Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Is Your Client Madly in Love With You?

Most of my girlfriends will attest, that I’m pretty happy being a single woman (most of the time) and I don’t normally flash my high-beams at a man when I’m at a party or social function. And yes, there have been many BFF discussions over martinis whether a woman can be married if she really wants to be, but I feel that my ‘dilemma’ is that I have yet to meet “the one.” In truth, I’ve decided to hold out for a man that will look at me the way Barack looks at Michelle – and yes, Mr. President-elect, we have noticed those subtle pats on her backside. But it’s very simple. I want his glance, his mere gaze to make me forget myself and where we are, and have us pause to ponder our destiny. I want others to not only admire our PDA, but envy our powerful magnetic bond. Like when Jerry Maguire finally reaches Rod Tidwell in the locker room and everyone around them feels their reverberating connection – none more than Cushman; who turns to Bob Sugar and says, “…why don’t we ever hug like that?’ So it’s not surprising that while creating Valentine’s Day party ideas this week for a hot nightclub here in Las Vegas, romance has permeated the air in my office. And I begin to explore the correlation between the man/woman relationship and the relationship we have with our customers and clients. Because I’ve determined that at the very least, I want my clients to love my creativity, and feel that the services I provide are so incredible it causes even my competitors to envy or admire the way I do business!

So much of what event marketers and producers do, requires us to be more intuitive to our customer’s goals, objectives and sometimes personal preferences. We must court the client in order to generate intangible ideas in a highly creative process that often results in emotional responses from clients and guests alike; responses that can build or destroy the relationship with the client. Because a smoking hot event can exponentially say to the world that you are hip, sophisticated, and innovative, or if lack luster can prove you to be a traditional stick-in-the mud with no vision. But it is far better to have raw emotions (and be either loved or hated) than to have a mediocre relationship with a client.

So in our new experiential-social economy, I’ve put together ways to help you go from dating or just hooking up, to producing a client that is in love with what you do and how you do it. In fact, I believe most businesses could benefit if they would treat their customers like a love interest or a really hot date.

Wooing (Muuhwhaaa…)
Wooing is that dating period of slowly getting to know each other, and it is a necessary part of the relationship (and the sale). Take the time to get to know the players and let them get to know the real you. However, now is NOT the time to discuss your previous client’s flaws, reveal that your team’s creative process involves coloring books and a bottle of Patron, or that you’re driving your parent’s second car! I’m not at all advocating being deceptive when pitching to a client, but you do want to present your best talents and unique abilities and avoid any embarrassing attributes. Concentrate on divulging how your talents can benefit the client’s business; and why you are someone they should get to know. A prominent woman speaker once said that she advises women to go on that first date wearing little or no make-up and Saturday morning ‘bed hair’ so that a man knows exactly what he was getting. You know, keepin’ it real! Well, bravo my brave sisters; you go right ahead -- because I, for one, won’t be showing up for any date without my MAC cosmetics and Bobby Brown lip glaze -- although I don’t believe in putting on airs -– for a man or for a new client. What I do strongly believe in is being my authentic self and presenting personal best.

An Exclusive Relationship (Of course I trust you…)
Have you ever really discussed exclusivity with your customer? In other words is the client even aware that your company wants to date exclusively with the possibility of marriage? If your client is still putting out an RFP for every single event or marketing project, something is wrong with your relationship. Seriously, you may be assuming that the client is all yours, when in fact they spread out their projects to one or more of your competitors. But when you have developed a strong bond with a client, they know that even if you can’t provide the service they need, they can come to you for the best possible recommendation or referral. What’s important about this is you have control and can refer a trusted source; someone that you can or will partner with. I make certain that anytime I must make a referral to another business that they also share my passion for excellence – and it’s a business that will ultimately refer me. And while I am secure in my client relationships (able to refer without creativity envy), I don’t want my clients being ‘intimate’ with some other company and then coming back infecting my team with highly contagious bad vibes, demanding attitudes and low budget (cheap) expectations. Use protection!

Communication (What’s your name again?...)
Okay, can I just tell you right now that if a man doesn’t call me the next day after a night of intimacy, there will never be an encore performance. Or if this said man calls me only when he has ah, um shall I say, “needs,” I consider this to be an official booty-call and subsequently will block his phone number. So if that makes sense socially, why on earth do companies only contact their clients when there’s a sale to be made, or a need to talk about the latest-and-greatest new product? How often do we complete flawless operation of an event or production, and then stop communicating with the client for months at a time. No ‘follow-up’. No ‘what’s next’. No ‘do you still like me’. You would be shocked to know that a producer of a major world expo doesn’t contact their attendees again until a few months before the next expo. And they are not alone. An accomplished paramour will stay in communication (with love notes, late-night phone calls) right up until the time for the next soiree! For heaven sakes, stay in contact with your clients! Geez!

Gifts (For me?...)
From a single rose to diamond jewelry and everything in between, women love receiving gifts from a man she’s dating! It demonstrates his sincerity and level of interest. So, what is your excuse for not sending thank you or congratulatory gifts to your clients? Even in a down-turned economy, it costs very little to bring coffee, donuts or snacks to your meetings – don’t be labeled a ‘cheap date’ because the client will remember this when the market turns around (and it will). Okay, if you must cut-back, cut the office supplies budget, but leave money to spring for client lunch, dinner or drinks – this will go a lot further in cementing the relationship. And may I digress for just a moment? Pahleeze, don’t send clients ‘gifts’ encased with your logo, phone number or URL address. This smacks of cheesy, self-promotion and appears disingenuous. Save the company logo and a picture of your dog, Sparkie, for pens, hats and other small promotional give-aways and give ‘gifts’ that the client can actually use. Picking up the tab for drinks and dinner can be much more cost effective than purchasing advertising in a trade magazine or main stream publication –socializing with the client is much more personal!

As we prepare to enter a new year, it is important to me to make everyday count and to engage with people I respect, admire and/or care about (whether in love or in business). Wouldn’t it be fantastic if in 2009, whenever possible, each of us could choose to work with clients that we are genuinely happy with? I’ve been fortunate so far to only work with clients I really like (even in this recession). And I admit that it’s the initial falling-in-love stage with the client that I enjoy the most. Meanwhile, I’m still waiting for my own ‘love connection’ with a man who will make me want to share my bathroom vanity, remote control and shoe rack.

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