Closing the Social Distance — Maintaining Client Relationships in the Days of COVID-19
As our collective connections to normal life — packing the kids off to school each morning, commuting to the office, enjoying a meal at a favorite restaurant — are perhaps on hold for the short-term, many also feel their connections with people slipping further away. Social distancing is predicted to be an enduring part of the “new normal,” even after the worst of the pandemic is behind us.
This poses particular challenges for businesses as they form strategies to maintain relationships with their existing clients — and create new ones. The solution is two-fold: 1. Understanding what clients want and need in the changing environment; and 2. Communicating with clients in ways that convey value and authenticity.
Listen, Learn and Adapt
Savvy marketers are sifting industry data and examining their clients’ shifting buying patterns to ensure that the products and services they offer are on point. Since varying business sectors are being affected in different ways, it’s important to get educated about the industry(ies) your clients work in so you can provide the right advice and solutions.
If you want to know what your customers are thinking these days, why not reach out and ask them? A brief survey conducted online or by phone is a legit reason to make contact with people and get their take on what your company can do to fill their current needs.
For further insights, check out what they’re posting on social media and the topics they’re blogging about. Subscribe to customer blogs and leave thoughtful comments about the material. You will learn what is top of mind for them, and they will appreciate your personal interest in their business.
This is also a good time to update your website to talk about changes in your services or highlight an existing product or service that is now in greater demand in light of the information you’ve garnered from exchanges with your client community.
With so many people feeling uncertain about the future, be the visionary they depend upon to know what’s up and steer them in the right direction. Compose educated blog articles (clients can be great interview subjects), host online seminars or post informative videos. Each of these presents an opportunity to reach out with something of value and strengthen your bonds with customers.
Make it Personal
Thanks to technology, face-to-face communication is still possible, although for some it means stepping out of their comfort zone and adapting some new skills. Video conferencing tools like Skype, WebEx and Zoom have exploded in popularity since shelter-in-place orders have sent scores of people home to work. Use these services to maintain some of your regular activities, like presentations and client meetings. Some apps have virtual whiteboards that allow participants to collaborate. Remember to start meetings on time and keep them to specified time limits. And put your pants on, please.
You can get creative with these tools and take client connection to a new level. Schedule a virtual happy hour just to get to know a client better. I know of an SaaS company in Las Vegas that boosted morale by shipping each of its employees a cake and decorating supplies, and hiring a celebrity chef to preside over a cake decorating contest via Zoom. Consider shipping your client a snack box or cocktail ingredients to make your virtual happy hour a memorable event.
If you have the budget, sending a small but thoughtful gift via mail is a nice way to let clients know you’re thinking of them. Ship a treat you know they favor. Fresh flowers are a real day brightener when people are stuck indoors. Extra points if you can also support a local business or the business of another client.
During this time of limited social contact, many people feel their lives are going by and important milestones are going unacknowledged. This is when all those notes you’ve put into your CRM can pay off. Be alert to recognizing a client’s business anniversary or anniversary with your company, their personal birthday, wedding anniversary, the birth of a baby or a graduation. As an office or a company, compile your best advice for a long and happy life, a fulfilling marriage, effective parenting or a successful career. Then send your words of wisdom to clients in an email or card when these occasions arise. It doesn’t cost money, but is deeply personal and will let people know you care about more than just their business.
Take it a step further and use alert tools like Google Alerts or Talkwalker to let you know when there is a web content change relating to one of your clients. Choose to receive alerts for the person’s name, company name, industry, or topics of interest, and you’ll be well-prepared the next time you reach out.
Neuroscientist Matthew Lieberman calls connection a “superpower” that makes human beings smarter, happier and more productive. Bottom line is that relationships, in all aspects of life, are all about giving. Staying in touch in meaningful ways means not leading with self-interest. While it’s true that we hope to continue doing business with our clients, the goal is for them to receive value through their association with us. Remain positive, respectful, transparent and generous in your approach, and clients will become old friends.
Big Chief Creative Media is a full-service creative digital agency specializing in brand communications, web marketing and lead-generation. Meet some of our clients at: https://www.bigchiefcreative.com/portfolio/.