Creating a plan to protect your key customer relationships

PlanningOK so you’ve got a valuable customer or client. They’re one your business really cannot afford to lose.  So how do you protect the relationship and ensure you remain their preferred supplier? Here are 5 tips to help you build a simple protection plan to safeguard the relationship and help it grow.

 

Take a snapshot

Jot down what the customer relationship looks like now.  This summary should cover which people you currently deal with in the customer, what they buy from you and any purchasing behaviour issues.  Also reflect on what they like about doing business with you and any suggestions/feedback they’ve given you regarding improvements.

 

Look through their eyes

Consider what’s going on in the customer’s business or life.  Will they still need your products/services in say 6months time?  Is anything on their horizon which may have an impact on their relationship with you?  If in doubt ask, but do so in a supportive rather than a blatantly self-interested way.  For example, “How’s things going?”, “What are you currently working towards?”, “How are you finding the current economic conditions.” will help to start the conversation.

 

Gaze into the future

Having looked through their eyes, think about how you could help, add value and in turn develop this relationship.  What other products or services could they buy from you? What enhancements would secure more loyalty from them? Which of their people do you need to get to know to retain this customer? (If you have a relationship with one person, will you retain this account if they move on?) Set yourself a target that describes the new-look client relationship in say 1-2 years time.  Be specific about how it will be different and the expectations you have.

 

Define small steps

With your big picture target in mind now break down the actions that will lead up to it. Set yourself a number of small short term goals and the dates you’ll complete them by.  These will make the implementation process easier to complete. Whilst mapping out the steps, identify any additional resources you’ll need to complete them.

Examples of small steps may include…

  • meeting up with another decision-maker or influencer in the business to gauge their involvement and preferences in decisions relating to your business
  • taking an idea or a fresh solution to your customer contacts which will help their business improve in some way in say sales, efficiency or profitability
  • monitoring what latest developments they’re broadcasting in the press, in their e-newsletters or on social media and using an announcement to get in touch with some additional insight or help
  • giving the customer a sample of one of your products/services they don’t currently use
  • finding out more about any seasonal pressures their business faces this year or notable deadlines etc and helping them navigate through them seamlessly

Collectively these will help you forge fairly regular, valued contact with the customer.  If each ‘touchpoint’ helps them in some way, you’ll plant yourself firmly and positively in their mind.  Just the place to be when an additional requirement crops up or they need help.

 

Measure yourself

Once a month see how many of the small steps you’ve completed and set the next ones. Don’t beat yourself up if you haven’t manage to complete as many as planned. Just be clear with yourself about the cause of this and, if needs be redefine, the steps and timeframe you are setting yourself.  Once a quarter evaluate progress towards that ‘big picture’ goal you set.  Don’t be afraid to adjust it if events have necessitated a change.

And finally, the more you can find out about your customers, the more you’ll be able to offer help and create business for yourself.  Please don’t regard the ‘looking through their eyes’ as a one-off activity.  The more you know, the more valuable a supplier you’ll become (and the harder it’ll be for a competitor to replace you).

For more advice on marketing your business contact us or tel. 01483 429111.