When we start working with a new client, we always aim to sit down with them and set a plan of activity so everyone knows who is doing what and when. An important element that we always include is scheduling regular meetings where we can review progress, discuss outcomes and plan forward. We normally aim to meet 3-4 times a year, though it can be more often if appropriate. I have been struck recently in several discussions with clients where they tell me they don’t have regular review meetings with their long term customers, many of whom form the backbone of their revenues! At the same time they express the importance of maintaining the business relationships and ensuring that their position as supplier isn’t compromised by the competition.
Regular client meetings are key to relationship development
People buy from People
Unless you are supplying a pure commodity product where price and availability are the predominant buying criteria, you shouldn’t forget the adage that ‘people buy from people’. This is particularly important where your business benefits from building long-term relationships with your customers. Simply supplying a great product or service at a good price just isn’t enough. Competitors often have the products or services and can compete on price but they don’t have your relationship with your customers. It can be this that keeps the competition at bay. Relationships need to be nurtured.
Importance of a joined-up contact process
We drive email newsletters as a valuable communications tool, and it really is, but it is just one tool in your marketing toolbox. Good marketing should be based around a joined-up process. Where e-newsletters are a great way of keeping in touch with your database of contacts, letting them know what you are up to, and helping to make sure they don’t forget you, it would be wrong to think that email marketing is all you need. It can create a great platform from which to build engagement with your market but, for most B2B business, it is unlikely to deliver sufficient results by itself. Some ‘sharp-end’ contact can be the activity that takes the relationships established and maintained by e-newsletters and other marketing and turns them into live business opportunities. Let’s face it, business meeting can take up a lot of time and need to have value for everyone. I mentioned at the start of this article that we typically aim to meet up with clients at least every 3-4 months. We find this frequency works well as an opportunity to review what we are doing together, resolve any issues and identify development opportunities. On top of these business reasons, and in some ways more important, a face to face discussion will reinforce the personal touch of your business relationship and, as I said above, this can be the essence of success. 3 or 4 months can be quite a gap and this where a joined-up process combining e-newsletters with meetings can work well. Even if you only send an e-newsletter every 2-3 months, it means you are contacting your customers almost monthly in one way or another, and this is on top of any deliveries etc that you might be doing. If you don’t visit your customers, maybe you should….