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How to Build Systems That Support and Nurture Your Customer Relationships

Trust is the foundation of effective but also efficient client relationship management. Read more about trust-based Customer Relationships.

We all know that building trust requires a lot of time and effort. 

My question is: how much effort is the right amount of effort; how much time is the right amount of time to build trust, without losing the perspective of efficiency for our business? 

The mantra in efficient client relationship management is QUALITY over QUANTITY. 

  • It is not about how many emails you send, but about how valuable those emails were for your clients. 
  • It is not about the length of the meeting, but about how well you connected and built rapport. 
  • It is not about how long they stayed on your website; it is about how much they engaged with your content. 

With this mantra in mind, here is a question for you: 

How does your client relationship look from a time and effort perspective?

To answer this question, we will use a special tool that we call the Customer Relationship Management Matrix.

customer relationship management matrix developed by Academy for Women Entrepreneurs
Customer relationship management matrix developed by Academy for Women Entrepreneurs

The matrix is based on 2 factors: 

  • X – the length and the phases of the relationship,
  • Y – The amount of time and effort spent on the relationship.

The red line is the base line:  the acceptable norm in your industry and by your clients of no connection, during which you do not spend any time or effort on the relationship.

Different Client Relationship Management models

There are typically 4 different Client Relationship Management models in the micro-business and solopreneur world.

Model 1: Consultancy-type businesses

These are mostly project-based businesses where the practitioner delivers a project to the client: architects, designers, photographers and (in some cases) lawyers are part of this category. In this type of relationship, typically the length of the project dictates the length of the relationship. 

Customer relationship management matrix developed by Academy for Women Entrepreneurs representing Project based businesses
Customer Relationship Management Matrix for project-based businesses (developed by Academy for Women Entrepreneurs)

The main characteristics of this model is the high amount of effort and time that they have to provide from pre-sale to post-sale of the project. 

Model 2: Service-based businesses

These types of businesses are lucky enough to have longer term relationships as they have to deliver the same service regularly. These include accountants, VA’s and social media agencies.

customer relationship management matrix developed by Academy for Women Entrepreneurs representing Service based businesses
Customer Relationship Management Matrix for service-based businesses (developed by Academy for Women Entrepreneurs)

The main characteristic of this type of business is that they dip in and out of the relationship, depending on the length of the task.

For example: if an accountant is needed maximum once per month for payroll, a VA might be needed on a daily basis, however a graphic designer might be needed on a quarterly basis…

Depending on the intensity of the service they sell, they might never fall below the redline and simply become the extended team for your clients. 

Model 3: Product-based businesses

Product-based businesses are the less fortunate ones from a relationship building perspective.

Customer relationship management matrix developed by Academy for Women Entrepreneurs representing product based businesses
Customer Relationship Management Matrix for product-based businesses (developed by Academy for Women Entrepreneurs)

Typically, they do not benefit from the “collaboration / delivery” time to build a trust-based relationship. Unless they provide solutions for a high repeat necessity or a need (such as selling toilet paper versus a laptop bag), they have no natural means of building the relationship. 

Model 4: Subscription-based businesses

Two years ago, Tien Tzuo published a book called “Subscribed”, which basically defends the fact that we now are in what he calls the ‘subscription economy’, and that all businesses should adapt.  He says, “The goal of business should be to start with the wants and needs of a particular customer base, then create a service that delivers ongoing value to those customers.” 


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Customer Relationship Management Matrix for subscription-based businesses (developed by Academy for Women Entrepreneurs)

We believe this type of business mindset is the future of all successful businesses, whether you are selling a subscription or not, no matter what the size of your business is. Simply because, the consumer of our era increasingly expects continuous added value from all types of businesses, as they become more and more used to subscription model. 

For instance, I (personally) use more than ten subscription model businesses: my grocery, dishwasher and laundry tablets, toilet paper, nappies for my child, gym, book store (Audible and headway), music, jewellery (Add Salt – who I’m proud to call one of our members), beauty products, stationary, and most of AWE business services are bought from subscription-based businesses. I am used to thinking less, needing less, because they deliver, they replace; they simply take care of my pain regularly with expected cost and results! Now as a consumer, I am more and more used to spending my money on these types of life-facilitating businesses… 

The main characteristics of this type of businesses are: 

  • The relationship does not end, 
  • It never goes below the red line.  What is most striking is the small amount of effort and time spent keeping the customer on board. 

This is why, the Client Relationship Management that subscription models use is an inspirational model for all types of businesses:

Let’s look into what is so special about this model. It’s the way they manage the relationship with their clients and where they gain efficiency: 

  1. Similar to service-based businesses, they relieve the pain of the customer regularly.
  2. On top of the regularity of that pain relief, they also facilitate the initial and ongoing diagnosis and check-up process. Which means:
    • They make sure to get as much information as possible upfront and as much feedback as possible continuously to adapt their services or products to the needs of the customer.
    • They make sure that the client spends much less effort in choosing, deciding and briefing, to make themselves understood. 
  3. They automate all the aspects where human contact does not add value to the relationship. And this where they gain efficiency. 

How can you apply this type of relationship management to your own micro-business? 

Your objective is to:

  1. Increase the quality of your relationship with your clients in order to build strong trust-based relationships,
  2. Decrease the unnecessary effort that you spend on managing your client relationships.

To do that you need to:

  1. First map out your relationship management on the matrix. What do your relationships look like on the matrix?
  2. Reinforce the trust and relationship: Define the moments when the time and effort you spend on building the relationship goes below the red line: Your aim is to never go below the red line.
    • Now list all the different things that can be done to avoid going below the red-line periods,
    • How can you increase the length of the relationship if you are a product-based business? Can you become a subscription model; can you fake a subscription model with promotions? I firmly believe that you can. I came across a children’s shoe shop which developed a fantastic (what I call) “fake subscription” model based on a loyalty scheme.  You become a member of their store and they take an additional 5% off each time that you buy a pair of shoes for your child. So, when you buy the 10th pair, you pay only 50%. On top of that, they keep your child’s information so when you return, they already know the size, what was bought and what you might need. Finally, they nurture the relationship with their emailing and reminders. Brilliant customer relationship management, totally automated and definitely increases trust and loyalty over time! 
  3. Gaining efficiency
    • List all the different activities that require time and effort but do not bring any additional value to the relationship.  These can be admin activities such as writing meeting minutes, sending invoices, chasing money, chasing information, but also activities that you can standardise for all your clients such as: a diagnostic interview guide for the pre-sales / templates for the sales and proposal stage / meeting agendas / objection handlers / project and relationship management tools or reminders and calendars for the collaboration stage / relationship nurturing tools, such as ready to send postcards, greeting messages and finally any CRM tools or aids that can help to re-assess needs and potential during post-sales, such as referral templates or testimonial request letters, client satisfaction surveys, etc. 
    • Create as many template and tools as possible to automate all your low value activities.
    • Define the key moments in the relationship that need to be personalised and managed with focus to bring more value to your customer and to the relationship (such as diagnostic or on boarding stages). Make sure to set high standards and develop and use tools to standardise them. 

We help women-owned micro-businesses build systems to gain efficiency. Find out more about our training and how it can help you. Also, don’t forget to check our website for the upcoming webinars and online workshops.