I have a theory. Its not mine but something introduced by Kevin Kelly who is the senior editor at Wired Magazine in 2008. His theory was a new and disruptive idea that challenged the traditional selling model of the creative industry. Its now a living and proven philosophy for building a lasting, sustainable business or movement on the back of what Kevin Kelly calls 1000 true (raving fans). The number 1000 is arbitrary but the principle is this.
Kevin discovered that for an artist or organisation to truly make and see consistent growth earning a great living they needed to focus their energy on finding, engaging and delivering value to their 1000 true fans.
Who are these 'true fans'? we all have a picture of that die hard fan. For an artist they'd drive 200 miles to a concert and buy every CD. For a business they'd buy every new product that comes out, refer you without being asked or consistently come to you first with their concerns or business challenges.
Wouldn't it be great to have more customers like that. Some of you probably do. But, how intentional are you in those relationships? what if you could have more of those fans within the organisations you serve today? If you truly knew who they were how would this influence your weekly activity and engagement?
I'm about to propose something almost just as radical for key account management as it was for the creative industry and Kevin Kelly. I don't propose this as a philosopher but as a practitioner exploring this with my clients and supporting others.
The 1000 true fans for key account management may not be 1000 literal people but a way of thinking that forces you to ask a different question.
How do you discover, engage and nurture true fans and create more of them? That's what I want to talk about. Discovering, Engaging and Nurturing those unseen or perhaps underappreciated customers.
Through writing my book and now engaging in the room with close to 1000 sales leaders and key account managers here is what i'm noticing. I'll be sharing more of my studies in coming posts.
DISCOVER YOUR FANS
This place can be challenging as most customer evaluation tools are not set to measure for your highest engaged customers and most bushiness don't have a system built to do it. Many use customer scorecards and key account evaluations. While these are helpful they're still about you. Knowing how satisfied a customer is doesn't tell you anything about how excited they are about being your customer and finding more opportunities to refer and buy from you. How do you start this process? it begins with 5 indicators and there may be more.
- Pay attention to customers who buy often and a range of your services from you year after year.
- Pay attention to customers who refer you often.
- Pay attention to customers who offer you great feedback, impromptu testimonials and take your surveys without question.
- Pay attention to customers who attend almost every on or offline event you put on.
- Pay attention to customers with high internal adoption and use of your product and service (very powerful indicator).
Once you identify customers demonstrating one or more of these qualities write down the companies and those people who are demonstrating those behaviours. They have the hallmarks of becoming your true fans.
Before you go any further ask these three questions
- What evidence have I seen of these behaviours over the last three months?
- How would I honestly describe my relationship with that contact and organisation today?
- How would I honestly describe the quality of communication and engagement with that contact and organisation today?
Once you've answered those questions you'll know two things.
What behaviours are trends and what you need to work on to make better and deeper connections with your customers. Now we need to consider how we engage with them.
ENGAGE YOUR FANS
Many of the customers you'll identify will be on your radar and probably in your pipeline because that's who they are, people who are already engaging with you. The key is amplifying the quality and consistency of that engagement. To begin to do this powerfully you need to get inside their world. The opportunity we have today to get to know our contacts and customers is unparalleled in history. There are insights and analytics tools galore which I'd highly suggest looking into. Even if you don't here are two powerful ways you can engage with your potential true fan customers this week and in weeks to come.
Step inside the conversations that matter to them. LinkedIn is a great place to start for B2B engagement. I'm a big fan of fanning the flame first before trying to light one. What I mean is this. Your customers are already speaking to others online, reading articles and engaging with others. It's not difficult to discover where they go. One way is to find out what LinkedIn groups they're apart of. Do you share the same group? if so there is likely to be common interest and conversations of value they might be interested in. Add your own voice to the conversation and share this with your customer to offer their thoughts, expertise and insights. The idea is to create multiple connection points for communication.
The more places you communicate the more engaged your customers become, the closer you become and the more likable you become. This all adds up to building trust and advocacy which they will build for you with others.
Be their advocate and make them the hero. We all know that it's all about the customer but its not always easy to know what that means on a day to day basis. The famous quote by Teddy Roosevelt "people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care". The mark of a fan or a true fan is based on empathy. They feel that you know them, they resonate with your message but that message isn't about what you do. Its about what they get by the choice they make to engage with you and your products and services. What this means is what they do matters and your job is to enable them to win and as a result you do as well. The implications of this on a day to day basis could mean many things but start with this.
Choose once a month to acknowledge one of your clients and a win or action they made and make it public. Where appropriate suggest it to your marketing to be on the next blog. Share it on social media and importantly share it with your contact and their organisation so they know you're paying attention.
NURTURE & ATTRACT YOUR FANS
You've identified and discovered two immediate ways to engage with those contacts and potential organisations. You need to nurture the relationship so it continues to feel exciting, fresh and new. No great relationship relies solely on good will of the past. What matters is how you move forward tomorrow and they'll be expecting you to lead. Where are you going?
Here are another two powerful ways to nurture and become even more attractive to current and potential fans.
Know what excites your customers - I spoke about this in my blog '3 powerful lessons from tourism' which showed how the tourism industry create experiences for people from other counties to want to come back again and again. As a key account manager you can create this same level of excitement. Getting to know and being apart of what your contacts and their organisation is most excited and pumped up about brings energy, raises feel good hormones and creates positive association with you.
You can start this by simply asking 'What are you most excited about this year?" listen "how can we be apart of helping you achieve that?" step back listen, go back and get creative. Tell your manager and other connected departments so they know too. Take action on the one thing you can do to be apart of that positive excitement.
Be someone worth talking about - Seth Godin talks about this well in his book Purple Cow he calls it being remarkable. A quote that challenged me reading the book for the first time this year was this.
Advertising is the tax you pay for not being remarkable.
I don't believe Seth Godin is saying you shouldn't share your message through the right mediums but his reference is this. Don't use advertising as your attempt to stand out from the crowd instead choose to be remarkable and someone unforgettable. The key account manager is perfectly placed to do this. The challenge is how do you become remarkable as a key account manager? How can you be someone who is unforgettable? It begins with how you make your customer feel just as much its as what results you deliver.
In your next conversations consider this. Look for just one way to give unexpected value to your customer. Be so surprising and insightful that your customer is compelled to talk about you wherever they go. Recently working with a coaching client in KAM we decided based on her business that we could build a simple 10 page e-book on the internal relationship guide of a supplier working with their businesses. It was a risk but a big hit. Based on this she was invited to deliver a training on how they could use some of the relationship ideas we developed together in the book. What could that look like for you?
There is so much more to speak on this topic and I plan on releasing a video very soon on this. Get connected to my personal blog to find out more at www.jermaineedwards.com
Want to read more the concept of 1000 true fans and engagement
If you're a key account manager, consultant or sales leader who recognises the continued importance to master deepening, differentiating and growing your key client relationships. Get connected at www.jermaineedwards.com
Founder of the Key Account Hack System - New Key Account thinking that transforms customer relationships and creates predictable sales growth.