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.
Developing a consistent relationship-building process takes time – It’s like strengthening a new muscle. This is why The Expressory typically recommends selecting one type of relationship (usually existing clients) and a couple of occasions to start. A majority of the business owners that I meet are in this earlier stage of their relationship-building efforts. They’re focusing on either their existing clients or their prospects and they maybe have a couple of things that they do consistently to nurture those relationships.
Earlier this year, we began working with Jason Mudd, CEO of Axia Public Relations, rated by Forbes magazine as one of America’s Best PR Agencies. They are experts at sharing stories through the news, social media, and online. Jason reached out to The Expressory because he was looking for help to systematize the advanced relationship-building efforts that his team had developed over time. I recently asked Jason for some time to talk about the investment that Axia has made in a complete system of relationship-building levers that covers all three main categories of relationships (existing clients, prospects, and your business ecosystem of supporting relationships). What really stood out is the return he sees on that investment and the understanding of how the entire system plays together to drive business.
When we talked about creating a best-in-class place to work, Jason shared that he has read some recent articles that speak to employee recognition as a primary challenge for many companies in this post-Covid era. He was proud to share that this felt like something his company has covered, as thanking employees for their contributions is something of a priority for Axia. He said, “we went 63 months with zero turnover for a season in our company.” This is a big deal and a milestone he hopes to beat as he continues to place an emphasis on celebrating his employees.
Jason is very intentional about recognition. In the past his team has received:
Care packages/Get well packages
“Enjoy your travel” vacation packages
St. Patty’s Day cupcakes
He also makes a point of hosting regular team virtual events. At one point they even hired a trivia host and played a spirited game of trivia. The team enjoyed it so much that they planned another to include family members.
Aside from the gifts and experiences, Jason also understands the value of good old-fashioned recognition for a job well done after projects. He will often make a point of giving shouts to teams of people involved in newly completed projects. The celebratory environment makes people willing to go even further on the next project!
Overall, Jason understands the twofold return of investing in his team and making sure they feel valued and appreciated. The first is evident in his record months with no turnover – higher team retention. The second is the potential increase in client spend - if your team is happy with the culture created internally, that is reflected in the work delivered to clients.
When I asked Jason about his goals for converting prospects and how they make their leads feel valued he said that their goal isn’t necessarily all about value. What they’ve learned to do that works well for them is to flip the script on working with prospects. Their goal is to find out if it would be mutually beneficial for them to work together. They want to pre-qualify one another and “see if it’s a good decision for us to work together”. Jason says, “that flipping the script has actually converted a lot more leads for us. It’s just helped us save a lot of time.”
One of the approaches that Jason uses for business development is the Dream 25 process. As a reminder, this process uses an identified set of top prospects and systematically nurtures the relationships until they convert or state that they are not interested. (You can find more information here and here). The nurturing steps of this process consist of intentional touch-points, both digital and physical, spread throughout the year.
To identify their top prospect list, Jason says they are first working through the process of developing their niche. This work will identify three to five industries for Axia to become known as the PR experts, the go-to company. It’s within these industries that Jason intends to find the contacts for his Dream 25 list. He says, “There are companies we want to nudge and get opportunities versus the companies that come to us. What we’re trying to do is evoke and engage them to be interested.”
Once companies are on the list, Axia uses The Expressory’s services to help trigger interest. We do this by identifying a touch point every six to eight weeks and working as a team to develop the experiences that evoke engagement at an emotional level. Mailings have included:
Books with titles related to a holiday theme – Love is Just Damn Good Business for Valentine’s Day.
Business articles or research
Gifts that encourage downtime or team building
Gifts that celebrate achievements
Earth Day celebration with items that reflect growth
Treats – From companies with cause related stories or local favorites with shareable stories
All of these items are intended to spark additional engagement and interest. Jason finds that most of the mailings deliver emails or texts from the recipients. He has received pictures of the families enjoying a gift or stories of why the recipient really connected with that particular item.
According to research conducted by LOB, 64% of respondents shared that direct mail had the highest response rate of any of their channels. It’s no wonder Jason’s combined physical and digital experiences deliver a high level of engagement. Trust is being developed with each touch point.
Each response provides additional background and information that enables the Axia team to further develop the relationship. The more information collected, the better the business development conversations can proceed. As Jason said, his goal is to save time during the prospecting process. This system of nurturing helps showcase which clients have interest and would be the right fit. It limits the time invested in developing proposals that need continued refinement in order to win the business. By the time they get to the point of a request for proposal, both parties have a pretty solid idea of the potential working relationship.
Throughout the year, some of the mailings in the Dream 25 process are expanded to include existing clients. Jason is all about making sure that people know that Axia sees them, cares about them and values them. And it’s important to him that people understand that this kind of personalized attention doesn’t stop once you start working with Axia Public Relations.
Making these investments in people helps create company stability, shorter conversion times and longer client retention. When everyone from your team, your existing clients and your prospects feels that they are important and respected, there is a magnetic energy that just increases the opportunities all around.
Every day we get to help business leaders design this type of strategic approach to building longer lasting relationships. Let's get to know each other and find out if The Expressory can help you advance your approach to building the kind of relationships that accelerate your business growth. 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.