Last week I traveled from Philadelphia to Maryland to spend an afternoon with the team at ACGI, a a software developer for the association management community. The company I work for, Association Headquarters, recently invested in one of their products and it was my job to meet with the ACGI team to learn more about the system and what it had to offer. This experience got me thinking about the roles customers and vendors play and how today’s marketplace affords us an opportunity to re-examine, if not redefine, the ‘norms’ often associated with institutionalized and/or traditional business relationships.
Whether you work for a nonprofit organization or a for-profit company there’s a good chance that you deal with vendors on a regular basis. From purchasing goods or services to negotiating items of interest on behalf of your company, vendor engagement is what we do, and frequently. But how many times have we stopped to thank our vendors for being…well, our supporters? How many times have we taken the time to view the relationship from their perspective? Or, how often do we think about what we, as customers, can do to make their lives easier or provide them with additional business opportunities.
Here are three simple steps to creating “friendors” out of vendors and possibly changing the way you do business, drive business, and redefine business within your community.
1. Send them a “Thank You” card. The next time you engage your vendor in a significant project be sure to send them a Thank You — and not in an email. Take the time to write a card and put it in the mail. They’ll love it, especially since they typically send them to their customers. And if you think of it be sure to make it personal.
2. At the conclusion of the next transaction (and once you’ve completed step one), ask your vendor how you can help them get more business AND how your unique relationship and individual expertise can lead to additional business opportunities for each of you. It may be as simple as reaching out to people within your immediate communities or simply spreading the word online. More often than not, the vendor/customer partnership can lead to additional opportunity.
3. Finally, and depending on your situation, step 3 may be the most difficult step. Schedule a time to meet with your vendor at their facility. There is no better way to tell a vendor how much you appreciate their business than visiting them at their office. In doing so, you will not only create a “friendor,” you’ll create an advocate for you and your company.
It’s no longer business as usual, so it’s important that we don’t continue to engage in business as usual. Reversing roles, extending interest, and developing unique and strategic relationships isn’t as difficult as it may seem and can be beneficial to our long-term success.