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The ROI of relationship building.

The real return of investing in personal relationships

March 03, 20238 min read

Relationship building is a natural part of your marketing, and it is a long-term investment. You typically don’t have immediately identifiable results but when you’re consistent, you develop momentum that creates a constant flow of business opportunities. You can always tell a person or company who is really good at relationship building because they have a very large community (personal and professional), spanning many years.  

That’s true of my latest expert relationship builder, Drew McLellan. In most of the interviews I conducted with agency owners, Drew was mentioned as the “guy who does this relationship stuff really well”. So, naturally, we had to talk!  

Drew is the owner of Agency Management Institute (AMI), an organization for small to mid-sized agency owners. He’s also owned a successful agency of his own for almost 30 years. Many of the practices we discussed are strategies and tactics that he regularly teaches agency owners in his AMI community.   

A Practice of Validation

One of the first things we dug into was his strategy for building relationships with his podcast. I’ve often heard that Drew was the person who started the practice of sending Quote Card gifts to his podcast guests. Quote cards are a common gift that we have discussed before. It’s a strategy that podcast hosts often use to nurture relationships with key guests of the show who are deemed high-value prospects. In some cases, the host chooses to leverage this strategy for all guests. And sometimes the host may invest in follow-up relationships, not for potential business, but to build a thriving community. Regardless of which reason a host is choosing to nurture their guest relationships, we wanted to understand the return and why it’s such a widely used practice.  

Drew has been hosting The Build a Better Agency Podcast for quite a few years. It’s going on 400 episodes now. Every single guest on his show receives a beautifully framed quote card.  

When I asked Drew what type of response he’s received, he shared, “They love being quoted and they love having something they can put in their office that makes it look like they’re quote-worthy. We get a lot of appreciation for that gift. 

Strong relationships are built when someone feels understood, validated, and cared for. When you pull out something wise from the guest’s interview, you are showing that you understand their expertise. You are validating their smarts and that they are in fact someone worth quoting. And the investment in a follow-up shows that you do care - All setting up a deeper trust. So, it’s not surprising that Drew has received a high level of appreciation. 

Validation + Shared Experiences = GOLD

Not only is this practice one that builds trust through validation and understanding, but the experience itself is one that builds an emotional connection. The overall message and gift trigger the recipient to remember a positive shared experience, which is one of the attributes of a gift that creates a stronger emotional response.  

There are a number of reasons shared experiences build deeper and more meaningful relationships. One of the main reasons being that they create a sense of connection and bonding. When people engage in activities together, they create memories and shared emotions. When you remind someone of this experience you remind them of the sense of closeness and familiarity you already have. It opens the opportunity for further engagement, open communication, and an increased level of trust. 

Every step in this relationship building effort naturally brings you one step closer to your next opportunity. Speaking of opportunities – The next question I asked Drew was about the return on the podcast’s relationship building efforts.  

The Real Return

What I love about Drew is that when I asked him about an actual return – Why should people invest in this – His response was that he doesn’t do it for the return. His goal with this effort is “to provide resources and information from our guests” for the overall AMI community. These guests “can teach them something about running their business better”. What happens is that the podcast itself “provides so much information, and it’s such an attraction tool for agencies to find us and become engaged.” In Drew’s mind, for that reason, he owes these guests a debt of gratitude.  

Rhonda Byrne, The Secret of Money Masterclass

“Your giving should be without expectation of return”

When you approach your relationship building from that standpoint, it’s only natural that you create a magnetic community. One where members thrive, engage, contribute and grow – And they stick around! 

Drew shared that sometimes people post their frames on social media, but he almost always receives a thank you in text or email. But more important than that, what he finds is that these guests are willing to contribute to the greater community by:

  • Hosting webinars

  • Sponsoring the annual summit

  • Referring other resources or members

  • Helping members by sharing their expertise

“There’s no doubt there’s ROI. It’s credibility. It’s resources.  I get smarter when I interview them.” Drew believes there has been no downside to the investment he’s made in these guests. They have often become friends and valued thought leaders of the community. And the organization as a whole has been greater for his effort to nurture these valuable relationships. 

An Investment In People Is Priceless

I think my favorite part of talking with Drew about his ability to be so personal with so many was when we talked about his team. His average staff tenure is about 15 years. You don’t get people to stick with you for 15 years without being an amazingly considerate human being!!  

He took me behind the scenes a bit and shared that yes, he does have his own system of making sure he is showing each person a little extra love and appreciation. He is thorough in keeping track of what he has sent and when, so that he knows when someone is due for acknowledgement. That’s not something you see every day. Most of us have a hard time being consistent with our relationship building efforts over the long haul. But when you actually have a process for it, you’re more likely to follow-through. So, what types of things has Drew done to build such a sticky company culture?

  • Technology has been changing the way we work for a while now, and covid added fuel to that change. With a remote workforce, you no longer have the day-to-day relationship building you used to. Drew shared that “in today’s world, part of the work that you’re doing is to find a way to create that warm and fuzzy feeling.” And part of that may be that you find a way to get together in person from time to time. It’s something Drew feels strongly about and a while back he started having his team travel together. He flies his team to a different location for long weekends together, once again creating those moments of shared experiences. Something that has a lasting emotional connection for those employees.  

  • During his own travels, he watches for little tokens of appreciation he can pick up for his team. He has one team member who collects shot glasses, so if he is in a new location, he’ll grab a glass and send it to her with a note to tell her that he thought of her while they were traveling. Such a personal acknowledgement makes people feel cared for and valued.

  • When someone on the team has a personal life event/change, he makes sure to acknowledge or celebrate that as well. A team member who recently adopted a couple of kittens received a bunch of cat toys and goodies. An act like this celebrates a milestone in this person’s life, which elevates the emotional connection they feel. 

  • And by far my favorite gesture, was the time he has taken to acknowledge the family of his employees. If a particular employee was working late on a big project, Drew would make sure to send a handwritten message to the family to thank them for their patience. How does this look?  

    • If dad was working late, the child received a little message with a gift card for ice cream. The message shared something like:  Did you know your dad is a superstar at work? He’s one of the hero’s here and he helped save the day last week. I know sometimes he’s had to miss dinner or play time, but I wanted you to know he’s been working on some important stuff. Maybe sometime soon you can take him out for some ice cream and let him know that you’re proud of him!    

It's not hard to understand why people stay with Drew at his company. Imagine the responses he must get to such personal outreach on a regular basis.  

Think about the power of and the unlimited return to being intentionally personal in your relationship building efforts. What type of community and culture could you create with consistent effort in being the person who is always understanding, appreciative and caring?

At The Expressory, we know it’s hard for business leaders to consistently maintain this level of personal connection on their own. Join us for one of our upcoming Q&As for more strategies and tactics to simplify your efforts. Or schedule some time to talk and we can discuss an approach that would fit your needs. Click here, to set up a Marketing Strategy Session.


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