While some of us may be trying to avoid the extravagant expectations of a Hallmark-exploited holiday and others of us gear up for February 15th (the chocolate lover’s Black Friday), forgive us while we get all gooey and take a moment to reflect on the wondrous beauty of our workplace love. No, no… we’re not talking about the girl or guy one cube over, we’re talking about the one true love that makes your 9 to 5 existence worthwhile: your customer.

Now if you’ve been around the block, you know that the bond between a vendor and customer takes various forms as you both mature in your relationship and understanding of one another’s needs. In celebration of Valentine’s Day, if you’re feeling a little romantic, let’s break down the different stages on the road from “like to love” for customers and vendors.

The most ancient form of customer-vendor “like” is the transactional sale. Traditionally, there have often been little-to-no expectations from either side that they will do business again, so each party sought to maximize their value attainment for every individual transaction. Similar to a first date, as a vendor, you make every effort to showcase your best side and hope that your customer fails to notice your shortcomings, while your customer may pretend that they don’t really need your products in order to push you to your best offer. However, as B2C buying expectations creep in B2B sales, these “first date” habits are becoming risky. In this new age of modern commerce, a frictionless, dynamic, channel-consistent sales experience is increasingly necessary to win the business and get a shot at that second date.

If you succeed in moving past a first date with your customer, you may choose to officially declare yourself “in a relationship” via contract. Contractual relationships work well for setting expectations for your interactions so that you can both set the terms for mutual benefit. However, those contracts are put together with explicit and heavy penalties for breaking the terms of that contract. These consequences can lead to major re-evaluations of your contract or even very messy break-ups when there are misgivings on either side.

Once you’ve endured a few contractual relationships, you may be ready for the ultimate form of customer-vendor love: the subscription relationship. In this type of relationship, you free your customer by removing the heavy penalties that typically go along with contract agreements. You enable them to recommit to you with subscription after subscription, while you commit to making it worthwhile for them to choose you again and again. Meanwhile, through their continued investment in you, you to get to know their needs so well that your relationship thrives and grows beyond the limitations of a transactional relationship.

Offering your customers your products and services through a subscription model could mean re-thinking the entire way you look at your business, and many companies are finding that the mutual benefits created are well worth the effort. If you’re considering taking a look at how you could enable deeper relationships with your customers through subscription offerings, check out our pointers on how to mitigate the risk in that transition.