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Client relationships are one of three major types of relationships agencies need to actively foster if they want to succeed, but how to do that can sometimes feel a bit vague. So, I decided to sit down with an absolute rockstar when it comes to building and maintaining relationships. As a heads-up, this article is part of a series we’re doing around the challenges and successes that agencies face when it comes to building relationships with the three main groups, they need to cultivate in order to win—leads, existing clients and other supporting business relationships.
Each article will take lessons on how to strengthen each of these types of relationships. Both to act as inspiration for you and to give you some tactical advice you can “copy and paste” into your own business.
My conversation is with Sandra Martini of The Martini Way, a boutique agency that works with clients who make a difference in today’s world. At the time we spoke, it became clear that Sandra is a pro at relationship building. This statement from Sandra sums up her outlook, “Extreme client care is what we build the business on. That is the umbrella over this whole business.”
Just to put this in perspective, most membership organizations keep clients for 90-120 days on average. At The Martini Way, Sandra’s average member has been with her for seven years! So yes, she lives and breathes this stuff.
Here at The Expressory, we can’t emphasize enough how important it is to nurture your leads. It makes all the difference, but so many companies stick to a one-size-fits-all approach. To combat this, Sandra likes to get personalized. “I’ll send an email just checking in and saying ‘How are you?’ ‘What’s going on?’ Is there anything I can help you with?’ We get a really good response with that. And when people respond, I personally write back.” Here is why this tactic stands out. It isn’t because it’s fancy or difficult. It isn’t because it’s driven by convenience and tech. It works because this is an investment of time, but it makes your leads feel seen and heard, not just another number.
Sandra also believes in the power of handwritten communication—how powerful it is and how special it can make someone feel. Sandra said she’ll use Facebook to find leads’ birthdays in order to send them a handwritten birthday card. “We also send Thanksgiving cards to all our clients and past clients, so we try to make them feel like part of our family.”
While digital communications are easy, direct mail is more impactful, especially when combined with getting personal. All the more reason to try your best at getting mailing addresses. Sandra shared a story demonstrating the power of this. Three years ago, she sent out a short email asking people if they wanted to join a beta program, and one man signed up for the highest level, which cost $3,000. During her first call with him, Sandra asked him what made him decide to join the program, and this is what he said, “Two years ago, you sent me a card when my father passed. Nobody else has ever sent me a card for that. You were the only person, and I wasn’t even your client. I had never forgotten that, and when you sent that email out, I felt like it was the right time.” When it comes to personal communication like this, think about the milestones in your life that would be most meaningful for you, and make sure you show up for your leads in that way.
Many people are also familiar with a lead magnet—a freebie in exchange for personal information like an email address. Sandra is a firm believer in these, but to get someone’s mailing address, she’ll take it a step further. After they get their first freebie, they’ll get taken to a thank you page where she’ll ask for their mailing address in exchange for another freebie. She explains, “We created a dry erase wall map business plan called Escalator Marketing, which is a map and training all into one. And we mail it with a dry erase marker, push pins and a welcome letter.” She continues, “Then a month to six weeks later, we’ll send a poster that we created around all the different ways you can use your content.” The lesson here? Creating freebies for your leads is a great idea, but make it something worthwhile and useful to their business, and have a plan for how you can keep being helpful after the first step.
As it turns out, one of the things Sandra most struggles with is increasing her leads in an offline way. “Because we only get email addresses from about 30 percent of new leads, what do we do for the other 70 percent?” One way she remedies this situation is with a print newsletter so her leads get the best content sent straight to their physical mailbox. For some, this may be a hurdle, but it is a tactic worth considering if you want to stand out. The reality is, combining digital and print collateral as a means to get in contact with potential clients is always more effective than focusing on one communication stream, but if you only have one method, use it!
Business owners don’t have a lot of time on their hands. So after they get a new client, things like maintaining and fostering client relationships can fall by the wayside. Think of all those companies who give new customers a great deal to sign on, and then how you feel as an existing customer who is paying more or being ignored. One takeaway from my conversation with Sandra was that she makes it part of her team’s ongoing job to watch for moments to celebrate.
Document. From your client’s favorite color to what sports team they love, document personal details about each of your clients in an organized digital system so anyone working on that account can find that personalized intel. That way if you’re looking for a birthday gift or a token to celebrate the end of a successful year, you already have great ideas.
Random acts of kindness. For some of Sandra’s clients who aren’t on social media, it’s tough to find out key dates like their birthdays. She’ll “play detective” and try to get some of this information using regular touchbases. But if that’s not possible, consider random acts to celebrate your existing clients. Sometimes a surprise you don’t expect can go over better than a planned event because surprise gifts are powerful gifts that create lasting relationships and deeper connections.
Uplevel your systems. During COVID, Sandra said they upleveled their system, changing their CRM because they were using different systems to track everything. “It’s so much more than an email broadcast process. It’s our library,” she says.
Employee retention is something that agencies are struggling with across the board, so it is nice to know this is a relationship you can bolster as well. Sandra excels at this work, so I picked up some advice. In her words, “Our team members are like our clients…they stay.” She credits this to a few things, like keeping them engaged and motivated year-round.
People are often motivated by different things, and that is OK! Just like leads and clients, this is an opportunity, not a hassle. For example, if Sandra knows someone is motivated by cash, she’ll put a $100 bill in a thank you card. If they are motivated by public praise, she will call them out in front of others for good work.
Once, a team member was having some difficulties with her young daughters and Sandra saw an opportunity. Sandra sent the daughters a game. One that helped their mother get them ready for the day more quickly, so everyone was happier and less stressed. It was a simple gesture with a big impact.
Needless to say, creating the same culture in her company that Sandra wanted with her clients has created an all-around caring and motivating culture. It’s magnetic and lasting, exactly what business owners want at their companies.
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.