5 Ways to Nurture Relationships When You Can’t Meet in Person

Do a Google search on “networking” or “marketing relationships” or “sales tips” and every piece of advice starts with suggestions on ways to meet people in person. It’s clear that meeting face-to-face is a well-tested way to start or maintain a business relationship. However, the world we live in keeps changing. Meeting people in person isn’t always feasible (nor good for our environment).

As of the publication of this blog, the big reason people can’t meet or maintain relationships in person today is due to travel restrictions and canceled events resulting from the spread of the Coronavirus. But there are less dramatic reasons for looking at alternate, and even new, relationship-building strategies — sometimes it isn’t possible to meet people because your customers number in the thousands. Your business could be built on a niche customer base sprinkled around the world. An extensive travel plan may simply not be in the cards for you or your budget. Whatever the reason, we know that experiences matter to people, and we must provide ways for people to connect with each other, and their brands, in meaningful ways in order for companies to earn sales and long-term loyalty.

One of our own company’s biggest success stories in helping our clients build relationships is to invite them to participate in our House Programs. But when disruptions cause an event to be postponed, our brands’ business goals don’t slow or change. Sales must continue and journalists and influencers still need good reasons to write about your brand. What can we do to nurture the connections and relationships from afar?

1. Make Them Feel Special

Just because you can’t meet with a customer, journalist, or influencer in person, doesn’t mean you can’t provide a meaningful – even emotional – experience from afar. But you do have to put some thought and effort into understanding what each person is interested in, their goals, and what kinds of interactions they will find valuable. Technology tools can help your team keep track of customers and client details. A great way to use that information is to execute “remote” activities that meet people’s needs and make them feel like your company knows of the goals and cares about them. There are many creative ideas for connecting with people ranging from simply using video conferencing instead of phones to sending thoughtful, useful packages, to up-to-the-minute information that saves them time and extra work. 

2. Stay Organized

Whether you use spreadsheets, notepads, or CRM tools, it is vital that everyone on your team who interacts with clients or customers has an organized central repository to keep notes about preferences, life milestones, interests and other details that give you opportunities to remind customers that they are not just “a sale.” Rather, demonstrate that we are in a long term relationship and care about our collective goals. When projects or plans go haywire, having these kinds of details will give you the tools you need to follow up with meaningful connections that will be appreciated and remembered.

3. Social Media, Email, and Digital Tools Have Real Relationship Value

Staying abreast of how to use digital tools, and the evolving cultural norms on each platform gives you a powerful way to understand the relationship between your brand and customers/clients — thus providing real business value. Many marketers have become comfortable using data gleaned from social channels to provide guidance in creating deeper content on popular topics. However, social listening, data analytics, comments, and many other digital interactions, can be minded and studied and stored to serve as a repository for creative ideas on what clients and customers are expecting from you when problems arise down the road.

4. From the PR Playbook: Don’t Go Dark When Unexpected Change Happens

Experts with decades of Public Relations experience will agree that often the worst response to an unexpected, tragic, or serious problem, is to “go dark.” Stopping clear and appropriate communication when things don’t go as planned is typically a recipe for creating misunderstanding, hurt feelings, or a loss of brand respect. When significant issues crop up, your dedication to keeping organized details about your clients and customers gives you the opportunity to help troubleshoot — and show you care about them — even when everything goes wrong. As the old saying goes, we learn more and remember more from the bad times than from the good times. Those communication efforts go a long way toward growing and maintaining relationships – and not being face-to-face at that moment won’t matter if you’ve helped provide a bright path through the darkness.

5. Details Matter

In the thick of unexpected changes or even crisis, it’s easy to forget about the little stuff. Here is another opportunity to let your customers or clients know you understand their business goals, even in the thick of a crazy time. Are there things you need to remind them to communicate? All kinds of simple, but important, details can be forgotten and you can be the hero who keeps their needs in mind. If the trade show is canceled, where can people get timely updates on new information? Are there new phone numbers, event-specific websites, business hours announcements, product information, social post corrections, or media contacts that can help streamline the speed of communication, lesson misinformation, and leave everyone feeling like everyone involved truly cares and knows what their clients and customers need? The smallest detail can form a huge step toward maintaining – and even growing – a business relationship. 

Until We Meet Again….

Even with all the speed of travel and technology available today, there are lots of good reasons why we may not be able to meet with people face-to-face in business. However, building relationships with our colleagues, clients, and customers is still a paramount goal in earning new business and maintaining profitable relationships over many years. The key is to understand and use the tools available to us today and then keep learning how to create new kinds of experiences that allow us to engage with each other — even when we are continents apart. 

If you want to learn more about how our team at CBC can support you with engaging experiences — whether in person or not — we would be happy to talk further about how we can help you establish and grow relationships and successfully nurture connections from near and far. 

Jennifer Newberg Cercone Brown Company

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