What Swimming Teaches Us About Team Relationships

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.

Holiday Gift Insights - What Everyone Else Is Doing

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.

What Makes A Successful Holiday Gift? The Travel Bag Edition

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.

blog image

Your Strategic 500 List

February 06, 20236 min read

Your Strategic 500 List

We know that client retention and new client conversion play a big role in the financial stability and excellence of your business. And most of us are looking for the silver bullet to improve those metrics. While there’s not a “one size fits all” answer, there are certainly some basics that can contribute to success.

In May of 2022, I attended the Build A Better Agency event in Chicago, where I had a chance to meet Jon Morris, CEO of Ramsay Innovations. As a vendor, he was there to introduce agency owners to the financial strategies that his company so expertly helps implement. It was his experience using these strategies that really connected us, as we found a shared belief in building relationships at the human level. It’s part of how he built (and later sold) one of the largest independent Digital Agencies in the world, Rise Interactive.

Work From Your Top 500

Among the key approaches that Jon implements with his clients is an improved, long-term, business development strategy. You’ve heard us talk about a Dream 25 process before – Jon’s approach is to work from an ongoing list of 500 prospects. This is something that he created at Rise and they’ve also been using it at Ramsay. Consider it a tested and proven approach! 

Jon explained that you first have to develop a very targeted approach to who you’re looking to work with. You then narrow that down to your list of 500 prospects that you’re going to manage on an ongoing basis. You’re going to continually work to build and deepen those relationships over time. There are phases to those relationships and you’re going to use a variety of approaches to connect and move them along the funnel.  These can include:

  • Content marketing – Thought leadership sharing

  • Invitations to business events

  • Invitations to experiences – Come golf with me

  • Direct mail

  • Gifting experiences

The bottom line is that you’re looking to create that bond, that emotional connection. You want to always be looking for ways to move that relationship toward the invite to pitch to them. You want to move from being a stranger and an unknown, to being a trusted advocate, to the person they recommend to everyone.  

Sometimes you’ll begin to develop that relationship and you’ll find that these prospects perhaps are not the fit you thought they were. It’s alright to remove them from your list. But the idea is that you always have a healthy list of those people you’re working to build relationships with.  

And this is where Jon says he’s seen the power of strategic gifting.  

Strategic Gifting That Worked

Given Jon’s history of creating a successful brand through thoughtful relationship building, we had a lot of fun swapping stories about gifting experiences that made an impact.    

Here are some of the ways that Jon has used strategic gifting in the past:

  • Rise Interactive would often throw their own events and invite clients to speak. During the event they would have a graphic notetaker document their presentations. After the events, Jon would frame smaller versions of these graphics and send them to the speakers. These unique gifts had “about an 80 – 90% success rate – It was hung up on their wall in the office somewhere. Right there you had the Rise Interactive logo on their wall for many years to come.”

  • At the Rise offices, they had a massive gumball machine in the lobby. It was the kind that held 20,000 gumballs and stood about 10 feet tall - Something that makes an impression. For the holidays one year, all of Rise’s clients received a smaller version of this and once a month, gumball refills would be sent to stay front of mind! These machines generally stayed in the offices and since it had the Rise logo on it, Jon knows he was front of mind on a regular basis.

  • Rise Interactive’s brand colors were orange and blue. Jon would send all new clients a welcome gift of oranges. It would come complete with a nice fancy bowl and a card that would explain the significance of the color to add more meaning. Again, Rise’s presence would be shared in the client’s office.

  • One year, a client told Jon that Ramsay was “like having a weighted security blanket because they make you feel secure and comfortable.” What a lovely testimonial, which Jon took one step further by purchasing high-end weighted blankets as the client holiday gifts for the year. These blankets had the Ramsay logo stitched into the label. It was not in your face, but it was there.  

  • For a long time, when they would see one of their connections get a promotion, they would take the new business card and create a 2-foot version of it for the person to put in their office. Jon says that for years you’d see the card on display in the person’s office because they were proud of the accomplishment. 

And the generous strategic gifting doesn’t stop with prospects and clients, it extends to team as well. 

  • Holidays often include the latest and greatest iPad for each new team member. 

  • Every new employee receives a welcome/onboarding gift.

  • Employees receive “get well” packages with soup when they are sick. 

Imagine how just a few of these thoughtful experiences might impact your relationships. Are there opportunities in your customer journey to implement similar touchpoints? These are the types of things that have a long-term impact on a business and it’s the reason Jon teaches his clients how to always be mindful of the relationship they’re building with that list of 500.

Measuring Return

Of course, many will look at this list of ideas and initially question spending that type of money on relationship building. I asked Jon how they measured these efforts and found them to be successful in such a way that he continues to use them in his 2nd company. He told me - “Attribution is always going to be difficult. But ROI really comes down to the retention rate of your employees, the retention rate of your clients, your win rate of your new business and how much business gets referred to you.”

Besides, “sometimes you don’t need an attribution to just know that people deserve a gift at the end of the year.”

We’re firm believers in the importance of investing to develop human level relationships. This means creating the kind of experiences that help the recipients feel seen, heard, valued, and cared for. When you can trigger one of those feelings, you’ve created the kind of long-lasting relationship that regularly, and naturally, opens more opportunities for your business. 

And if you need financial justification, ask yourself, what is the value of this potential client over a year? Over a lifetime? You’ll find that most of the time it makes the investment in relationship building look like a drop in the bucket. And if it’s not, then we suggest you reconsider your target relationships. Perhaps they are not as much of a fit as you thought.

Hopefully these ideas have given you some food for thought for a more strategic way to approach your business building. Join us for one of our upcoming Q&As and we’d be happy to talk more about the ideas presented here.  We can also spend some time getting to know each other - Click here to set up a Marketing Strategy Session.

strategic giftingprospects

Jamie Shibley

Back to Blog