The Business of Staying in Touch (KS Lesson #272)

13 January 2020 | 9 Comments

A few months ago, my girlfriend and I bought a condo. It’s been a long time since I’ve gone through the home-buying process, but fortunately we had an attentive, helpful realtor (Paul at Allen Brake).

Ever since we moved in, Paul has stayed in touch with us in non-intrusive ways: He sent us personalized notes when we moved in and at Christmas, he checked in by text when he was traveling abroad (this was a reference to a chat we had during the home touring process), and he even delivered a pumpkin pie the week of Thanksgiving.

While I was never bothered by any of this, early on I wondered why he was doing it (other than just being a nice guy). That is, Paul already sold us the condo–he accomplished the primary objective. A pie isn’t going to get us to buy a second condo a few months after the first.

But then I realized at least part of the goal: Paul is helping us remember him (and remember that we like him) so that he’s our realtor for the rest of our lives, not just for the first sale. He’s building the foundation for long-term loyalty. And not just for us, but potentially for our friends when they’re looking for a home.

While I think this is effective for high-priced items (homes, cars, etc), and particularly effective when the relationship is personalized, I think there is also a version of it that works en masse for Kickstarter creators and preorder customers. Whenever Stonemaier Games runs a short preorder campaign and starts fulfilling orders, I send a update to all customers informing them of the status of fulfillment in their region.

Also, I try to “onboard” those customers by providing links to videos about learning the game, inviting them to join the community on the corresponding Facebook group, and giving them instructions on what to do if their game doesn’t arrive exactly as they envisioned it (i.e., damaged box, misdelivery, missing components).

While it would be nice to do what Paul does and check back in with those customers from time to time, that would equate to me subscribing them to something they didn’t opt into, which I can’t do (ethically or legally). So instead I invite them to sign up for our monthly enewsletter in case they want to hear more in the future.

Overall, Paul’s approach is better. Pie is always better. But it’s reminded me about the importance of staying in touch with my customers. Yes, the sale is complete, but the potential of a long-term relationship could prove far more rewarding for everyone involved.

Have you had a similarly positive experience with a realtor or salesman of any kind? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments (and your thoughts about how this can be implemented at scale).

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9 Comments on “The Business of Staying in Touch (KS Lesson #272)

  1. Having worked in Real Estate for 10 years, followed by active duty Air Force for another decade (followed by 15 years in the Reserves), and now 15 years at the FBI, it’s all about relationships when it comes to customer service. We learned early on that customer service is no longer transactional, but transformational. Whether I’m selling you a home, ensuring your Personnel records are in good shape, or providing support to case agents and analysts, it’s not about the one-time transaction.

    Even now, with my business, The Professor’s Lab, in which I have several game designers as clients. It’s not just about providing one or two services, but how can I help them now and with future projects. Doing so, requires both professional-level support and follow-up on the front end, and maintaing a reasonable frequency thereafter.

  2. I’ve been enjoying your blog posts so far, Jamey!

    In my line of work, we appreciate the sales representatives who check in at appropriate intervals. I find it acts as a reminder to us as a customer that we have options available for purchases. Also if they’re the one initiating the conversation it shows me that they care enough about me as a client to maintain that relationship. One thing I really favour (along with price) is accessibility. If they are keeping in communication and are responsive when I am the one to reach out, it comes across as strong customer service.

    On the opposite end, I have sales representatives that always send my calls to voicemail and only visit or call to ask me to review their invoices. It implies they only see me as $$$.

    1. Donald: I really like your point about “accessibility.” Because of Paul’s outreach, I feel no qualms about reaching out to him, which reflects well on him and will help maintain the relationship long-term.

  3. One of the nicest things about Kickstarter, I think, is that you can continue to make updates forever and its totally up to backers if they want to unsubscribe or not, and even if they don’t subscribe they can always stop by and look in in the future.

  4. On top of building a relationship – he’s also building a network through word of mouth. (It worked, you linked him in the post – and with a small typo on his business name says the grammar police).

    I don’t underestimate the power of word of mouth.

  5. We’ve been fortunate to have interacted with some great salespeople over the years. In the case of our realtor and our mechanic, these gentlemen provided services to our parents and earned our respect as well… so their interactions with our family earned them 2 generations of business and referrals.

    By far the most notable salesmen I’ve encountered have been shoe salesmen. They knew their product, could tell what would work best with our feet by looking at them and could answer questions about different problem issues without sounding like a medical doctor or being overly pushy. They owned their stores and were careful with the product lines they took on. When you find a salesperson that knows their industry or profession and brings that knowledge to bear in your favor it is incredibly valuable.

    In all of these cases, these folks took time to notice our needs and to advise us about wise purchases. We were seen. We weren’t just a mark or another sale.

  6. It’s very important that you take into consideration HOW these customers like to communicate. My wife and I have a business relationship with a financial firm and when we were introduced to these folks they asked us how frequently they should communicate to maintain our comfort levels, asked how we liked to communicate, and a host of other questions. My wife told them she prefers emails or texts, but that she really doesn’t like phone calls unless they are time sensitive or its an emergency. Half of the time our account manager calls. He leaves a message. There is no sensitive information there. It could have come in an email. So while we really like this guy, my wife has asked, why did he bother to ask how I want to be contacted if he wasn’t going to respect it? So my advice would be, even if you have customers who welcome the follow up, and the conversation, make sure you respect any preferences they communicate.

  7. While I haven’t had any salesperson be quite as giving with desserts, I’ve experience similar initiative from some. I may be more jaded than most people, but I frequently find it a tiny bit annoying, because it’s so transparent a tactic to keep them in my mind once the “important” part of our dealing is done.

    If someone does right by me, does a great job, and I’m happy, then I will keep their name in my files (email is forever). If I need them again, I’ll come back. I do appreciate a follow up to make sure the thing is still working, the house is still satisfactory, etc. But sending me multiple text messages or letters to remind me you exist is just wasting resources and time.

    Pie is nice, but definitely the rarest end of the spectrum. I’m far more likely to simply get a generic postcard every six months reminding me who sprayed my house for bugs, who sold me my car, who brokered my mortgage, etc. It’s just landfill to me. As you say, if I want to subscribe to your continual “engagement”, I’ll opt-in.

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