Being a professional communicator is all about building relationships.
Your professional connections might not be as fraught as romantic relationships, but they still require nurturing care to grow and develop into a partnership with trust and value for both parties.
You still have to show that you care.
In his 1992 book “The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate,” Gary Chapman hypothesizes that there are five ways to show someone you love them. The channels he lists are:
- Receiving gifts
- Quality time
- Words of affirmation
- Acts of service
- Physical touch
He submits that everyone has a preferred “love language” or a way they register that someone cares about them. Some partners feel loved when they receive expensive gifts; others just want to spend the day with their partner. Others need compliments and praise in order to feel appreciated.
Is the same true for professional relationships?
In a piece for Muck Rack, writer Shalon Roth posits that the three important tools for cultivating relationships are “building rapport,” “acting with integrity” and “demonstrating commitment.” Neil Patel writes that businesses should “make the client feel like royalty” and “practice active listening.”
Due.com says: “In order to make your clients feel like they are special, you have to become something special as well. If you have a storefront, it needs to always be picked up, clean, and well displayed.”
Doesn’t this all sound familiar? Aren’t these arguments closely aligned with advice on listening to a romantic partner, investing more energy in the relationship and trying to spice things up?
The average length of the top 40 agency-client relationships is about 22 years, according to the Drum. However, if you can’t build trust and keep the relationship interesting, you’re never going to make it that long.
Maybe thinking about your client’s love language is a good place to start when trying to show your commitment.
Here are some suggestions:
Year-end or in the weeks before Christmas might be the standard time to send gifts to clients that have been good partners over the years. However, there might be another, more client-specific, time to send a gift.
Maybe your client has an organizational anniversary or a high-water mark to celebrate. Maybe you take the time to learn your contact’s birthday and send a card.
It doesn’t have to be expensive or extravagant. Instead, make sure that any gift you send conveys thoughtfulness and expresses that you see this client as a unique and important entity for your organization.
If you send a gift that feels like an email blast that went to your entire address book, you are wasting your money.
2. Quality time
You might have the budget to wine and dine your client contacts, but there are other ways to offer quality time to a business connection. Maybe instead of an email, you call on the phone and have a conversation, inquire about their families and personal well-being.
How are you showing your client that you care about them as a person? This also comes through when make the effort to research their unique needs and business concerns. Take the time to carefully design the ideal customer experience with your organization.
Make sure you have the proper support system in place to handle client questions and concerns. Proactive listening helps.
Spending quality time will not only show your client that you care, but it should make your work better, too.
3. Words of affirmation
Everyone likes to be congratulated on their success. Even highly accomplished industry veterans will appreciate a little recognition.
Recognize your clients both in in person and on your social media channels. Share your accomplishments and what makes you proud to work with their organization. In an era when organizations are looking to make a bold statement, and as corporate social responsibility and “brand purpose” emerge as essential elements of many corporate strategies, there’s plenty of work to highlight.
Make sure you are genuine, however.
Empty praise and vacuous ego-boosting could backfire when you try to build relationships with some industry leaders. Instead, find the work that truly resonates with you, and craft a comment that pinpoints what you like about it.
Then you can shout it from the digital rooftops.
4. Acts of service
You know that your clients have a hard job. They have to justify everything they do to a leadership team that is hawkish about the bottom line and always looking to cut the fluff.
It is an act of service to properly measure your efforts and show robust ROI for everything you do. It is an act of service to follow the Barcelona Principles and measure outputs, not inputs. It is an act of service to go beyond metrics like AVE, even if that’s what the client requests.
Help them improve their ability to measure and build credibility for the whole industry.
Acts of service in your community can bolster your reputation and make clients proud to be your partner. Think about how your agency or organization can help your community, either through volunteering, in-kind donations or pro bono work.
5. Physical touch
In this case we aren’t talking about bodily contact with your clients. In a professional setting, those interactions will only backfire, so for everyone’s sake, don’t give out unsolicited backrubs.
Instead, think about how you interact with your clients. Are they local? Maybe you can swing by their office and say hello. Maybe you can grab lunch or coffee with someone.
Go to industry events where you are likely to rub shoulders and network as though it’s your profession. (Hint: It is.)
Schedule time to check in with clients, even if you don’t have an urgent action item to discuss.
When it comes to helping your client fall in love with you, a little can go a long way.