CONTRIBUTOR THOUGHTS: Building Business Relationships on a Budget

Soaring inflation. Rising interest rates. A constant barrage of news articles and LinkedIn posts about layoffs.

When the headlines turn sour, organizations inevitably start looking to trim expenses. This can make nurturing business relationships more complicated as expense budgets are reimagined.

Some companies are opting to downsize travel budgets and asking colleagues across the country to meet remotely instead. About 46 percent of businesses plan to cut expenses in the next year, Microsoft, Morgan Stanley, and Shell Oil to name a few.

As T&E (travel and expense) budgets are re-assessed, and relationships rely on fewer in-person visits, growing those relationships will require creativity, and intentionality. Aim to be unreasonably thoughtful – you won’t regret it.

Maintaining and growing relationships is the lifeline to continued success. But that doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot of money to do it. It’s the little things, done thoughtfully, that matter most. Small investments in gratitude can lead to huge payoffs in the long run and help turn uncertain times into future successes.

As we adapt to more virtual and less in-person interactions, there are plenty of easy, cost-efficient ways to build relationships. Below are a few tips for creating impactful outcomes without busting your budget.

  • From business dinner to power lunch: Let’s say the average client dinner is around $600. If you’re able to pivot away from just one of those dinners with one client, you can use that budget to treat 20 customers to lunch digitally for $15 each and save 50% of your budget. You will vastly expand your reach, while still being impressively thoughtful and relevant. Swapping those expensive dinners for digital lunches will still let clients know you care, while saving significant dollars in your budget.

  • From generic gifts to personalized gestures of gratitude: As we approach the end of the year and the holiday season, many companies prepare to send out the same gift basket they’ve been sending clients for the past 10 years. These baskets tend to be expensive, with no differentiation or personalization to their client’s interests or needs. This year, cut costs and show clients you care with personalized gestures of gratitude instead. For clients with a sweet tooth, opt for a DIY donut decorating kit. For the more adventurous clients, get creative with experiences like Topgolf, an escape room, or a concert via StubHub. By tuning in to your client’s preferences, you can send them meaningful gestures of gratitude and while also saving a significant part of your  budget.

  • From a standard rewards scheme to a small gesture of appreciation: We recently had one of our clients revamp their customer rewards program. They were able to convert expensive generic gift baskets into smaller, more thoughtful gestures like lunches and coffees that included a personal note for a fraction of the cost. The end result was being able to share gratitude with 5x the number of customers for half the cost of previous programs.

  • From in-person events to virtual sessions: If your team is in charge of team-building events, you’ve likely seen your fair share of setbacks in the last few years with adjustments due to COVID, reduced employee retention, and now potential budget cuts. While many of us are itching to bond with coworkers in person again, many teams are remote and spread out across the country. Instead of costly flights and an in-person event, try a virtual team building session, and let them know you appreciate their attendance. You could send them supplies for a virtual happy hour with a cocktail of their choice, which allows for personal conversations and team building while letting employees know you appreciate them.

  • From corporate swag to a personalized gesture: When you’re trying to reach clients and better connect with prospects, scrap the corporate swag for something that’s more personalized. Make your gesture more about the recipient and less about you. Your company coffee mug with a logo on it is likely to end up stuffed in the back of someone’s cupboard or in the trash. Instead, send something they actually want and include a personalized, thoughtfully written note with it. A gesture like this is guaranteed to create a deeper impact on the recipient and advance your relationship – way more than corporate swag ever will.

There are so many ways you can show people your appreciation without breaking the bank. At the end of the day, people like to work with people they like, and everyone likes to feel appreciated!

About the Author:

Brendan Kamm is Co-Founder and CEO of Thnks, a Tennessee-based digital gratitude platform that empowers business professionals to build better relationships by sharing personalized gestures of appreciation in a thoughtful, efficient way. Brendan is responsible for all day-to-day operations, including Thnks’ strategic vision, while advancing the platform’s tech capabilities and partner integrations. A media and technology veteran who spent more than 17 years focused on sales, Brendan was frustrated with the lack of gratitude he saw in business and how relationships were suffering as a result. He knew there had to be a better, more scalable, way to help people show appreciation and establish stronger connections using the incredible technological tools that are available to us today. 

Featured photo from Alexander Grey on Unsplash