- March 16, 2021
- Posted by: Hillary Feder
- Category: Nurturing Relationships
Those who know me know that making the people who matter feel like they matter is in my personal and professional DNA.
Our clients know that nurturing relationships underscores every one of the plans we present whether applied to their employees, clients, or other business partners. People matter. Relationships matter. Nurturing relationships between people who matter, matters.
Building an intentional nurturing system requires thought and planning. Because I believe this is so important in life and in business, I’m sharing our four-step process. Here’s how a relationship nurturing system was implemented through the eyes of a financial services client that we guided to a repeatable, scalable nurturing system.
Meet our client who nurtured
Just like any other process, a nurturing system will not cover every situation. What our clients have come to appreciate is that an intentional process will address about 90% of their needs. Once established, implementation comes easily without a lot of complicated thinking. The other 10% in one way or another demands a bit more attention and falls outside of the standards.
For our financial services client, we developed an overall annual touch point plan in addition to personal milestones (such as birthdays and get well) that occur. We created a curated group of “products” from the simplicity of a greeting card to more tangible and personalized products that will used by recipients for a long time to come. The touch points and curated collection that support the touch points is reviewed and updated to reflect ongoing business changes and current trends. All-in-all, this nurturing system was personal, repeatable, and efficient to maintain. It kept the relationship between our client and their customers front of mind and let them know they mattered.
After instituting their nurturing system four years ago, our client team received a heartfelt and hand-written thank you note for a small thoughtful gift (value $12). Seeing this note and reading its content, they knew they were on the right road. Since then, we’ve improved their nurturing system and added in other nurturing components including a12-month, more intensive client onboarding program to deepen relationships.
Nurturing includes all of the perceptions that clients feel about your organization and its people. The easiest way to think about nurturing is to equate it to how are you expressing authentic interest in your clients beyond the business you do together.
Focusing on you want to accomplish?
The first task was to understand what this financial services group really wanted to accomplish. After a few rounds of conversation, four key objectives surfaced:
- Create a system that would enable this group to thank, recognize and honor clients and key stakeholders using less internal resources;
- Ensure any communication with and recognition of clients and key stakeholders was authentic and fit the culture, values and brand of the practice, and met industry compliance;
- Make the system simple to use and facilitate the group’s focus intently on work that directly supports their clients needs; and
- The system needed to reflect the personality traits of the group’s practice.
With clear objectives, we were ready to step back and gather data. Here you need to genuinely account for how you are actually recognizing and expressing thanks — not what you aspire to do. Data gathering for this team felt a bit painful. As consistent and thoughtful as they were in providing guidance to enable their clients to meet their financial goals, they were falling down on the job nurturing with consistency.
The team definitely was sending messages of appreciation or recognizing a milestone such as the birth of a child/grandchild. However, it was clear that they were haphazard. Some were just “checking the box” and others were spending a disproportionate amount of energy to present just the “right thing”. To add insult to injury, this team has a number of clients that are “generations” of families and clients that are friends with each other. Not great for brand consistency.
In your data gathering process step back and consider:
- Do you have a process or are client nurturing decisions made individually without guidelines?
- Do you track your nurturing moments?
- Who would be responsible for managing, monitoring and updating?
- How will you measure success and make appropriate refinements as necessary?
With clarity about what was authentically important, it was time to develop a system to serve this team:
- Key personal milestones that would be recognized were agreed to, and how they would be recognized was systematized.
- The team learned to be good “curious question askers”, enabling them to deliver “remarkable” consistency in their personal milestone nurturing practices.
- “Unexpected” moments that would create nurturing touch points for their broader client base were selected – realizing that milestones are just that — and more was needed.
- All communication channels (in-person, email, physical mail, phone, video, and gifts) were incorporated into their nurturing plan. Each communication channel was designed to create a different emotional experience.
- Completing the system monthly check points and an annual review and refinement were put into place.
To develop your own process it’s important to have a small and diverse group at the table. Create a planning timeline that has both active development work as well as some time to “marinate”. Often in this quiet “marinating moment”, an idea will emerge — a detail that may have been overlooked can be brought back to the group for discussion. Work diligently to launch a system that will serve your organization and realize that when creating the human connection, it takes time to reach perfection.
Review and refine
As our client’s team implemented and worked their system, they actively used their monthly activity checkpoints and an annual review asking themselves:
- Are we meeting the “why” we decided to do this?
- Are we being consistent?
- Are we living our brand?
- Is what we’re doing, down to the details setting us apart from others in our industry.
With this analysis, they have made refinements and seen success beyond their expectations. Today they have moved well beyond a client nurturing system. Over time they have added a referral nurturing system (referrals are the life blood of their new business) and a micro-plan for the first 12-months to nurture new clients a bit more deeply. All of these actions came from the annual review and refinement of their overall system. They have built systems for those they know, those they want to know, and those they have just met.
So, four steps later, what is the result?
Deeper, more meaningful relationships with people who matter. Making those people who matter to you feel like they matter. In short, nurtured relationships with clients who know you care about them not only year-round but more importantly deeply and personally.
If you’re thinking about developing a nurturing plan and you don’t want to go it alone, let’s start a conversation. We create down-to-earth strategies and ideas aligned with your company objectives, brand, message, and voice.