In my latest video, I break down how swimming teaches us the importance of these relationship-building efforts and the specifics of what we as leaders need to nurture with our teams.
In an effort to simplify the decision-making process, we're sharing some of the trends we've seen with gifting over the years. We're even sharing our best seller and why that gift had such success.
Last year we had the opportunity to work with one of our clients in the travel and tourism space to design an experience that delivered their highest engagement yet.
Client relationships aren’t something you can put on autopilot. Just like a marriage, they take work! In fact, they are one of three types of relationships agencies need to foster if they want to succeed. Curious about the other two? Spoiler alert…it’s prospective clients and your own team members. So I wanted to chat with someone who was leading the way when it comes to client appreciation and so much more. This is the latest installment on my series around the challenges and successes agencies face building relationships with three main groups they need to cultivate in order to win—leads, existing clients and other supporting business relationships. In case you missed the first two posts, check them out here and here.
Each of these articles share 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 use in your own business.
Today, my conversation is with Elena Lippincott of AOR, a branding, marketing and web agency that brings connection and community to everything they do while always leading with people first. The more I talked with Elena, the more I enjoyed hearing the different ways she and her team build relationships and show client appreciation. She said it best, “I think just connecting with people as a human is what has led to our relationship-based community that we’ve built.”
Building Relationships with Client Appreciation
Here at The Expressory, we know how important it is to nurture your leads and maintain existing client relationships. It takes work, but it’s time worth taking because it will pay dividends in the end.
Elena was telling us about the president of her company who has been the dedicated “relationship” guy for the past 25-30 years. “He’s that charming sales guy who truly bonds with people.” He may nurture a relationship for years before that lead becomes a client. But by the time they make that transition, it’s more of a friend who is becoming a client. “By the time there is an opportunity to work together, they are going to come to us because they have a personal connection with him,” she said. Think about how you can do this for your own network. Whether it’s a happy hour or breakfast get-together, look for opportunities to network and connect.
“My president is very planes, trains and automobiles. He’ll meet anyone anywhere and cultivate that relationship,” Elaine said. She told me a story about how one of their biggest clients met their president on a plane and they exchanged business cards. The moral of the story? Always look for ways to build a connection to someone, whether it’s in line at your favorite coffee shop or at a business fundraiser. (Oddly enough, I made a business connection while I was giving birth to my daughter at the hospital! It just goes to show that you never know when those opportunities will come up.)
Once you make a worthwhile connection, regularly keep up with that person. Like Elena said, “We keep up with them [our clients] in everyday life.” It’s also of the utmost importance to continue doing this in a digital world, but it may mean adjusting your approach. Create a funnel to nurture those relationships with a combination of high touch (physical sharing of an experience) with high tech (digital expertise).
The more leads and clients you have, the more energy you need to give toward building and maintaining good relationships. But what if there was a more efficient way? Elena and her team throw an annual client appreciation party for anywhere from 200-400 people, including clients, employees, vendors and peers. “We completely transform our office and theme it out,” she said. “It’s an opportunity to show our clients that we’re creative.” As part of this, Elena said they’ll do fun invitations and custom t-shirts related to the theme. And she said that clients have told her that they have t-shirts from every past party since working together. To get more mileage from all the creativity that goes into these parties, she said they “have a whole wall in our office with all the party invites and memorabilia, so you can look on our shelves and see every client appreciation party from 1992 on.” A big bonus of these parties is that they’ve typically gotten one new, big account each year they’ve thrown one.
The great thing about a client appreciation party is that you can use it to your advantage well before the party begins and long after it ends. After selecting a fun theme, tie it into the invitations to build excitement ahead of time. The pre-planning can even start six months ahead of the event. And leading up to the big day, keep up the momentum with additional communications and mailings that tie into the theme. When you do this consistently like Elena, you can have a collection of invitations throughout the years that will become a conversation piece on its own.
As part of their client appreciation party, Elena said there’s always gifts that come with the party that guests can take home. One of her past themes was a speakeasy party where guests were gifted whiskey stones and a bottle of spirits. Smart and fun! To make the attendee think of the party with fondness, the take-home should be something related to the theme of the party and have one of these attributes:
It’s made by hand (this could be made by anyone, but that personal touch will be noticed).
It has a great story attached to it that will be eagerly shared.
It motivates the guests toward a future goal, milestone or experience they want to have.
One month after the event, send a thank-you note that communicates to your guests the amazing time you shared together and further appreciation of their attendance. A great idea is to include a group photo that you’ve taken at the event. Shared events are one of the attributes of a lasting gift that will have guests thinking of the event, your company and you long after it has ended. Plus, it will build excitement for your next event if you make this an annual gathering.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, in-person gatherings have changed. Therefore, it’s important to include clients, team members and additional important connections who cannot attend, in your event planning. One of the ways to do this is by sending remote invitees a care package shortly before the event with the invitation that has the language changed to something like, “We know you can’t be here in person, but we’re bringing the party to you.” That way they have the same collectable invitation to look forward to. After the event, you could mail them the same take-home that your in-person attendees received with a note that speaks to how sorry you are that they couldn’t be with you for this event. This makes people feel as included as possible, and the sentiment of your good wishes will stay with them.
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.