Building Effective and Lasting Relationships with Customers from the Start - Thoughts from Referential's Regina Dawkins


One of the most critical and important business relationships an advocacy professional will have is with a marquee customer. Embarking on a new advocacy partnership is very exciting; goals are established and plans are set in place to support them.

There are a large number of activities required to build and manage an effective co-marketing plan. Consequently, it is no wonder that the need to begin building strong and effective relationships directly with customer contacts can get overlooked and delayed because so much attention is given to planning.

Instead, from the first day, be mindful and take time to start building a connection with each contact across technical, mid-management, marcom and C-suite levels. This effort will yield mutually beneficial, rewarding relationships for years to come, and help agreement for the details of a co-marketing plan be reached faster.

Here are some best practices that have been learned over years of working in advocacy:

  • Build rapport by making a connection and relate on a human and professional level. Get a sense of the customer contact’s personality, likes, dislikes and interests

  • Try to always exude an optimistic disposition/demeanor by:

    • Having a positive, upbeat and can-do attitude in day to day interactions

    • Being genuine and showing enthusiasm

    • Conveying cheerfulness in written word and in tone

  • Be trustworthy:

    • Be open and honest

    • Be on time to meetings and come prepared to provide updates and pertinent discussion topics

    • Be an engaged and an active listener

    • Take notes and capture action items in all meetings

    • Follow through on action items

  • Be proactive and try to anticipate the contacts' needs

  • Treat communication as an imperative and be timely, efficient and thorough

  • Be a collaborator and contributor; some of the best work can be accomplished by having a team mentality

  • Be consultative; share knowledge and expertise to help problem solve, which will build confidence and trust with a customer

  • Highlight accomplishments that are tied to goals when appropriate

  • Understand what the customer contacts’ value and go above and beyond to deliver in a way that aligns

Dedicating time and effort to build effective relationships directly with customer contacts from the first day of a partnership creates a foundation of trust and collaboration that enables lasting, long-term success. What are your best practices for building strong connections with customers from the start?