Love me tender, love me true…. OK I admit that “love” is not a word that gets thrown around a lot in my office.
In fact, all things going well, I’m pretty certain that most bosses would prefer the word “love” not be thrown around in their offices at all. It has a tendency to make people squirm a bit when said aloud in certain personal contexts – imagine it becoming common parlance in the business world?
And yet, as we see in this article on INC, love in a business context is not necessarily as wild an idea as it seems. In particular the article focuses on a bit of love going a long way when it comes to staff retention.
I wanted to focus on “love” as a concept that we can apply to our marketing endeavours. First though – what are the love languages, and why do we care.
The Basics of Love Languages
As far as I know, the term was coined by Gary Chapman in his book of the same name. The basic concept is this: people respond differently to different stimulus. In particular, people give and receive positive emotions towards each other through different means. In particular Chapman identifies the following:
- Words of Affirmation
- Acts of Service
- Receiving Gifts
- Quality Time
- Physical Touch
I know – all of a sudden, this article is starting to read a bit like a transcript from Dr Phil. But fear not, we’ll get back to the point forthwith.
Importantly, every person has a makeup of a variety of these preferences. It’s not like a person who prefers “acts of service” will necessarily throw a present back in your face, scowling at you. Generally there is a hierarchy from strongest to weakest – it’s just a matter of figuring out roughly where things go.
If, as Chapman postulates, our relationships and positive responses are, in essence, variable from person to person (and certainly there is a lot of support for that proposition) then why shouldn’t the same basic human principles apply to our day to day interactions with our clients?
Don’t Be Stupid – I don’t love my Clients
Even if you don’t love your clients, they need to think that you do – or at least get a strong sense of positive vibes from you… (that’s right – it is, after all, the vibe).
But the point is not about love – it’s about varying our marketing strategies to suit the particular personalities and preferences of our target. This is where it gets a bit tricky, because it means you actually need to know your clients.
For marketing purposes what we need to be doing is putting our limited resources in places where they do the most good. So if you are buying a bottle of wine for every client, then you are likely wasting your money on clients whose primary “love language” is acts of service or quality time. Likewise, your frequent coffees and invitations to tennis for clients who would rather get a book with a nice note.
Here we see the practical side of the “love language marketing” at work.
So It’s just Horses for Courses?
In a sense, that’s all it is. Identify, from your experiences with them, which clients seem to value some things over others – and go with that.
The other clear way of figuring out people’s preferred area is to look at what they do. Do they send things over? Do they arrange coffee? Perhaps they really go above and beyond when doing work for you in return?
OK I’m sold on the theory – how’s it work in practice?
Here are my tips for some professional strategies to market to clients who exhibit particular preferences:
- Words of Affirmation – This must be the easiest for professional service providers to implement. You’re on the phone or writing to your clients all the time. Make sure you occasionally include a personal note or a comment expressing some appreciation for them, their work, their particular qualities or professional services. You don’t have to pen a sonnet in iambic pentameter – just make it genuine and personalised.
- Acts of Service – An interesting concept when the services you provide are already, in a sense, acts of service. Even though you get paid, there is no reason that your client doesn’t already appreciate it. However, what they will really get a buzz out of is when you go above and beyond in providing your services. Do that extra little bit, not just the bear minimum. Add something to the mandatory so that the service you are providing really stands out.
- Receiving Gifts – if you can’t figure this one out, then there’s a problem. Receiving gifts mean they like getting gifts. So give them some. Doesn’t have to be big, or expensive – but it does have to be something that the person believes is specifically chosen for them. Even sending an article of interest that you found could be considered a gift (and, for that matter, an act of service). Don’t over-complicate things here.
- Quality Time – these are the people who want to have coffee, meet at your office rather than on the phone (or worse, email) and come to all the functions and talk to you for the entire time. Remember it’s not just time – it’s quality time. What is quality will differ from person to person, but again that is part of your task of figuring out your client.
- Physical Touch – OK this is where I personally start to get the jitters. Let me make it clear – I’m NOT talking about you implementing a “hug all clients” policy. However you do know who these people are – they are the ones who touch your arm when they’re speaking, who shake hands for longer rather than shorter, who hug or kiss on the cheek when greeting you or who stand closer to you than you would prefer (from that you can guess that this is not necessarily top of my love language hierarchy). You don’t have to get inappropriate here, but neither do you need to shy away from these encounters – just understand that these people give, and receive, positive affirmation from you through touch more than some of your other clients.
So, if I happened to be “acts of service” with dashes of “gifts” – you should pop over, clean up my office and bring a nice bottle of red with you…