3 Lessons My Move Taught Me About Marketing

This is the last article about my move, I promise! The interesting thing about a move is that it forces you to step outside your comfortable bubble of everyday life. Suddenly you’re forced to navigate new situations, often on a tight timeline.

Recently I orchestrated a cross-country move, shifting 19 years of my life in the course of a week. When you’re in a high pressure situation like that, customer service experiences are make or break. I’m always on the hunt for luxury goods and experiences, but it’s been a long time since I’ve viewed a brand experience through such a high-stakes lens.

Unfulfilled Promises = Customer Resentment

Adding a pandemic-related banner to a website or a COVID-19 reference in the hold music seems to be a common recommendation, but it’s vital that those messages be based on transparency and the desire to communicate useful information to the customer.

While I was trying to get my wifi set up, I spent what felt like a lifetime on hold with the Internet provider, Spectrum, and its droning hold music that reassured me they were “keeping me connected” during COVID. Meanwhile, I had to wait 17 days for installation and wait on hold (with no callback option!) any time I needed help.

Big communications utilities are notorious for fueling absolute resentment and anger, but all brands would do well to remember that it’s better to underpromise and overdeliver. And hey, reminder to check your client experience so you’re not infuriating them with messages that they matter and you’re keeping them connected when you’re not.

High Functioning Service Beats High Tech

In my previous post I mentioned brands’ increasing reliance on tech solutions, often at the expense of customer experience. It’s only becoming a bigger issue as companies turn to tech for help adjusting to the pandemic landscape. While some companies are more well suited to replacing in-person services with tech solutions, what customers really care about is whether they get what they need.

One of the standout brand experiences during my move was surprisingly low tech. I set up a business account with FedEx to manage shipping my 20 boxes from NYC to LA. The website felt absolutely antiquated, but the customer service was exceptionally smooth. Could they benefit from revamping their customer portal? Of course. But I got exactly what I needed. I’m not even close to a luddite, but providing great service is always going to be more important than keeping your tech looking cutting edge.

The Net-Net and Inspiration From Being an Airbnb Host

At the end of the day, the moving experience really helped me think about how I counsel my clients on their customer experience. I think what happens is that brands develop a service or product, pay a ton of attention in the development phase, think they have it all sorted out, and then just set it and forget it. What this taught me is that brands need to actually go through their own customer experience.

Call customer service and try and get a new install. Wait on hold and hear messages about keeping you connected or taking advantage of the brand’s latest tech. Ship packages and see how jarring the experience is when you have to jump back and forth between old and new platforms. By walking in your customers’ shoes, you’ll discover what’s working with your brand experience and what is not.

This whole experience reminded me of Airbnb. I have a vacation home that I rent out on the platform. To get to super host status and become Airbnb Plus, I tried to walk through the customer experience by reminding myself what makes me happy when I check into a 5-star hotel: cookies from the bakery on the counter, bottles of water next to each bed, and making sure the essentials (like milk for a.m. coffee) are always stocked. Then I would sleep in every single room to see what it’s like at night. Does the TV work? Does the AC blast cool enough? Does the street light peep through the blinds? By walking my guests’ walk, I was able to see the areas of friction and create a great customer experience that resulted in only 5-star ratings.

Brands need to walk their customers’ walk.

Brand Experience and a Tale of Two Startups

As if there isn’t already enough happening in the world right now, I’ve been taking on one of the most stressful endeavors at regular times, amplified during COVID: a move! Not just any move — a cross-country move. The thought of being by myself all summer long in this strange pandemic version of New York was making me feel a little unhinged, so I departed for sunny California.

Selling my NYC condo is about as much real estate woe as I can handle, so I turned to specialty startups to help soften my landing in CA. It was like living through one of my very own presentations about brand experience do’s and don’ts.

It all boils down to what I tell my clients all the time:

Customer Service Is the Original Creative Branding Solution — Don’t Overlook It.

Brands are increasingly relying on tech like slick websites and flash apps to appeal to customers. Those things are great, but they only go so far. Great tech is worth nothing if the brand is not thinking about the end-to-end customer experience and all the different touch points that can affect a customer’s perception. Big-picture customer service just isn’t being talked about anymore.

Case in point — the startup I worked with to set up my new place. They specialize in doing all the boring, time-consuming condo tasks, and marketed themselves as having beautifully furnished corporate apartments so that I could “simply show up and start living.” The opportunity to test out an interesting building before I choose exactly where to settle sounded perfect. But what would happen after the marketing has done its job and it’s time to follow through? Nothing good, it turns out.

Just to get the contract signed I was passed around from person to person. It didn’t bode well for the rest of my experience. I’ll spare you the full horror story that awaited me when it was time to check in to my new place. Let’s just say there wasn’t even a bed ready to sleep in. I had to use all my negotiating experience to back out of the agreement, and didn’t receive so much as an apology.

I seek out a great customer experience wherever I go, and this particular experience was a powerful reminder that too many brands are putting the cart before the horse when it comes to marketing and customer service.

Reach out to me if you want to know the company I am talking about so you can avoid the same headache.

Problems Are Universal. Problem Solving Is What Sets You Apart.

Enter the next startup, Feather. I moved to a different unit in the same building, and picked a different startup to work with on furnishing. You get to rent anything you want from their inventory of stylish furniture, which they deliver and set up — it’s more of subscription service versus the good old-fashioned Rent-a-Center model. Everything happened on a sleek app. When I signed up, there was a credit card issue. I got an immediate phone call from a real person who solved the problem. I received follow-up calls to check in and offer help all throughout the process. When a delivery went wrong, they made me feel like fixing it immediately was a priority to them. They even honored a promotion I received after signing up.

As a global brand strategist and a picky consumer of luxury brands, I’ve seen it all, and I promise that old-fashioned customer service isn’t going to stop being important any time soon. Fabulous brand events and other cool experiences you create are quickly forgotten when someone has a bad check in experience at a hotel, or the internet doesn’t work in your Airbnb rental, or a luxury car dealer makes a busy executive come into the dealership to sign paperwork. Never, ever underestimate the basic and fundamental human experience along every touch point of the customer journey.

Brand Statements: What to Say When You Don’t Know What to Say?

Right now even brands with messaging documents longer than most PhD dissertations are struggling to decide if and how to respond to current events. From COVID-19 to widespread protests tied to inequality, we’re seeing brands issue commentary on unexpected topics. Virtually all of my clients have asked about it, and it’s likely to keep coming up over time, so let’s answer the big question of the season — should we put out a statement?

The answer is not so easy. Yes, and maybe. It just depends who you’re talking to.

Addressing Issues Internally Is a Must

To build and maintain brand trust, employees have to be briefed. The internal audience always needs a statement. If you don’t know where to start, it’s absolutely acceptable to say that you don’t know what to say. Whoever delivers the message can also speak from their heart, referencing their own experiences or even talking about a personal commitment to examine biases.

What’s most important is that the message lets employees know their work environment is supportive. They need to know that if they’re experiencing anything — from instances of racism, to mental health concerns — they have options. Remind them who they can bring concerns to, and assure them that procedures are in place to protect and support them. One CEO I worked with recently even invited employees to share their concerns directly with her.

Sometimes these statements feel uncomfortable, but keeping silent internally is not an option. When it comes to making a public statement, it’s less cut and dried.

You Are Not Required to Make Public Statements

Scrolling through my inbox and social media feeds, it can look like every company is issuing a public statement. But of course you’re not seeing a list of everyone abstaining. Yes, the pressure is higher than usual, but there’s no need to rush.

Here’s the question I ask clients first: Is this in your DNA?

For some brands, a statement will feel like a regular extension of the brand. But if there’s no approach in place already, or it’s beyond the company’s comfort level, it’s better to say nothing than to say something and appear insincere.

If the decision is to keep quiet, now is a good time to consider if the approach will change in the future. Maybe you need or want to do a little genetic engineering to bring brand DNA into line with modern demands.

And finally, don’t forget that any content you do put out is going to be viewed in the context of recent events, which could mean it’s ignored or misinterpreted. I encourage my clients to trust their guts. If your gut tells you it’s just not the right time to put out certain content, pull it.

The Art of the Virtual Pitch Part 4: Sealing the Deal With Post-Pitch Engagement

Pitches aren’t usually won or lost in the room, even though that feels like the main event. Here’s what I’ve learned about making the most of the time following your pitch, which can be applied to the virtual pitch, as well.

Note: This is the last in a four-part series about navigating the unique challenges of pitching without any in-person meetings.

Pitches aren’t usually won or lost in the room, even though that feels like the main event. Here’s what I’ve learned about making the most of the time following your pitch, which can be applied to the virtual pitch, as well.

If you’ve been reading this whole series, you won’t be surprised to hear that the most important part of post-pitch engagement goes back to nurturing the relationship with the clients. Revisit Part 1 of this series, because you just can’t put too much effort into romancing the client. Being creative and thoughtful will take you far.

Work your relationships: If you got the lead or the opportunity through someone you know, keep close to them. They can give you the inside scoop as to who’s in the running, who’s doing well, and what turned the team off during the pitch process — that allows you to tailor your pitch and the way you follow up.

Go big or go home (when appropriate): For example, years ago we were pitching Cadillac just after their move to NYC. They were looking to update their image, and we came up with a great street art program to show off new Cadillac models. As part of our pitch we created a roadmap for our program in the same street art style and had handouts at the pitch. We built on that after the pitch by having street artists paint a 10’x10’ canvas of the roadmap for the Cadillac office.

Don’t Dwell on Mistakes — Fix Them

We’ve all had an “oops!” moment during a pitch, or got grilled by the client and don’t feel great about how we handled it. While it’s important to analyze these moments and improve for next time, a few goof-ups don’t spell failure for your pitch.

The post-pitch follow-up should never just be a thank you note anyway, so take it as an opportunity to round out your pitch in whatever way you want to. Address your mistakes, offer clarity on elements there were a lot of questions about, etc.

Act Like You Already Have the Business

Don’t waste any time showing the clients that you’re excited and ready to dig into the work.

For example, if the clients were super responsive to certain elements of your pitch, create an action plan to show them how that program would get off the ground. Or, say you’re doing a PR pitch and the clients mentioned targeting publication in a specific journal. Show them you’re the one to make that connection. Imagine how the client feels when you’re following up and say you talked to Tom Smith at Dream Journal and he’d be happy for you to broker an introduction.

Do what you’d do if you got the job, like setting up relevant media alerts so you don’t miss the opportunity to congratulate the clients or point out an opportunity. When clients feel confident that you are on top of the job before you even have a scope of work, it answers a lot of questions for them. You’ll have an advantage over the competition when you show that your team needs less guidance, less onboarding.

Do you feel ready to conquer the virtual pitch now? Tweet me @rumekhtiar with any questions about handling pitches in the era of all-remote work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Art of the Virtual Pitch, Part 3: 4 Steps for a Successful Client Presentation

If you studied up on Part 1 and Part 2 of my series on the virtual pitch, you’re ready to handle the actual client presentation. Here are the top four things to consider when you’re getting ready to put your virtual pitch in front of clients.

If you studied up on Part 1 and Part 2 of my series on the virtual pitch, you’re ready to handle the actual client presentation. Here are the top four things to consider when you’re getting ready to put your virtual pitch in front of clients.

Assume Your Technology Will Fail

Even if your wifi is blazing fast, even if you’re an expert with your presentation platform, you have to assume that some element of your tech will fail. If you just accept it as a given and plan out workarounds in advance, you’ll be able to keep your cool in the moment. At the very least, make sure you send the presentation out to everyone in advance as a PDF under 10 mb, so it makes it through everyone’s email provider without issue.

Mix Up Your Usual Presentation Order

You’re probably used to the in-person presentation standard of one person presenting 5-10 sides on their own. When you’re all in the room together, that works great. But with a virtual presentation, you’re in a constant battle to keep people engaged. Moreso when everyone is working from home amid the COVID-19 chaos.

So mix it up and have a few different people present a section together. That way you break up any possible monotony and keep listeners on their toes as presentation speakers keep changing. It also helps to showcase the various members of your team, lets their personalities shine, and really shows the client what you bring to the table beyond the ideas.

Pro tip: Incorporate this technique into your deck by including the name and photo of the presenter on each slide.

Schedule Pauses to Take the Audience’s Pulse

Losing the nonverbal cues of an in-person meeting can be tough, so you have to plan for a manual way to assess whether people are with you, or if they’re getting bored and frustrated. It’s an adjustment, but the fix is easy. Ask questions and address your audience by name.

Plan to mention specific people when it’s relevant. For example, if you know Scott handles digital campaigns, give him a shout out as you’re getting into discussing digital. A simple, “Scott, I know you’ll be interested in this …” goes a long way to make sure Scott and his colleagues are listening up.

It’s subtle, but making everyone feel that they could be mentioned or questioned helps you engage and makes sure everyone is paying attention.

Rehearse and Review, Even If It’s Painful

We’ve come full circle. You have to rehearse, rehearse, rehearse, so that when your technology fails, your presentation doesn’t. Over the course of multiple rehearsals, you’ll be able to feel out and address any pain points. There’s no substitute for doing a full rehearsal.

Pro tip: Up your game by recording the presentation. No one is excited about doing that, but it is one of the very best ways to see how your team can improve, and how you as an individual can grow. It’s okay to wait to review until after the pitch isn’t so fresh, so you can try to be more objective, but make time to watch the recording. If you just said to yourself, “I don’t need to go that far,” then you absolutely have to.

The Art of the Virtual Pitch, Part 2: Prepping the Creative Brief and Getting to Work

This is Part 2 of a 4-part series on The Art of the Virtual Pitch. Let’s cover what happens after you’ve accepted the RFP, and now need to develop your pitch without the benefit of in-person meetings. There are two guiding principles to live by when drafting a creative brief to get all members of your team ready.

This is Part 2 of a four-part series on The Art of the Virtual Pitch. In Part 1, I laid out some strategies to help you cut through all the virtual noise and stand out to potential clients. Now let’s cover what happens after you’ve accepted the RFP, and need to develop your pitch without the benefit of in-person meetings. There are two guiding principles to live by when drafting a creative brief to get all members of your team ready to brainstorm:

Principle No. 1: Invest Your Time in Organizing

Now that you don’t have the luxury to kick things off in person, it’s critical to have documents to keep people aligned. You need to spell out roles and responsibilities, and create a work plan with clear owners and assignments for each deliverable. You’ll also need a new way to handle onboarding a bunch of different folks.

Instead of picking up the phone again and again to launch into your onboarding spiel, devote your time to developing a robust creative brief. In one document, you lay out:

  • all the relevant research,
  • the problems you’re trying to solve,
  • the details of the RFP, and
  • anything else you don’t want to find yourself repeating ad nauseam.

This briefing document becomes the foundation for briefing people moving forward and gives you the landscape analysis you need to craft the insight that will be the jumping-off point for your strategy.

A thorough creative brief gets everyone marching in the right direction, but the toughest element of pitch development to pull off in an all-remote setting is brainstorming, which brings me to my second principle.

Principle No. 2: Don’t Treat Virtual Meetings Like In-Person Meetings

We’ve all been at brainstorming sessions when many or all attendees are calling in to a conference line. The remote brainstorm is nothing new. It’s just that actually doing them effectively and ensuring participation is still really difficult.

Leverage that creative brief you already worked on! Everyone should have it well in advance, and they need to be held accountable for really knowing it. This isn’t just another email attachment in a meeting invite. It’s what everyone will be working from, and it’s absolutely required reading for every meeting.

In fact, successful virtual brainstorming generally requires the team to put more time than usual into meeting prep. Exercises that you’d normally depend on teams to do together in meetings, you might now have to have people do in advance. To help quickly ideate on a bunch of different things, give people two to three action items to brainstorm against on their own. They can present those ideas in a conference call, and the team can build from there instead of starting the call from the ground up.

Also consider assigning more structured brainstorming exercises in advance. One of my personal favorites is called “Pass It Along.” Here’s how it works: When I’m working on those big multi-million dollar pitches, I set up four to five teams consisting of four to five people each, and they have their own mini brainstorm.

First, one person writes down the germ of an idea. Then the second person builds on it, making it even bigger. The third person goes wild, making it so big they could get fired. Then, the last person brings the idea back down to being realistic. This approach forces the big, bold thinking you need. Later, the groups can present their hero idea to the larger group, which jumpstarts your process.

Adjust your brainstorming process to follow my two principles for virtual pitch development and you’ll have a winning deck in no time.

Next time, I want to discuss the finer points of presenting online and helping your team’s chemistry shine through. If you have questions about the art of the virtual pitch, tweet me @RumEkhtiar.

 

 

The Art of the Virtual Pitch, Part 1: Perfecting Pre-Pitch Engagement

Pitches aren’t always won in the room. That’s great news right now because it might be a while before we’re even in a room together again. Pitches are won by what you do before, during, and after the pitch. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing my best insights on the art of the virtual pitch.

Pitches aren’t always won in the room. That’s great news right now because it might be a while before we’re even in a room together again. The flip side is that every other element of winning business has become a little more challenging. Pitches are won by what you do before, during, and after the pitch. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing my best insights on the art of the virtual pitch.

First, let’s talk about wowing potential clients before the pitch even happens. Without the benefit of face-to-face meetings, you’ll need new ways to engage with the client and show that you’re hungry for business.

It’s Business, and It’s Personal

Now is the time to get super creative about showing off your personality. Clients aren’t just buying capability; they’re also looking for chemistry. You’ve already put some thought into the team pitching this client, so dig into your thought process there. What are the skills each person has? What makes them indispensable to your team? When clients feel like they already know you before your pitch meeting, your proposal will go that much smoother.

A technique I love (and that you can tweak and reuse often!) is compiling something engaging to show off your team. Think of it like a totally juiced up business card. You could frame it as a yearbook, a set of baseball cards, the cast of a TV show — anything you think will get a second look. Including names, photos, and specialties is a given, but this should be fun, too. Consider including information like favorite quarantine activity, preferred pitching soundtrack, or last book read. Or lean into the yearbook concept and give everyone a superlative. Emphasizing personality is going to be crucial in the era of virtual pitches.

Make a Grand Gesture

When I was assisting Paypal’s push to expand into working with small businesses, we set up interviews with small businesses and profiled how PayPal could help. One of those small businesses was a great little chocolate maker, so we had them design special PayPal logo chocolates that we delivered on Valentine’s Day.

I also fondly remember a campaign we orchestrated for Discover. We wanted to upend the old notion that Discover cards aren’t widely accepted. It was at the height of the Cronut craze in NYC. So, a box of the city’s most sought after treats with a receipt showing we paid with a Discover credit card said it all.

Okay, so both of those involved snacks, and we know food can be a positive motivator and fan favorite to receive. But right now, something that supports your clients’ community could be a great move as everyone is looking to support one another through a public health crisis.

Whatever You Do, Don’t Be Afraid to Be Different

The virtual pitch isn’t new, but conducting remote business on this level is uncharted territory for many, so feel free to break out of your usual approach. Ultimately, this all comes down to romancing potential clients, so if you missed my post about “dating” clients, check it out now.

Remember, clients are not just buying capabilities from you, they’re also buying chemistry with you. Help them get a sense of who your team is and why they’d be awesome to collaborate with.

I’ll be back soon with tips on collaborating on a winning deck … remotely.

Guiding Clients Through COVID-19 Challenges

Times of drastically scaled back face-to-face client meetings are likely to pop up over the course of your career. Even if you’ve been lucky enough so to have no local COVID-19 concerns, you’ve got to start answering the question: In an age of fewer in-person meetings, how do you adjust your client service strategy?

The move toward more remote work has been advancing for years, but COVID-19 is forcing an acceleration at breakneck speeds. Scheduling a video meeting while folks work from on Fridays is one thing, but moving your big industry events to virtual-only is something no one was truly ready for. But we should consider this the new normal.

Times of drastically scaled back face-to-face client meetings are likely to pop up several more times over the course of your career. Even if you’ve been lucky enough so far to have no local COVID-19 concerns, you have got to start answering the question: In an age of fewer in-person meetings, how do you adjust your client service strategy and help your clients?

Don’t Panic! You’re Already Pretty Good At This

Less face-to-face time can feel like a huge blow to your client service strategy, but it doesn’t have to be. The number of remote workers and companies with remote work policies increases all the time. Chances are, you already know how to work successfully without routine in-person meetings. Just consider COVID-19 your glimpse into the future.

Inventory your client relationships and determine who’s going to need a new approach when lunch meetings aren’t happening. Whose business is likely to suffer most from periods of widespread quarantine, and how can you expand your scope of work to help them plan a response?

The guiding principles for you and your clients are the same as ever: creativity and communication.

Shake Up Your Client Service Strategy!

When it comes to marketing, you’re going to have to take a whole new approach to your client service strategy. Professional conferences in every sector are being cancelled, postponed, or rolled into online-only events. That means big news about data, clinical trials, product launches, trends, and more aren’t going to be communicated the way anyone planned.

Talk to your clients about what they’ll do if in-person events are off the table. Social media and paid media will have to take a much larger role in pushing out the major announcements usually reserved for the year’s biggest in-person events. Many companies have been dragging their feet on developing robust strategies for virtual events, which is where you come in. Whether it’s a live tweet event, Facebook Live, Instagram stories, or something else, get creative about turning the content you wanted to share “in real life” into great web content such as animation, recorded presentations, infographics, etc.

Embrace the Chance to Plan

Getting clients to commit time and resources to planning for contingencies is never easy, but with this new virus on everyone’s mind, seize the moment and have those big conversations. If your clients aren’t worried yet, push them to imagine what they would do if their field’s biggest meeting got canceled.

Ultimately, planning for something like this makes you and your clients more nimble. You can draw on the lessons learned and shelved plans to adapt to other issues that come up.

If you never have to draw on those plans, that’s great, and you’ll have pushed yourself and your clients to find new and compelling ways to share the information that’s most important to them.

Remote work is only becoming more popular, and there’s no telling when the next global health crisis will have us all stuck at home. Start planning now.

 

 

3 Ways to Maintain Strong Client Relationships

After the initial investment that brings clients on board, you enter a blissful honeymoon phase where everyone’s happy. Resist the temptation to rest on your laurels! Before your clients’ eyes start to wander, do something proactive.

To build on my last article, let’s continue down the road of showing client love and keeping the spark in your client relationships alive.

I used to want my clients to like me. Now I make them fall in love. It doesn’t happen by accident — this is all about strategy. After the initial investment that brings clients on board, you enter a blissful honeymoon phase where everyone’s happy. Resist the temptation to rest on your laurels! Before your clients’ eyes start to wander, do something proactive.

Here are three rules I live by when it comes to maintaining strong client relationships.

1. Merchandise!

You never want your client to think, “what are we paying for?” If you do PR for yourself on a regular basis, they never will. Before a client even asks for an activity or results report, you should have it ready to go. I give mine a new spin by merchandising our work to date. Putting your projects in context this way helps clients better understand how what you do on a daily basis is paying off.

Now I’m not saying to be boastful. Be factual, but remind them of the value that you brought them. And if you’re really smart, you’ll develop the report in a way that they can share internally — helping them do their own internal PR while doing yours as well.

Remember, the name of the game is to help them achieve their communications objectives and, even more importantly, make them look good in front of their boss and peers. On top of that, sharing your reporting is a great prelude to my second tip.

2. Become an Idea Machine

After you’ve shown your clients what you’ve accomplished together, start conversations on where you’ll go next. Mapping out possible futures gets people excited, especially when you’re bringing new ideas to the table.

One of my favorite moves is to walk my clients through case studies on what their main competitors and parallel industries are doing. It’s a casual way to talk about possible roadblocks and how to overcome them. Plus, we get to draw out lessons from what competitors are doing right.

Heard about a conference they should attend? Tell them! Identify how they can push themselves, and how you can help. This is the perfect time to refresh strategy without having to wait for your clients to bring up concerns on their own. You also might hit on exciting ways to expand your scope of work.

Now there is a fine line. If you know your client doesn’t have additional budget, don’t try and get blood from a turnip. If these new ideas will help them look like rockstars, propose shifting existing scope to support the new idea or couch it as something to plan against once budgets are back in play.

3. Take a Page from Amazon – Be Obsessed

Your clients have no reason to leave when you’re more invested in the business than they are — something I’ve been proudly accused of many times. Take a page from Amazon’s playbook and be obsessed with your customer. If you sense that their eyes are wandering, figure out why. Try to better understand them and their industry so you can identify their needs, including which needs you’re not meeting.

When I was helping MetLife recruit mega tech talent, we totally immersed ourselves in the tech community to understand what would draw a candidate to work at a particular company. We hung out on Reddit forums, attended big data conferences, conducted interviews, you name it. In the end, we employed many cool tactics that the big tech players were using to draw talent. For instance, we attracted top engineers through “Easter egg hunts” — basically, hidden messages/code on various websites across their homepage. Once we drew in the curious coders, we gamified the application itself, having applicants code their resume in LinkedIn. Not to toot our own horn, but we won awards for these recruitment campaigns. (I told you to merchandise, didn’t I?)

Success in client services is about constantly strengthening yourself and your client relationship. Just like in your romantic life, you need to put in the effort to keep your client’s eyes from wandering.

Dating Tips That’ll Help Marketers Get Their Client Relationships Unstuck

Committing to improvement is a good idea any time of year, but there’s something poetic about marketers revitalizing along with the calendar. So let’s talk about what we can learn from the intersection of marketing personalization, dating, and client relationships. Are you a good date?

Committing to improvement is a good idea any time of year, but there’s something poetic about marketers revitalizing along with the calendar. So let’s talk about what we can learn from the intersection of marketing personalization, dating, and client relationships. Are you a good date?

I’ve been dating and doing client service (separately) for long enough to know they’re actually pretty similar. When you first get together, it’s all magical. Every text and call makes your heart skip a beat; things you’ve done a million times before feel fresh and exciting. You think about them constantly. However, the newness of the relationship soon starts to fade; you’ve got the scope of work signed and things are just humming along. So you start to rely solely on email and that scheduled “touch base.” Pretty soon, things get stagnant and your priorities shift.

This is a make-it or break-it moment. Will you put in the work to keep everyone at the level of full-heart-eye emojis, or will you get stuck in a routine? Lessons from the dating world can help you get those client relationships unstuck.

Inventory your client relationships.

  • Are you speaking their language by using their preferred method of communicating?
  • Are you still keeping in touch the way you used to at the exciting start of things?
  • Are you genuinely listening and engaged in conversation?

You want this relationship to last, so ask yourself how you could do even better. What if you rolled into your client’s office with cupcakes and cookies — and hung around to enjoy them with your clients? I make a habit of it, because who doesn’t love a treat? High-touch, high value … great date!

But it goes much further than just being the guy that shows up with flowers.

  • Are you proactively suggesting new ideas?
  • Are you forwarding them news that has an impact on their business?
  • Are you identifying materials and work product that went out of your agency that wasn’t up to your standards and then offering to make it right?
  • On the flip side, are you having those tough conversations about parts of the relationship that aren’t working that are faults on their side?

Those big personal investments are the secret to getting client relationships unstuck and, for me, it’s just the natural result of being a friendly, curious person — and it’s the No. 1 reason why my clients are usually clients and friends for life. Sure, this is business, but being open and letting your personality help forge relationships is what guarantees people remember you. I’ve always believed that the way you engage with your clients should stick with them just as much as the measurable outcomes of your work.

In 2020, build your relationship checklist. I’m talking a real, tangible checklist! Keeping track helps you assess whether you’re doing enough to sustain a happy relationship, and it’s a great way to make sure that all of your clients feel special.

Here’s the bottom line: In client services, as in dating, success depends on showing that you care, and putting the work in to keep it fresh. Whether you’re in client services or courting a dreamboat, you have got to nurture the relationship beyond day-to-day work.

Here’s the net-net: it may be a new century, but the personal touch in any relationship stands the test of time.