I like to think that one of the great ways we can be of service to clients is to be their champion beyond the work that we’re hired to do for them. The degree to which we advocate for them directly aligns with our depth of understanding their businesses and our desire and willingness to go the extra mile.
How do you do this? One way is to refer them to new business opportunities. Aside from making a great introduction, your client will feel that you understand them in new and meaningful ways. And because so few people do this, you stand out as an advocate.
This also works when you refer vendors or suppliers and when you introduce prospective employees. By making an introduction to someone who fits well within their company culture, again, you’re reinforcing how you “get it” about their organizational dynamics.
Another way to advocate for clients is to showcase them through your media contacts. One of my clients, a construction management company, was interviewed by The New York Times for its work on a new corporate headquarters for a high profile retail company. In the interview, the CEO focused on their client, the retail company, which resulted in dazzling piece about this company’s new global headquarters.
Of course, my client was featured, but how smart he was to turn the focus to his client! They both benefited from the media coverage and the retail client was thrilled. Since then, they have done more work together and their relationship is stronger than ever.
When you wave the flag for your clients, your company may be on the receiving end of their advocacy as well. This doesn’t always happen – and you should never advocate for clients with quid pro quo as your end goal – but they may turn right around and refer you to the same sort of potential opportunities.
A client who advocates on your behalf can be like minting your own money. That said, there are important caveats to a relationship that moves to this level.
First, thank them promptly and keep them in the loop as you move forward with a new client they referred to you. They will appreciate the update to be sure, but this also demonstrates a level of respect for them.
Second, never coast or take short cuts with your referring client. If they are going to put their neck on the line by introducing you, you need to always be on your “A” game. The minute you slip, they’ll second guess their judgment of why they referred you.
Third, where possible, go the extra mile for the referring client. When you do this, you’ll reinforce that you value them, which will bolster their decision to advocate for you. People love feeling valued, so this is to your advantage.
As you can see, mutual advocacy has amazing potential. To get to this stage, think proactively on your clients’ behalf, always do more than they expect, and go above and beyond by providing information and resources that they will appreciate. This won’t always result in mutual advocacy, but it will position your company as a reliable and trustworthy partner in any case.
© 2016 Lisa M. Aldisert