I was having lunch with an old friend a few days ago. She is an old friend in every sense of the word, as we have been friends for a long time and she is now retired after a long and extremely successful career building, running and ultimately selling a crisis management firm in D.C.
This friend has successfully navigated her business through every economic downturn since Jimmy Carter was president, always emerging from recession even stronger than when it began. As she put it: “succeeding is not just surviving.”
What I took away from our lunch is this: when external conditions are tough and consumer confidence is ebbing, it is absolutely imperative to “reach out and touch” clients. It is vitally important to connect, listen and, most importantly, express appreciation.
For many companies it’s equally important to incent corporate sales teams and product resellers. It is crucial that the sales force understand and articulate the value propositions of goods and services, and that they are motivated, now more than ever, to put themselves and their sales teams into overdrive.
Call it what you will, “face time” or the “personal touch,” it is essential – and it works. There are many ways to connect with key internal or external constituents – a client, customer, sales manager or senior VP of a major reseller. Here are a few:
1. Pick up the phone. The simple act of “calling for no good reason” can be very significant. “I was just thinking about you and how much I appreciate your business (or hard work if it is an internal person) and your friendship. Tell me how things are going.”
2. “How about lunch?” Lunch, coffee or a cocktail after work is tried and true. You might want to consider a variation of this theme: bring lunch with you. Senior executives are busier than ever, so go ahead visit your customer or reseller and bring a light lunch with you. It’s quick, convenient and demonstrates your appreciation.
3. With spring in the air, golf is always a good option. Invite your customer and encourage him or her to round out your foursome with two guests. For larger companies with national and international constituencies, an event – standalone or as part of a corporate incentive program – is the most efficient and effective way to secure that all-important face-time, show corporate appreciation to customers and to motivate sales teams. The WPO Foundation and the Event Marketing Institute recently released a survey of companies with over $1 billion in revenue and reported that well over 50 percent of the respondents chose event marketing as the communications discipline that “best accelerates and deepens relationships with target audiences.”
To be effective, events do not have to be lavish. They do, however, have to be responsible, tasteful, strategic and professionally managed.
There is another very good reason to consider planning an event in today’s economic environment – value. At The Castle Group we are both planning and conducting corporate events nationally and around the world, and we are negotiating some of the best deals we have seen in 20 years.
So whether you invite your customer for a cocktail after work or to a corporate event across the country, reach out, get face time and you will not only survive the recession, you will succeed.