We live in an age where a client may be next door, or in another time zone. Because of this, managing client relationships has needed to evolve. Businesses are now required to find new ways to stay connected with far-away clients.
Although the solution to this challenge lies with technology, the best methods are the old-fashioned, simple rules of maintaining a relationship. Staying in touch, celebrating joint successes, and being responsive to clients remain the most effective ways in building and maintaining healthy and ongoing long-distance client relationships.
Emails and online meetings
Fortunately, the internet makes staying in touch with someone on the other side of the planet much easier! Remember to hit that send button regularly (but not overly frequently, as this can become irritating quickly!) to share e-cards or interesting articles with your client. Regular contact will steadily reinforce the relationship you have.
The value of face-to-face meetings should not be underestimated either. Online video conferencing is a fantastic way in which to hold small brainstorming sessions, while you continue to build a bond with your client.
Regularly checking caller ID (in case your client calls but no message is left) and your emails, is a good tip for making sure you are not unknowingly ignoring your client. Being responsive may sound like a given in any client-business relationship, but over long-distance this is of even greater importance. Not only are you making up for the lack of personal interaction, but being prompt in answering emails and voicemails is always good business practice. It is also wise to let your client know well in advance when you will be out of the office for more than a day, as well as providing a substitute contact to cover that period of time.
The best way to do this is to enjoy reaching milestones with your client, be it completing a major deliverable or acknowledging an anniversary. This adds to a sense of momentum and helps create a sense of ‘forward motion’. It is also good for morale and gives something concrete for your business and your client to be positive about. Sometimes, complicated projects with long-term timelines can stifle that initial feeling of motivation. Breaking down a large project will create more short-term milestones that can be reached and should work wonders in maintaining a joint sense of motivation for the longer vision. Moreover, on completion of a deliverable, think about sending a food gift basket or something similar to your client as a way of congratulations. This will tell your client that their work is greatly appreciated and will also give them a sense of achievement.
Geographic barriers between businesses are fading and as such, long-distance client relationships are becoming increasingly pivotal as the selection choice becomes larger. While this is an advantage in many ways, it is important not to become complacent as a larger choice means that clients can choose essentially anyone from around the globe. Why should they pick you? Top-notch management of long-distance relationships may well be the answer to that progressively more important question of ‘why you?’