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Think BR: Showing your client how much you care is good for business

Today is the day we make an extra special effort with our loved-ones; maybe we should do the same with our business relationships, writes Simon Rhind-Tutt.

Simon Rhind-Tutt, joint managing director, Relationship Audits & Management

Simon Rhind-Tutt, joint managing director, Relationship Audits & Management

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In case you hadn’t noticed, today is Valentine’s Day, that time of the year when we try to show how much a special personal relationship means to us.

But while we ploughed through our groaning mailboxes this morning, how many of us considered our business relationships, especially our clients or customers?

If it were the done thing, how many of them would have sent us a Valentine’s Day card to say how much they valued our relationship with them?

The Harvard Business School believes that it’s more than ten times easier to win more business from existing clients than generate new business.

Furthermore, its research shows that if you can get just 10% more "Apostles" or real lovers of what you do, they will generate 20% more profit for you.

Yet interestingly, a study we recently conducted at Relationship Audits & Management reveals that more than half of clients weren’t sure if they were really valued by the people they work with.

Too many agencies and service organisations spend time and money chasing new business rather than investing and building secure relationships with their existing clients.

They celebrate new names to their client lists but often take for granted additional work from existing clients.

Too many of us work on the "Ostrich principle". When asked "Is your client happy?", we  answer "… we think so because they haven’t told us there is a problem".

The reality is that businesses don’t have relationships with businesses. People have relationships with people.

That’s why, in these challenging times, it’s more important than ever to focus on really understanding what our clients want and ensuring they feel valued.

What do they really think about how we are doing, what is working well, how can we correct any problems before they become real issues - and, crucially, how can we add value to keep that spark in the relationship?

What about clients we have been working with for a number of years?

The one thing we can guarantee is that their business is rapidly changing. But are we adapting with it? Is what we have always done really want they want now?

Our clients are our competitors' prospects. It’s a sad fact that clients in a long-standing relationship often know more about those that are actively wooing them than they do about their long-term service partners.

The challenge for those of us who provide a service is to get closer to our clients and show them that we really care.

That remains our best chance of winning share of heart, as well as share of budget.

So what can we do to keep the relationship sparkling?

Dedicate quality time to develop focussed initiatives and ideas. Show empathy and hunger; clients are human - they reward companies that show they want to work with them.

One company I know makes a point of celebrating the annual anniversary of when they were appointed - a bit over the top, perhaps - but it sends a message.

Another asks clients to come in once a year to speak to all of their staff about the business and what they are looking for. 

Those clients come away with the feeling that not only does that agency understand and value their business, but that they have support and ideas from all staff, not just those who work on their business.

Today - of all days - we should perhaps make a point of asking ourselves: how well do we really know what our clients think about what we do for them, and how can we show that we really value them and their business?

Simon Rhind-Tutt, joint managing director, Relationship Audits & Management

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