My life has changed a lot in the last 4 years. Up until 2015, I was a childless man, who’s main interests outside of Yellow Circle, the design agency I founded in 2006 included video games, WWE and going out with friends.
Since meeting and subsequently marrying my wife, who had children from a previous relationship, life has changed quite a bit. And, over that time of change, I have also started to see similarities between my step-children (all 6 of them!) and my customers and I thought this forum would be a good place to share those findings with you.
The newborns and toddlers
The youngest of my stepchildren is 5. I have known her since she was just a few months old. Every day she takes me through a range of emotions ranging from joy and pride, through to frustration and wonderment and this leads me to think; these are the same feelings you experience when you gain a new customer.
Everything is brand new. You’re getting to know each other. They do things you’re not expecting, and sometimes, quite often actually, you need to do a lot of nurturing. They’re looking to you for guidance and advice because you know what you do and you have more experience than they do.
The possibilities that they present you with at the start of your relationship as they come into your world, fill you with hope and joy; they’re yours. Now you need to look after them and help them to grow.
The primary school phase
After, what appears to be a very short time, your children and your customers mature and develop. They don’t question everything now and they’re able to solve some problems themselves without your help. Taking your advice, they’re able to improve their situation to some degree themselves, though they still call on you when they need to.
It’s like when your toddlers go to school. You’ve finished looking after them full-time and you send them out to learn from others, into the big wide world. You don’t see them now quite as often as they’re off doing their own thing in class. But, you’re really glad when they call on you when they’re back home as you realise they still need you. Customers reach this phase with us usually after we have designed their brand or website and they’re ready to launch it into their own business and act semi-independently of us.
The teenage years
I have 3 teenage stepchildren. They’re quite mature, they’re able to do things on their own mostly now. They don’t interact with myself or my wife on a ‘help me’ level anywhere near as much as they did when they were younger. They’re well developed, capable young people.
Customers are like this when you’ve delivered a great product or service and have nurtured them beyond the initial project, having provided them with regular contact, building up their knowledge and independence. Whether it’s explaining how we can now make their brand work harder for them, or gaining more enquiries from their website. The relationship is now quite well developed as you’ve been together a long time, they trust you, they’ve learned from you. They’re using what you have provided to move forward with their business and benefit from it.
However, they STILL need you, as there are temptations out there. Teenage children face this every day in their circle of friends, whether it be drinking related, staying out past curfew, or forming relationships that they would be better to avoid.
Customers face these obstacles too. They may be given incorrect advice by a third party or influenced by someone they haven’t dealt with before that is simply looking for a quick sale and doesn’t know them or have their best interests at heart. At this stage, you can warn them about these risks or dangers, which could potentially undo the good work you, as a supplier/parent have already done with them. Ultimately, all you can do is give them advice, as they will likely make the call on how to act themselves. You, as a supplier/parent know your advice will serve them well, advice that you have been giving them since day one. They may still stray away, they may still be tempted to explore other avenues. It’s at this point that both customers and children need you to be strong. Even if they ‘leave’ you, keep in touch, let them know you’re there – in my experience, they always come back and when they do, the relationship flourishes once again.
Only 1 of my stepchildren is a full-grown adult. She’s doing very well in life for herself and her partner, Callum, is employed as Yellow Circle’s graphic designer. She’s about to move into her first home with Callum, so she is going to be embarking on a new journey of her own.
Looking at our customers, upon reaching adulthood in terms of their relationship with us will be looking to go on new journeys of their own, taking their business in new directions. They have been with us for years, we’ve seen each other go through ups and downs and we’ve worked together and come out the other side better for it.
They now come to us, asking for more varied advice, presenting more projects to us that they want to work on and doing things with their business that they have never done before because they now have the confidence and knowledge to do it.
We’ve been there with them through everything, and they trust us completely, because, like a good parent, we’ve proven to them that we’re there.
But, even though they’ve developed and matured, they still need us. My eldest step-daughter still regularly texts or send messages to me via Social Media asking advice about a variety of different things and your customers will too.
I guess the key message and the key similarity I have identified here, whilst thinking through and developing this article is that, if you want your customers to be loyal and to trust you and stay with you, like children, you need to be there from day one and beyond.
Go on the journey together. It’s amazing.