You may have heard that it’s important to build a relationship with your customers, or that people buy from people they know, like and trust.
But do you know what this means or why it’s so important? And, more importantly, do you know the right way to go about it for your customers?
Why You Need A Good Relationship With Your Customers
It doesn’t matter how good your product or service is, how clean your shop is, how friendly your staff is, or how great your website is – without a customer you can’t do business.
Your customers or clients are your most important asset no matter what kind of business you have. They’re the ones that make your cash register (or your paypal account!) ring. Your staff can’t do it. You can’t do it. Only your customers or clients can do it.
You need to have a good relationship with your customers or clients in order to KEEP that cash register ringing. When someone steps up and makes a purchase from you, you want to ensure there will be another, and another, and another.
A good relationship with your customers or clients is the only way to make repeat purchases happen.
Would you do business with a company you didn’t feel good about? Of course you wouldn’t.
How about a company that you neither felt good nor bad about? Not if there was a better alternative, right?
The same goes for your customers or clients. They’ll rave about you and continually return to you for more when they love you. But, they’ll forget about you and start looking elsewhere to fulfill their needs if your relationship with them turns lukewarm or cold.
How To Begin A Positive, Long Term Relationship With Your Customers
You want the customer’s or client’s experience with your business to be positive right from the start. But, how can you accomplish this?
First, you need to make sure that from the moment you get a lead (potential customer), you have a way to follow up with them. This might mean an email address, home address, telephone number, or all three – depending upon the needs of your business.
Once you have their contact information you need to begin to have a conversation with them. This might be emails, or snail mailed letters or brochures, or even a follow up phone call. Ideally, you’ll be able to continually follow up with them using more than one form of media.
You’ll need to stay in touch with your potential customer or client to “court” them. This is the stage where they aren’t sure if they want to do business with you, but they want to get more information to help them make that decision.
During this time you don’t want to try to sell them anything. What you want to do is give them plenty of good, solid information to show them that you’re knowledgeable and the best choice to buy from.
FOR EXAMPLE, if you own a hardware store you might start out by telling them a little history about your store – your core branding story. You’ll need to make this interesting to your prospect, not just the ramblings about your store’s beginnings. You might weave a customer’s testimonial into that as well, to connect with your prospect.
The next time you contact them you might tell them about the new shovels you just got in and why they’re better than the old shovels – again including a customer’s testimonial about the shovels. This isn’t an ad. It’s more like an article. It’s a story about the shovels. But, if you’re offering them at a discount this week you should include that information. Just don’t make it the focal point of the story.
The third time you contact them you might give them some tips on how to be prepared for bad weather and power outages. Let them know that your store carries what they need, but you’re not sending them a sales pitch here. You’re sending valuable information on disaster preparedness.
And on it goes. Each time you reach out to your prospects and customers or clients, they should anticipate that when they open the email or the envelope, there’s going to be something of benefit for them inside. Why else would they care to open it?
Given that about 49.7% of email is spam, if your prospects, customers or clients don’t find something of value in your emails from the very first time they open one, chances are you’re either going to get a lot of unsubscribes, or your emails will be sent to your recipients’ spam folders. Either way it’s not good.
The same applies to snail mail. If your letters aren’t valuable, they won’t get opened and will be tossed in the trash right along with the rest of the junk mail.
It costs you money and time to acquire a lead or prospect. Once you’ve got them you want to hang on to them. That means you need to offer them something of value – something worth sticking around for. And its got to be there from day one.
How To Earn Your Customer’s Or Client’s Trust And Loyalty
Giving your prospects, customers or clients valuable information is how you get them to like you. But, you’re going to need to do a little more to gain their trust and loyalty.
First, you need to make sure that everything you offer – from the free information you send them to your products and services – is consistently good. If it’s hit and miss people will have mixed feelings about you and confused people don’t buy.
You also need to be consistent. This makes you dependable. If you’re writing blog posts every week, make sure you have a new one every week. If it’s once a month, make sure there’s a new one every month. If you send a newsletter to their house, make sure it gets there on time every time.
Next, you need to do business honestly. If you’re recommending someone else’s product and you make money from that recommendation, disclose it. If you offer a discount or refund, honor it every time. If you’re having a limited time sale, give the date and time the sale ends and make sure it does. Always do what you say you will do.
Also, you want to try to exceed your customers’ or clients’ expectations. Go above and beyond and show them that you really care about them. This is easy to do if you see your customers face to face. But it can be done with an online community too, simply by giving a little extra – such as a free surprise bonus with a purchase, or being available to answer questions.
And what ever you do, make sure you do it fast! People today expect everything to be instant. If you’re doing business online (and you should be, even if you’re a brick and mortar business) you need to have a very fast response time for inquiries. 24 hours isn’t good enough. It needs to be same day, preferably within the hour.
Finally, listen to your customers. This is the best way to find out what they want. Knowing what they want gives you the opportunity to offer them the right thing. This tells them you’re paying attention and you care.
When you offer excellent products and services, and even your freebies are really good, and you stand by what you offer with a money back guarantee, and you or someone from your company is available to help your customers or clients and do so quickly, that’s when you will gain people’s trust and loyalty.
These are the basic hallmarks of a good business, and they are what people expect from you. Meet those expectations and people will stick with you for a long, long time.
How To Keep Things Fresh And Fun
If you’re not keeping things fresh and fun at your business, then your business will stagnate and people will start to drop away. Your goal is to keep your clients and customers for as long as possible – hopefully for life. To do this you’ve got to liven things up every once in a while.
In order to keep things fresh you need to look at what you offer every few months and come up with new things your customers or clients will want.
This might mean changing an existing product or service, or it might mean adding a new one while, possibly, getting rid of an old one.
It might mean redecorating your place of business and giving it a fresh, new, updated look. Or, it might mean giving your website a complete overhaul. Or, it might mean finally creating that website that you know you need.
People get tired of the same ol’ same ol’. If you don’t have something fresh to offer every now and then, your customers or clients can be easily led away by a competitor who does.
You also want to keep things light and fun. This makes people want to do business with you because most people have a certain amount of stress in their lives. They don’t want any more stress from doing business with you or anybody else.
What they want is to relax and escape that stress for a little while. If your product or service can help them do that, that’s great. If not, you need to find a way to create that little escape through your business.
If you have an online business, you can do this through the personality of your website. If it’s a fun and interesting read people will browse longer.
An offline business can make their customer service swift and pleasurable. Every customer is greeted with a smile and helped quickly.
An offline business can also create a fun or relaxing atmosphere.
ONE EXAMPLE of this is the children’s dentist. A trip to the dentist today isn’t what it used to be. It used to be that when you were a kid and you went to the dentist, you sat in the chair and endured it for the hour or however long you had to be there. At the end of your visit you were given a special “prize” for being such a good dental patient.
Today there are dental offices for children that make it almost fun to go to the dentist. These offices might be decorated like a rain forest or an aquarium. The dental assistants are very friendly and reassuring. There are video screens in the ceiling so children can wear a set of headphones and watch a movie while getting their dental work done.
All of these things are designed to put children at ease and help them to enjoy their visit.
You may not be a children’s dentist. Maybe you’re the owner of a car repair shop. Monkeys hanging from trees in your little office and waiting area would be silly. But, there are things you can do to make the customer experience a better one – some simple, and some (for the bold) more complex.
How about making sure the restrooms are always spotlessly clean? How about offering something more than just a pot of coffee? Like tea and hot chocolate? How about a better assortment of reading material while customers wait? And making sure you have wifi available? These are all easy.
If you really want to wow your customers, you can offer to take them to somewhere and pick them up again when their vehicle is ready. Nobody likes waiting in the waiting room.
How about dropping them off at the local restaurant of their choice so they can get lunch while they wait (you can do a joint venture with all the local restaurants to help each other get new customers)? Or taking them to their next appointment? Or simply taking them home to wait?
Another way to keep things lively is to offer events. These can be as simple as a contest or as involved as a live event, but even live events don’t have to be big or cost a lot of money.
Ulta, the make-up retailer, is just one example of a business that offers live events to its customers. Ultimate Rewards Members at Ulta get invited to special events in the store that are not open to the public.
ANOTHER EXAMPLE – you could have one day a year set aside as your annual customer appreciation day. This might be for customers who have been with you for a year or more. You could do it as an open house with things going on throughout the day if you have a brick and mortar business, or it can be an online event if your business is strictly online.
Another thing you can do is send customers a little birthday surprise – either on your business’ birthday or their birthday. This doesn’t need to be something expensive. Just some little token to make them smile and remind them of you is fine – something appropriate to your type of business.
You can also embrace a national holiday or observance day that resonates with your business. FOR EXAMPLE: Menchies Frozen Yogurt takes advantage of national yogurt day by offering free frozen yogurt to its customers.
Every business can find ways to keep things fresh and make doing business with them a fun or pleasurable experience.
Getting people to know, like and trust you takes time. But, if you’re persistent and you give them your best, your customers or clients will remain loyal to you and continue to buy from you over and over again.
Dedicated to your success,