As a business leader, building long-lasting business relationships is essential to ongoing success.
The benefits of transforming your short-term, single-project clients into permanent, productive business partners will lead to client loyalty, incoming referrals, networking outreach, reduced marketing costs, and other competitive advantages. When regarded and treated as a partner, a client will be far more likely to listen to you with trust and genuinely appreciate the work that you do for them.
But establishing and maintaining “partner-level” amounts of trust, acceptance, understanding, and camaraderie is certainly no easy task. Here are a few key guidelines to help you build long-lasting business relationships and further your reputation as a strong partner.
1. Establish an Authentic Brand Presence
To start the branding process, take honest stock in your firm and what makes it unique in the marketplace. A brand that is truly aligned with the company’s culture and values will powerfully connect with customers who align with the same values.
2. Identify Common Values and Goals
After you have established an authentic brand identity, communicate that identity clearly to current and prospective clients while appealing to the specific values and goals that they and your firm hold in common. Like relationships between people, relationships between firms and their clients are far stronger when they are based on a foundation of mutual understanding and shared principles.
3. Complete Diligent Client Research
It will be difficult to lay a foundation of common understanding and principles without acquiring in-depth information about each of your clients. To guide your client research, pay particular attention to a client’s preferred methods of communication, learning its industry-specific jargon, and seeking out information on its latest products and media mentions.
4. Set Clear Expectations for Your Firm and Be Accountable to Them
Because partnership is a two-way street, your firm needs to deliver on its promises. Although remaining faithful to established agreements is the least you can do to foster strong business relationships, the supreme importance of expectation-setting and final accountability cannot be overstated.
5. Use Email for Frequent and Direct Contact
Whether used to educate your client base, make important business announcements, or communicate special offers, regular emails are a vital part of any relationship-building process. Although managing ongoing email campaigns can be time-consuming, state-of-the-art client relationship management (CRM) technology such as BQE’s CORE CRM can prove crucial in these efforts.
6. Place a High Value on Face-to-Face Contact
While email is valuable in many situations, there is simply no substitute for the power of good, old-fashioned, face-to-face interaction. Schedule routine, check-in meetings either in-person or via videoconferencing to answer questions and ensure that you and the client are on the same page. If you happen to be in the neighborhood whether in your hometown or on a business trip, a quick “hello” visit can go an incredibly long way.
7. Streamline Your Invoicing and Payment Processes
Nobody likes to get a bill, but invoicing is a lot easier to take when it is prompt, accurate, and consistent. If you’re still sending out invoices manually and accepting payments through outside contractors, you can greatly improve your client relationships by employing an integrated digital invoicing and payments system such as those offered through BQE CORE.
8. Seek Honest and Ongoing Feedback
Actionable client feedback can do wonders when it comes to improving your business. Even simply seeking feedback communicates a clear message to your clients that their opinions and feelings matter to you. Don’t wait until a client project is over before soliciting feedback. Client responses and reactions should matter at all stages and phases of project and relationship management.
9. Leverage the Power of the Latest Professional Services Software
If you want to take your firm and your client relationships to the next level, a quality professional services digital platform is an absolute must. Not only will your clients appreciate the high degree of professionalism, but you will be able to free up valuable time that you can devote exclusively to relationship-building. The BQE CORE platform can help with everything from working time and expense tracking to project and human resource management.
10. Go Beyond Pure Business
Remember that clients are, first and foremost, human beings, and they like to be treated as such. Even the most businesslike of people will appreciate a human touch when it comes to relationship-building. Think about involving your clients in things that have nothing to do with the daily grind of the business world. Consider sponsoring a community event, providing clients with entertainment, sending cards to mark holidays/special occasions, or just sparking up a sincere and meaningful personal conversation.