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How a System of Relationship Building Efforts Started Small

December 23, 20228 min read

Simple Start to Relationship Building Turns Into a Strategic System

Started with Collaboration in Mind

When it comes to relationship building, your efforts to cultivate strong, emotionally loyal relationships can start with just one or two tactics or they can be as thorough as an entire system that works together.   

When we sat down to talk with our recent interviewee, we were delighted to find an example of a system of relationship-building efforts that have been built over time. Not only did it start small, but as they continue to add more, they are beginning to see the results being magnified.  

Nicole Mahoney is the Founder of Break The Ice Media, a strategic PR and digital agency that works exclusively in the travel, tourism, and hospitality industry. In our conversation about the challenges and successes of relationship building, it became clear why these efforts play an important role in her organization. Nicole shared with us that one of the ways that Break The Ice Media differentiates itself by its point of view that “collaboration is really a key to building a successful event marketing program.”  

Collaboration requires working together with others. Meaning, you probably need some type of strong relationship to have a successful collaboration. So, let’s dig in to find out just how Nicole and the team have steadily built a system of relationship-building activities to grow their business. 

Evolution to a System of Lead Nurturing

Nicole has been the host of the Destination on the Left podcast since 2016. As the podcast production settled into a rhythm, Nicole knew that there was a real opportunity to use it to nurture some key relationships - leads. And there has been a very strong evolution in her efforts. 

She shared with us that at first, they would use it as a way to simply get an introduction with people through one-on-one conversations. Nicole said, “people first of all love to be showcased,” and secondly, “I get to have this very intelligent conversation with them.” Once they had an introduction and interview, there would be a natural relationship because of the show. 

She then took it a step further by taking her show on the road. She had to attend events anyhow, so why not do some live interviews while she’s there?  Once again – you know people love to be showcased, so most people opted in for that conversation! Nicole shared that she probably manages 20 interviews over the course of a two day event. After those events, the interviewees ended up in their CRM and received the traditional nurturing – blogs, newsletters, and podcast updates.    

Finally, in 2021 she started to adopt a system that she first learned through Stephen Woessner’s Predictive ROI team. Insert link to Stephen’s interview The Break The Ice Media team began to identify which podcast guests would make potential prospects and were worth an intentional series of relationships building touch points.   

Nicole’s team worked with us at The Expressory to design a three step series of personalized experiences that these key prospects receive once they have been interviewed. The cadence looks something like this:

  • Podcast interview

  • 6 weeks later - Matted and framed quote of something inspirational the interviewee said during the podcast

  • 6 weeks later – Book from an author that Nicole knows and has read. The first set of books were personalized with an autograph made out to the recipient.

  • 6 weeks later – Research and worksheets specific to the collaboration that Break The Ice Media teaches. This gift is packaged in a binder with all the flare for a nice experience. 

Nicole shared with us that after the first 20-25 recipients received their books they were just blown away. “The first few things that have been mailed have really worked very well in terms of people responding and sending thank you notes. I’ve received handwritten thank yous and emails. It’s been incredible.”  

Each of these responses open an opportunity for additional conversation for Nicole’s team. They can take these relationships one level deeper and further build the trust needed for these prospects to become clients. 

For some companies, this series of touch points continues to get mapped out over time for a year’s worth of experiences. The goal is to continue to find ways to show up and be helpful for these leads so that at the right moment in time, when they are ready for your service, they convert. 

Do Your Current Clients Know They're Valued?

While Nicole’s team has clearly done a lot of work to design a system of touch points that move the needle with their prospects, they have not forgotten about their existing clients. Nicole tells us that along with keeping an ear out for the usual occasions to celebrate, like weddings and new babies, they have always made it a point to do some type of annual appreciation.  

Break The Ice Media tested their approach to year end appreciation building by alternating holidays and type of gift experiences used until they found something that felt good. We discussed their efforts for year-end appreciation gifting in a previous post & video.

The important takeaway is that while Nicole’s team has put in significant effort to build out their lead nurturing, they also make sure that they have planned a couple of touch points per year for their existing clients. The goal here is to make sure that your current customers know that they are valued and still relevant. Once they feel a lack of connection, you open the door for them to find another provider. And we know just how often this happens because Hubspot’s study tells us that every year, the average business is losing up to 20% of their existing database when they fail to connect with these relationships. 

Without a practice of nurturing existing clients on an on-going basis, you run the risk that all the work you’re doing to bring in new clients doesn’t make a difference because you’re losing the ones you already have at a faster pace.  

The Magnetism of a Nice Job

The final piece of Break The Ice Media’s system of loyalty building efforts is the work they do with their team. After Covid, the team decided not to renew the lease on their office. Like so many, they are now 100% remote, and they understand the importance of making sure the team is engaged and motivated. 

Nicole shared with us that they have implemented a reward program that they call “Nice Jobs”. There is a form that the team can utilize to recognize each other. As they fill out the form to thank someone for doing a good job, they have to make an effort to tie it back to one of the company’s core values. These messages of appreciation are then read at the weekly team meetings, providing the recipients with public recognition for a job well done. And as an added incentive to encourage more recognition, two gift cards are then awarded. One goes to a nominee and the other to a person who offered the praise.  

Having systems of acknowledgements and recognition in place for your team creates a magnetic culture. The additional level of encouraging the team to offer gratitude among themselves takes the relationship building to another level. A community where all the members openly support, encourage, and motivate each other is one where others will naturally want to feel a part of it. This is the type of community that opens doors for a business because people gravitate to being part of it in one way or another.  

Why Does Recognition Work?

While offering team recognition might seem like an obvious power move for leaders, it’s helpful to understand why this type of thing works so well for your business. When you understand why these initiatives are so successful it helps people find ways to put systems in place for consistency. 

Relay Paradigm – In a recent video, I covered a study of team performance when it came to swimmers. The Relay Paradigm showed that swimmers excelled at a 100-meter race when part of a team vs swimming alone. The reason for this is that the athletes drew from the strength and support of being part of a team. What this shows us is that if we, as leaders, develop relationships among our teams where they are supporting each other through praise and encouragement, we’ll have teams who go above and beyond in performance. 

Reciprocity – When someone expresses their appreciation or offers gratitude, it makes us feel good about helping that person and we look to continue to do so or return the praise. Overall, it creates a cycle of doing good.  

Going the Extra Mile – Studies have proven that when hard work is recognized with gratitude, it makes the recipient willing to go even further with their efforts.  

Having a complete system in place to develop long lasting emotional loyalty across all your important business relationships will lead to increased referrals, an increase in repeat business and up sells, and opportunities you couldn’t even predict. Start small. Break The Ice Media didn’t have all these touch points in place at once. They implemented a piece and made sure they were good at it. They built on it over time and adjusted until they found success. It doesn’t have to be an all or nothing effort.  

Select one category of relationship and develop experiences that you can consistently execute. Once you start seeing increased engagement, you can add the next touch points. The bottom line is – stop building lists and start building emotionally loyal relationships. Your business will thank you! 

 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.

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