There’s an old expression that says “business isn’t personal.” Many business owners live by these words, though not always intentionally. They don’t really work to maintain the customer relationships they have. They are just there to provide products or services.
However, the more time you spend working with customers, clients, patients, and everyone who walks through your door, the more you realize that business is personal. Whether you know it or not, you have a relationship with every person who buys from you.
Many companies do business without realizing how important customer relationships really are. Some put in the minimum effort. Others put in the expected effort. Then there are those who care about every aspect of the customer experience.
Customer Relationships Matter
Fundamentally, the more you put into the relationships you have with customers, the more you’re going to get out of it. This is true of virtually any relationship. They are two-way streets. You put something in, the other person puts something in, and you continue to build that relationship up for as long as it makes sense.
So, what kinds of customer experiences do you offer customers? Do you play an active role in your customer relationships? Or are you just “there”?
If you do play an active role in the relationship, chances are it looks something like this:
- You and your team are attentive to your customer’s needs.
- If a customer calls, emails, or sends you a direct message on social media, you answer ASAP (within the hour).
- You reward loyal customers with special offers, programs, events, etc.
- You continuously invest in customer relationships.
Let’s focus primarily on that last point, an area that all-too-often is overlooked. If you follow this blog or receive The Newsletter Pro’s own newsletter — or you’re a newsletter client yourself — you’ve heard us talk about the importance of building and maintaining customer relationships a lot. After all, it’s what we do.
But we still get a lot of questions on how to really build those relationships. The fact of the matter is that it isn’t easy. You have to put in a genuine effort to make it work. You can offer a stellar customer experience and still falter in building strong customer relationships. Again, it comes back around to the effort you’re willing to put in.
The Relationship Starts With You
While relationships are generally two-way streets, early in the relationship, one party is likely going to have to put in a little more effort than the other. In the case of the business/customer relationship, that responsibility is going to fall on your shoulders. You have to prove yourself. You have to gain the customer’s trust.
How do you do that? You can approach it in many different ways, but we’re going to start with the easiest: the love note. Well, maybe not exactly a love note. But, a piece of paper with an important message on it can go a long way in laying down the foundation for solid customer relationships. I’m talking about the monthly newsletter.
The Monthly Newsletter
This is a multipurpose tool. When done correctly, it is capable of accomplishing many different things. However, more than anything else, it’s designed to build and maintain customer relationships with past, current, and potential customers.
It’s what keeps the door open between you and your customers, even when they aren’t buying. That way, when they do need to buy, they know exactly who they’re going to turn to. They know and remember your name because they see it every month. It helps keep you top of mind.
Of course, there’s more to it than that. A monthly newsletter is also a trust-building tool. People buy from those they know, like, and trust. If you’re sending out a newsletter every month in which you talk about yourself, your business, your industry, or whatever you choose to talk about, you give your customers a chance to know you. This gives you a distinct edge over your competitors.
Over time, as your customers get to know you, they start to trust you more. Basically, through newsletter articles, you build a rapport with someone you may only see face to face a handful of times per year, if that.
The monthly newsletter is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to building and maintaining customer relationships. You can take several other steps to strengthen the bond between you and your customers. Here are a few more approaches.
Gifts, Cards, and Acknowledgment
Every single one of your customers has a birthday. Most of them are likely to celebrate a few major holidays. Many of them likely have wedding anniversaries or other dates of significance they like to celebrate. The more you get to know your customers (data collection goes a long way!), the more you can take advantage of these yearly dates.
Why is this important? No one expects a business to send them a gift or card on their birthday or anniversary. Many companies send out emails to their customers acknowledging their birthdays, but it’s usually just a simple automated note (that’s very obviously automated). It lacks personality.
Sending a gift or card with a handwritten note, however, is a different story. It’s packed with personality, even if it’s just a few words. You get even more points if the gift is tailored to a customer’s personal interests. It says you listen and you care — you bother to put time into your customer relationships.
Customer Appreciation Events
Admittedly, it’s been a lot harder to hold customer appreciation events in 2020, but they’re still something to keep in mind. Events are a great way to reward loyalty. Plus, they open your doors with zero expectation of anyone buying anything and place you and your business in a more casual setting.
What this looks like is entirely up to you. Some businesses hold yearly barbecues for customers. Who doesn’t love free food? Throw in some live music and make it a block party. This is a great way to mingle and get to know them better (while they get to know you better). This will strengthen your customer relationships.
Some businesses rent out movie theaters while others buy tickets to local stage productions. Having a full-blown food truck rally is another option I’ve seen. Mix in giveaways or a raffle (and throw in a referral contest), and a lot of happy people will leave with an exceptional impression of your business. You can make the events customer-only (with family) or encourage them to invite their friends/neighbors/colleagues.
Get What You Give
No matter what you do, as long as you put effort into building customer relationships, you’ll get something out of them. You may end up with a lifelong customer or a referral source or become the resident industry expert within your community.
The bottom line is that when you put effort into your customer relationships, people begin to know, like, and trust you. Over time, you become the “go-to” business. But you have to put in the effort. It all comes down to that little detail.
If you’re focused on creating a phenomenal customer experience — and you send out a monthly newsletter — let your customers know you’re thinking about them! Reach out on their birthday or hold customer appreciation events (public health concerns permitting). You’ll put yourself on the path to building successful customer relationships.