We all know that excellent customer service and delivering good value for money are critical to the success of any business. However, if you wish to retain and grow your clients and become part of their future plans you will need to do more.
Printing businesses have a reputation for providing high levels of service and response for their customers. Unfortunately, this quality of service is not always rewarded with customer loyalty and the relationship can appear one-sided.
The relationship you have with your clients is critical to ensuring you retain their long-term business and widen your service offering to them.
In this article, we share insight into how you can strengthen your client relationships and move things onto a strategic footing so that your business is treated as a business partner and enjoy long term stability and growth.
Lead the relationship – 7 key steps
There are reasons why clients treat some suppliers like partners and others as just loyal servants. One of the main reasons is that they believe their supply partners offer them something unique and of value that they can’t easily get elsewhere.
Look at how clients hold in high regard their chosen agencies, consultants and advisors and you’ll easily see the difference. This behaviour is driven by the client’s belief that these companies have a positive influence on their business. If this is the type of relationship you want then it is critical to be seen as a positive influence on your client’s business.
Here are four of the seven key steps you can use to drive the relationship in a more strategic direction.
1. Change your mind-set about what you offer
If your mind-set is that your company is a ‘great product supplier’ then this will drive the behaviour of You, your teams and your business and you will absolutely be perceived as a ‘great product supplier’.
Unfortunately, there are many great suppliers out there and if you want to be treated differently, finding ways to be more valuable to your client is a great place to start.
2. Think what you can do to help your clients become more effective:
- Ideas – Are there ways you can improve your clients’ communication to their audience?
- Simpler process – Can you simplify the front-end process to make your client’s job easier?
- Better control – Using technology, applications, providing greater visibility to help your clients manage their campaigns?
- Faster, easier, lower cost – What can you do to help get your clients get more from their budget?
- Technology – Is there anything you can do or offer to automate, streamline your client’s workload?
3. Make ‘friends’ in higher places
If your contact within your clients is with senior stakeholders it is likely that your relationship will be more secure. Having a clear strategy of adding value, ideas and business intelligence for your clients will help you to attain and retain these senior relationships and pave the way to selling a wider range of services. Of course, this approach will seldom earn you face time with the CEO of your client but will help foster closer bonds with board members as they see you as an enabling partner.
4. Be ‘IN’ your client’s business
By imagining you work in your client’s business, it becomes easier to understand the difficulties they face, come up with ideas and ways that you can help them address these difficulties. At the very least, try and find ways of helping them get more out of their budget. Every department head has a budget and your help with this is a great way to build trust.
That’s the foundations in place
Having covered these four steps you can then begin to work on how you structure your day to day interactions with your client and embed these techniques with your client-facing teams. In later articles, we will cover steps 5-7 including
- Techniques to align your account management with your strategy
- Successful engagement with Marketing and Procurement professionals
- Using formal reviews to develop strategic engagement with senior stakeholders.
Some Dos and don’ts
For those businesses that are already doing many of these things we recommend running through a check list, review your original objectives and assess your progress so far.
Be willing to adjust modify as you see fit as this is an evolving process. Even businesses that are doing many of these things usually fall short on some so you are bound to find something that needs more attention.
On the other hand, if you are just starting out on this process then try to avoid the common mistake of trying to run before you can walk. For example, using all the right words without making sure the day to day delivery is consistent with your message will create a mismatch that your clients will easily spot.
Another common mistake is shying away from reaching out to the senior stakeholders in your clients’ businesses. This is linked to having a clear strategy and offering and there are many tips to help your teams gain the capability and confidence to do this. See our ADVANCE©programme for more details.
You can start right now
You can begin developing your own strategy right away with the help of our ADVANCE© supplier evolution programme. In this programme, we cover client engagement in more detail together with six other essential steps that will transform your business by evolving into the marketing services arena.
Future proof your client relationships – Click here to find out more
Margin Improvement are experts in helping Suppliers of Print services to increase their profitability, benefit from stronger relationships with their customers and deliver strategic growth.
We tailor our proven methodologies to your business to ensure maximum benefit. We deliver these programmes as hands-on specialists or can guide you and your team through a mentoring process so you can decide which is the best option for you.