Why having a Customer or Relationship Strategy Plan, based on evaluating our relationships, is critical to our success.

We rely on Business Plans to drive our business direction, but why is it we rarely design and complete Business Plans for our customers?

I have lost count of the number of Business Plans I have drafted, completed and then presented whilst I was with Coca-Cola and Philip Morris. They are a very necessary business evil. They seem to be too time consuming, administratively burdensome and non-productive, but without them we do not have any targets, goals or direction.

It’s a little like playing basketball without the hoops. More importantly, they are a great way of communicating to the organization outside of the senior management what the future holds and what needs to be done to be successful. Now there’s a novel idea!

To use the Business Plan effectively we consider it a guiding star by which a company’s destination is navigated, charted and adjusted over time. Business Reviews are then the key to measuring the course and making adjustments as conditions change.

Typically the real guts of a Business Plan are objectives (what we want to accomplish), strategies (broad ideas of how we will achieve our objectives) and tactics (specifics and detail of how the strategies will be executed). However, what I have never seen in all the plans I have worked on is any reference to Relationships. Why is that? And why should there be?

I didn’t think of it myself for years. And here’s the problem. We are so engrossed in working the plan we only consider two dimensions. We focus on what we want and how we need to do it. The piece we miss is the third dimension – whom are we going to do it with?

In other words, who are the people we are talking to as our partners?

Are they the right people?

Who else should we be talking too?

What are their objectives?

What is our current relationship situation, good, bad or indifferent?

What are our goals and what key initiatives will we take to accomplish them?

These are critical questions that need addressing if we are going to fully execute the business Business Plans.

It is imperative in a situation where a company is reliant upon several large customers or clients, that there’s a Customer or Relationship Strategy Plan in place.

It can be a reality filter to the objectives and strategies of the Business Plan and often provide guiding principles as to how the tactics should be executed.

Such planning is critical to ensure we get the Business Plan implemented and needs to be integrated and reviewed as part of our Business Planning process. Only then can we ensure that our plans are realistic and achievable.

Do you or your company have a Customer Relationship Plan, that deal with your relationships, and that is integrated with your Business Plans?

In my next article, I will explore the vital contents of a Relationship Strategy Plan and how we go about constructing one.

About the Author:

I am the customer relationship mentor, who helps those responsible for their company’s most important customers, to build and maintain their customer relationships and keep them happy, so that they can protect & grow their business.

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