed.  But what wonderful opportunities would present themselves if you thought more about what was really being shared in that statement?   That’s exactly what one agency leader did when presented with this feedback years ago. 

Sarah Shephard is the Chief Operating Officer at StringCan Interactive.  They are a full-service, concierge agency that works with entrepreneurs who don’t want to hire a team or full-time employees and larger organizations who want to outsource their CMO role.  We met with Sarah for our series of discussions on the challenges and successes that agency owners face when it comes to building strong business relationships, on all fronts – Leads, existing clients, and even team members.  

Keep Courting Your Clients

Additional attention that paid

Years ago, a client made the statement to Sarah about no longer showering and the StringCan team took that lesson to heart.  They walked away with the powerful understanding that if you don’t continue to show up and court your existing clients, they won’t feel relevant.  And when they stop feeling relevant or feel like you don’t have time to give them attention, they’ll just find someone new.

When Covid first started, StringCan made the very tough decision to pause their business development efforts and completely focus on existing clients.  You can’t be all things to all people.  It’s more important to be the best you for the people you’re already working with and let that part thrive.   

Now, it’s worth noting that one of the first things Sarah told me is that “our unofficial motto is we don’t do shit to do shit.” They were very intentional about making the decision to pause their business development.   The learning to continue to court your existing clients fueled their confidence that the shift in focus was the right move. 

And it worked. StringCan has been able to maintain their existing clients through Covid and increase the new initiatives by giving clients additional attention.  

We’ve said it before, relationship building, or relationship marketing, requires a long-term effort.  For it to pay off, you have to be consistent with it.  Instead of diluting their efforts, the StringCan team went all in on the relationships they already had in place and strengthened those to carry them through the last two years.

Ideas for Existing Client Courting

When it comes to strategies for nurturing your existing clients, at The Expressory, we always recommend that you find at least 2 touch points per year to show up in a personal way for your clients.  This means something outside of just the work you deliver.  

For StringCan Interactive, they created a shared client calendar.  It includes their client's birthdays and anniversaries.  As each date approaches, they look for something personal to acknowledge that client.  Sarah said, “we just try to recognize that they’re humans and that we’re here and we really are a partner with them.”

Aside from the basics of birthdays, anniversaries, and even holiday appreciation, here are some other ideas that will help you find ways to continue to court your existing clients:

Small Talk - Another change that has really helped StringCan since the Pandemic, is that people have gotten over their fear or dislike of being on video calls.  Prior to Covid, Sarah says they couldn’t get many of their clients to agree to being on video calls.  Now, “conversations are happening more regularly, and the small talk pieces are really important to building relationships.”

Milestone Celebrations – Look for something worth celebrating in the client’s world.  Have they launched a new website or campaign? Maybe they hit a milestone as a thought leader or influencer.   As Sarah puts it, “anything exciting and notable.”  That’s your chance to show them that you see them and that you’re thinking of them. 

Share Your Smarts – Continue to build up that trust by sharing new research, insights, or even a helpful new book that would add value.  Give generously long after they have become a client and watch how they share your name. 

Again, look for a minimum of two of these touchpoints per year for each existing client.  You’ll be amazed at the opportunities you uncover with the engagement you create. 

Court the Relationships in Your Ecosystem

Does your team know they’re relevant?

Aside from existing clients, it’s also common to spend time investing in other relevant business relationships, until you have them “onboard” and then unintentionally leave them unattended.  For instance, your team. 

When I asked Sarah about how StringCan Interactive makes sure that they are showing up as a best-in-class employer she took me back to the start and the process of courting people.   She shared that when it comes to hiring, they make sure that new team members have welcome gifts when they come on board.  “You spend so much time with them.  And then they come onboard and they’re, like, really overwhelmed.  And so, I just continue that process of wooing.  Like ‘hey, we’re here for you…we care about you.’ And I think it means a lot to people.”

Making sure that the team knows they are valued is so important to StringCan that they recently hired a Chief Wellbeing Officer.  One of the things this new hire is responsible for is completely redesigning the employee recognition program.    Part of that redesign includes understanding what the team finds valuable so that leadership can customize its recognition efforts. 

The many relationships that matter

Your team is just one of the many parts that make up your business’ ecosystem and are worth your efforts to nurture.  Sarah shared with us that they like to send their board members gifts, prior to meetings. The members enjoy that personal touch so much that at times they have reached out to make sure new addresses are updated!   

All relationships have the potential to sell for you and open doors.  Given that you never know where the next opportunity might come from, here are some additional categories of relationships you should consider setting aside time to nurture:  

  • Vendors

  • Coaches, mentors, or advisors

  • Your friends and family

  • Your peers

  • Your mastermind partners

  • Significant others and children of your team members

  • Referral Partners

The question to ask yourself is - Do these people have stories to share about why they love working with you?  If you can’t easily think of an answer, it’s time to reconnect. 

Relationships are the cornerstone of what we do at The Expressory. Let's get to know each other and find out if The Expressory can help you grow your brand through personalized experiences. Click here to set up a Marketing Strategy Session or click here to download our free guide for Creating Emotional Loyalty by Design. Let us show you how to design a unique experience that sets you apart.



Jamie Shibley

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