How to have a happy long distance relationship

When you think of Aruba, what comes to mind? White sandy beaches? Crystal blue waters? Cold Balashi beers? You’d be absolutely right. These are only a few reasons why I couldn’t quite contain my excitement when discovering I would be visiting our clients, Balashi, in Aruba.

Aruba is a tiny island in the Caribbean off the coast of Venezuela. With just over 100,000 inhabitants, it is a melting pot of cultures with no less than five languages commonly spoken. There are 4,566 miles between Glasgow and Aruba to be precise, and yet we have found a close and fruitful relationship with the Balashi team.

When looking for the right design partners, Balashi approached agencies in South America, North America and the Caribbean, until they happened upon Thirst, and our Aruban adventure began. When it came to Balashi, we understood their challenges, opportunities and the team’s easy-going yet ambitious mentality – despite the mileage between us.  

Looking out the aeroplane window down on the sparkling sands and sea, it’s fair to say I had high expectations from this notoriously happy island; the food, the culture, the people, the art and of course, the beer. I wasn’t to be disappointed, the first person we met told us that on this little island they only make two things; “babies and beer”. We were here for the latter.

First stop… the supermarket to get some Balashi beers in our hands. We were keen to see our latest work in its native surroundings and dig deeper into how the brands are sold and promoted in both the on and off-trade. The ability to experience the consumer journey first hand gave us an insight into how these brands and their competitors operate in the market, allowing us to engage and understand our client better. To win against the big importers that leverage their global appeal, we needed to emphasise our unique selling point as the local, Aruban beer.

The next few days were dedicated to meeting the Balashi team face to face, seeing the brewery in operation and discussing ongoing and future projects. This one on one time was invaluable to understanding their business and strengthening our partnership.

Outside of the boardroom, the clients wanted us to get to a real taste for Aruba, so, we got caught up in island life; watching the fishermen bring in a fresh catch, touring the island, hanging out with the locals (in the locals) and snapping shots of every moment from sunrise to sunset.

In an increasingly digital world, communications are easier and more accessible than they have ever been. We can develop prosperous long-distance client relationships using technology, whether this be a video call to check-in or an instant message to wish someone good luck. This type of partnership relies on a strong bond, it’s all about trust – of the client to be your eyes and ears, and of the agency to listen and understand. With clients abroad, we can’t always get face to face time so, why not FaceTime.

Here’s my two cents on how we can maintain successful long-distance client relationships:

  • Shorten the distance; take the time to organise visits to our clients both at home and abroad to meet face to face, invest in each other and build stronger personal relationships.
  • Make the time difference work for you, not against you. You’ve got ‘extra time’ in your morning to prepare for that 8am call to the US.
  • Respect the client’s time; there will be jam-packed diaries and time differences so quick responses and efficient working can be the distinction between good and excellent service.
  • Play to each other’s strengths. Clients know the local market better than you, and you have the knowledge of wider trends and current international brands.
  • Listen and question in equal measure; clients are immersed in their brand daily, make sure to ask the right questions to get the answers you need.No matter what the distance, collaboration is essential. We strive to be an extension of the client team and want to discover ideas and solutions fit for purpose together. Sharing ideas along the way can result in greatness.

Written by Lynsey Pritchard, Account Manager at Thirst