Relationship Marketing - Pruning and Training
By Terry L. Brock
“Pruning is the practice of removing diseased, non-productive, or otherwise unwanted portions from a plant.” – Wikipedia definition of Pruning
Relationship Marketing is very much like farming. That is one reason why I like to refer to it as “Relationship Farming” as you cultivate, nourish and plan for your harvest. Just as in farming, you have to continually apply the right techniques and principles to grow your harvest.
One of these necessary techniques is pruning. A fruit tree needs to be pruned on a regular basis to yield the best fruit at harvest. This means cutting back on those areas that are not productive.
Your business is like that. As you examine what you’re doing to nourish your “crops” (called customers, clients---those wonderful people who pay your bills), you have to prune. It is vital to eliminate or correct those relationships which are not productive.
I used to think that business would be constantly growing with new people added all the time and it would be one big happy family. Reality is not that way. Life and business are in a constant state of flux, all while we long for stability. As one gets older it is common to reminisce and long for “the good old days” when we hallucinate that everything was better in some past moment. Reality is that even back in those “good old days” there were problems. As we age, we tend to forget the problems and remember the good times.
In business we have to take account of clients and customers on a regular basis to determine which are the most profitable and which are most likely to generate profitable business in the future. This requires hard thinking.
You can’t eliminate those that might bring good business for the future. You also can’t afford to spend a lot of time, money and effort (TME) in areas which sap your energy. The amount of TME you expend in one area necessarily means that you are not focusing on other areas which could be more productive.
You also want to employ the farming technique of Training. I was reading from the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service’s website where they defined training, as it relates to fruit tree farming, in the following way:
“Training is a relatively new practice in which tree growth is directed into a desired shape and form. Training young fruit trees is essential for proper tree development. It is better to direct tree growth with training than to correct it with pruning.”
When I read this I realized how that is much like those clients you have in business that could come through in the future but need some “direction” just like training a fruit tree. Don’t throw away clients who might take a little longer to “yield a harvest.” Instead, have systems in place in your business to nurture them and help answer their questions. Autoresponders, regular phone call follow-ups and those occasional visits can pay rich dividends. Low-cost but “pleasantly persistent” is the phrase that pays here.
Some potential prospects need a little more nourishing and nurturing before they come on board as paying customers or clients. Have an automated system in place to service them and keep them close as you “train” them.
Recently I was speaking with Jay Ownby from the Manufacturers Agents National Assocaiton (MANA) in Lake Forest, California. He is in charge of a division that caters to those manufacturers representatives who work with companies making large capital purchases. The life cycle on such products can take years to develop. Jay told me those in that field have to have patience and the ability to stay with it for the long run.
This is training at its best. You help customers learn about you and what you do. You are there with beneficial information and your continually nurture and build the relationships with them. Not all come to fruition and this is heart-breaking for the dedicated sales rep. But, in the long run, if the rep is doing the right activities in the right way it will pay off with a rich and bountiful harvest.
Think about your crops, your customers. What pruning and training do you need on those that aren’t going to produce? What crops need a bit of training? As a good Relationship Farmer, you want to prune and train your crops on a regular basis.
By the way, this applies to your personal as well as business life. What activities are you involved with which no longer serve you? Eliminate non-productive activities which might have been good in the past but no longer serve you. Yes, this is difficult but it is what yields the best harvest both in business and in your personal life. With this strategy you will enjoy the benefits of a bountiful harvest later in season.
Terry Brock is an international marketing coach and columnist who helps businesses market more effectively, leveraging technology. He shows busy professionals how to squeeze more out of their days using time-honored rules and practical technology tools. He can be reached at 407-363-0505, by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or through his website at www.terrybrock.com.
Copyright © 2007, Terry Brock, All Rights Reserved Internationally. No portion may be reprinted or used without prior written permission..