Beyond the Build

Customer Relationships

Customer Connects: Bonfire vs Forest Fire

The other day, I ran across an article with an interesting message:

Create sparks instead of a big forest fire. To me, this means making small connects over time.

The imagery resonated with me and prompted thoughts about business interactions. The type of “fire” one builds is as important as anything else in a relationship.

New Business. To me, new relationships are all about that first encounter. There is no such thing as a good “second first impression” with a prospective customer. Unless you hit a home run in that first encounter, which is highly unusual, a relationship is built through a series of small connects–sparks–rather than one big forest fire.

Relationship Building. Small connects equate to staying in touch. These interactions have meaning and value other than “Hey, I was just checking in with you” or even worse, “Hey, I was just checking in with you and by the way do you have any projects to give us?” This is the kind of call I despise.

Here’s an example of connecting done wrong: I once had a consultant call me and say, “It’s been some time since we spoke and I am just wondering if we could be involved with that new project I saw you guys are building?” He was right, I thought. It had been about 5 years since I had heard from this guy. No go.

Strategic Partnerships. Let’s say you work smart and are fortunate to get a project. During its course, you may hit choppy waters, but at the end of the day you handled things the right way. The relationship stays intact and then you have the possibilities for the long term. The relationship having stood the test of another type of fire, as in certain cases a bonfire, will make the relationship strong as new rope.

Merrill Stewart Jr.

Merrill Stewart is Founder and CEO of The Stewart/Perry Company, a commercial building contractor based in Birmingham.