Client Relationships

The (Second) Most Important Marriage You’ll Enter

Makayla Godwin
Makayla Godwin
Project Manager

With the past few months seeming to feel like “the summer of weddings,” I’m happy to say that I was one of many that got hitched during this COVID-postponed wedding season. Like most premarital couples, we spent the time leading up to our wedding receiving counsel from our pastor and ensuring we discussed important topics prior to making this commitment.

Looking back on how my husband and I went from two awkward homecoming dates that mostly talked over Snapchat to now sharing a home, a dog, and lifelong values, there are some key things that come to mind that I believe hold true for most married couples:

  1. We were upfront early on about the goal of our relationship being marriage, and that made our investment into each other much more intentional and honest.
  2. We communicated our expectations for marriage to ensure we knew what our partner was anticipating and how we can best serve them.
  3. We discussed our love languages and how best each of us can show and give love in order to feel the most valued each day.

I’ve only been a newlywed for about a month now, but I can confidently say that these early on conversations have ensured a successful long-term relationship. 

The dating process is just qualifying a person to see if they are a good match for you. Businesses similarly do this every day with potential customers. While we like to think of our relationships with clients as transactional, we get much more invested than we’d like to admit.

Corporate Courtship...and Cutting Ties

Instead of being afraid of commitment and accepting any and all customers, businesses can learn to qualify early on before ending up divorced, broke, and having wasted resources (time, assets, emotions) on the wrong prospect. When you’re willing to put this effort in, it’s possible to have mutually beneficial professional relationships.

So, why isn’t this as simple as it seems? Nobody wants to be in a toxic, draining relationship, but we often find ourselves there when it feels too comfortable or risky to break it off. These clients may pay well, have a separate or personal relationship with someone in the business, or be a long-time customer. But if they don’t fit the qualifications you have for an ideal customer, it’s not meant to be. 

Not cutting ties with an unqualified client is like staying in touch with an ex who you know you’ll never get back together with: unhealthy, exhausting, and a waste of time.

Customer Attraction: A Winning Engagement

How can we start weaning out the unqualified clients and attracting the ideal ones? Each contract you enter with any potential customer should be treated like a marriage proposal. At this point, you have communicated your values and aligned on expectations already and now you are just agreeing to the formal commitment. 

With this mindset, we are much less likely to “date” any potential client without the intention of them being a long-term commitment. Similarly, we are much less likely to take on a “side project” for an unqualified client, as this would only distract you from the current marriage(s) you have already entered into.

If you are wondering what a healthy client relationship may look like, here are some key qualities to look for:

  • Both parties communicate when they both like and dislike something (before it turns into a problem)
  • Each partner feels valued
  • All parties are aligned on expectations
  • You do not treat each other like a transaction, but as long-term partners working towards the same goals
  • The client looks to you as the expert and respects your organization 

Since each business is unique and holds their own set of values, it is beneficial to define what your qualifiers are to make the dating process more smooth. This allows you to identify disqualifiers early on and exit the relationship before it even begins.

give me the gist
Instead of being afraid of commitment and accepting any and all customers, businesses can learn to qualify early on before ending up divorced, broke, and having wasted resources (time, assets, emotions) on the wrong prospect. When you’re willing to put this effort in, it’s possible to have mutually beneficial professional relationships.

Only Co.’s Business Dating Profile

At Only Co., these are the key things that show we would work well together:

  1. You want an insightful partnership more than just another vendor. Insight and strategy drive effective, creative execution, so we always start there.
  2. We get to work directly with the key decision makers. We prefer if no one has to say “don’t kill the messenger.” 
  3. You want us to maximize the impact of your budget — instead of just getting quotes for pre-determined solutions.
  4. You have a business budget you’re working with — not your personal savings. 
  5. Your first project is large enough for us. Our initial cost fits your budget.
  6. You’ve worked with a consultant or agency before — meaning you understand the typical timelines and expenses. If you haven’t, it’s usually more expensive and takes more time than you think.
  7. We could see ourselves having a future. We only date marriageable clients. You’re planning to invest in development, so we could do more together down the road.

Success Starts With You

Of course, a relationship with the most ideal client won’t flourish unless you are an ideal partner. Here are tips on how you, the business, can set your client up for success:

  • Ask them what you can do to provide the most value for them
  • Dig deep and get to know them beyond the surface of your working relationship - this will help understand their decision making 
  • Be honest when something isn’t working and provide alternatives

Identify their “love language” — here are some examples:

  • Giving frequent project updates and meeting often
  • Bringing new ideas and information 
  • Asking how we can improve and being open about the state of the relationship
  • Communicating what they are doing well

Once you have your unique qualifiers identified, you will often find that when you deviate from these rules, those relationships usually expend much more energy than they were worth - and then you are back to square one trying to find a qualified candidate. Staying true to your qualifiers can often make you feel like you are losing out on opportunities, but living into them will pay off by ideally having only qualified relationships down the road. This allows your business to live into its value propositions, to grow with good clients, and eventually scale your business.

“A good marriage is one where each partner suspects they got the better deal” - Anonymous

Like any relationship, the professional ones are a day to day effort and require grace, uncomfortability, and empathy. The future of your business is like the children you raise - it will one day be your legacy. 

Knowing that our clients help define our business, who do you want to partner with today to nurture that future?

Do you think a date is in our future?

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