Successful businesses are built on relationships. However, as with personal relationships, building strong customer relationships is not as easy as it may seem.

On Day 4 of Grow Camp — a six-day growth marketing series at MaRS — our amazing speakers shared insights on building business relationships. How do you adjust your relationship management skills to build the various types of relationships you need to scale your company — especially if you have no prior sales knowledge? Let’s break it down by the types of relationships you might encounter.

1. One-on-one relationships (business to consumer)

The monogamy might make it simpler, but it doesn’t mean it’s easy. Good relationships take time to grow and lots of effort to maintain. This is where your customer success people come in. In contrast to sales, customer success emphasizes creating the best possible relationship with the customer, rather than closing the best deal possible.

Ben Winn, customer success manager at SeamlessMD, emphasizes the interplay between sales and customer success. Best practices indicate that the two roles work most successfully in tandem — the customer success agent builds relationships with customers and identifies opportunities, while the sales agent takes care of subsequently negotiating and closing the sales.

In building strong relationships, there are four key pillars: proximity (physical distance), frequency (number of encounters), duration (amount of time), and intensity (connecting physically and psychologically). Here are a few ways to address the four pillars and build successful one-on-one customer relationships.

  • Be consistent with your interactions.
  • Meet your customers in person.
  • Address your customers’ support needs and feature requests — and keep them updated on progress.
  • Anticipate your customers’ needs. Don’t wait for them to complain.
  • Go above and beyond, and look for opportunities to surprise and wow your customers.

At the end of the day, customer success is about really taking the time to listen to your customers’ needs. How you interact with your customers builds your brand and reputation, which can make or break your company.

2. Community relationships

Building networks should be a top priority, especially if your company relies on a strong network to succeed. As Paul Chan, the chief operating officer of Bunz, explains: “The value of your network is proportional to the number of people in your network.”

While it may seem like Bunz, the popular trading community, blossomed out of nowhere, a few key elements ensured its success. Paul offers the following recommendations.

  • Focus on the power of story. Your purpose is what brings your network together, so don’t be afraid to state your mission, loud and clear.
  • Find your 1,000 true fans. These are the people who will fight for you when the going gets tough — and, yes, it will get tough.
  • Listen to your audience. Monitor forums, review comments and see what people think about you. You want to have your finger on the pulse of your reputation and public sentiment.
  • Make sure your network becomes more valuable when more people join. Ensure that there is community engagement and empower your community members with the tools they need to make the experience better for themselves (by inviting more people in).

“People build community when they know that the more people they bring, the better the experience is for them.” — Paul Chan, Bunz

3. Account-based relationships (business to business)

Account-based marketing (ABM), the new trend sweeping the enterprise sales world, is about targeting specific accounts. In contrast to traditional business-to-business sales and marketing, where the breadth and reach of widely cast campaigns are key, ABM is about depth and specificity.

Steve Watt, co-founder of the annual Toronto ABM Summit, brings up key trends in the ABM world. One of the big topics is demand generation. Long gone are the days when there was just one employee who handled all marketing, brand and demand generation. To be successful, especially when it comes to enterprise sales, you need to devote significant resources to building a sales pipeline — separate from brand, customer and product marketing work. This is where the position of chief revenue officer (CRO) was born.

Merging the departments of marketing and sales, the CRO understands how to attract and retain customers, and where the costs are. The CRO position eliminates the traditional tension between the two departments by marrying them through one goal: revenue optimization.

Key points about account-based marketing:

  • ABM is not a tactic, nor a campaign — it takes time and commitment.
  • It’s a team sport. ABM requires sales and marketing (and executive) buy-in.
  • It’s important to know which type of ABM suits which type of organization: the level of customization depends on the deal size, the complexity of your solution and the complexity of the customer.

You can make it look like it’s magic.

Building relationships is at the heart of your success. Whether it’s connecting to one customer or one account, or bringing together a community, the relationships you build will drive your business forward and raise its bottom line. It’s not easy, but the keys are to understand your customer’s needs, to be there for them when trouble comes and, of course, to listen, listen, listen to what they are saying.
________________________________________

Want more information on growth marketing? Check out some key insights from scaling pains, how to build a good foundation for growth and sales for scale.

Thank you to our incredible speakers from Day 4 of Grow Camp 2018 for contributing to some of these key insights.

Tannya Cai

Tannya is responsible for the planning, execution, marketing and development of experiential programs and workshops within Regional Innovation Centres and Campus Linked Accelerators in the province of Ontario. See more…