Many metaphors have been used to illustrate the careful cultivation of customer relationships. I’ve found that growing customers is a lot like tending my garden. The right amount of thoughtful planning and preparation, intelligent nurturing, diligent cultivating — even ruthless pruning, at times — nearly always pay huge dividends at harvest time.
Here are 10 nurturing tips to help make your own customer garden blossom:
- Start with a plan. Make sure taller plants don’t block the light from smaller ones. Nurture the plants you love. Identify, individualize and continuously interact with “A” level prospects and clients. “A” clients force you to grow and serve.
- Preparing your soil is half the battle. Databases put relevant information at everyone’s fingertips. True knowledge management means knowing what matters most to your customers.
- Individualize your approach to nurturing. Few plant species are truly alike. Peonies may thrive in drought-like conditions, but lily-of-the-valley and shrunken violets won’t make it in such an arid climate. One-to-one marketing allows personalized, relevant, useful and nurturing contacts to be managed as a process. Even the most inarticulate nurturer can be supported with an online menu of letters, memos, notes and other expressions of true sentiments.
- Use precision tools. Never use a shovel when the job calls for a spade. Permission, not interruption, leads to long-term relationships. Mass advertising misses the mark in the complex sale. When dealing with high-ticket, high-tech, long sales cycle situations, one-to-one wins.
- To reap top-quality harvests, first plant quality seeds. The farmer always has a choice about which crops to cultivate. As the saying goes, “As ye sow, so shall ye reap.”
- When you talk to your plants, say only positive things. Use CRM technology to be responsible for making “touches that matter.” People remember people who intentionally create experiences that make them feel special.
- Give stronger, healthier plants ample room to flourish. Weeds consume the same space, nutrients and energy, but unlike “A” customers, yield virtually no saleable harvest.
- Take pride in your flowers, but don’t take all the credit. An attitude of gratitude with your team and clients shares the harvest and encourages continued nurturing.
- Don’t rest on your shovel. Without a regular maintenance program, your garden will turn into a jungle.Plants, like customers and employees, interpret neglect as indifference and that behavior invariably suppresses vertical growth. The best gardeners know how to prune.
- Never tramp mud into the house.
We can do nothing about last year’s harvest, but can do much about this year’s crop. Stop pondering the past and begin nurturing the future. Vistage speaker Jim Cecil heads the James P. Cecil Company, a Bellevue, Wash.-based firm specializing in loyalty marketing and customer-relationship strategies.