In honor of Valentine’s Day, it seems only appropriate to think about relationships, especially business relationships.
We all know that doing business, especially in smaller communities, is all about strong business relationships. But, we also know that good relationships are not built over night.
When you think about the statistic that that it costs at least five times more to lure a new customer than to keep an old one, it only makes sense (and cents…or dollars) to nurture relationships with the people who already know you.
When you compound that with the fact that 67 percent of customer stop doing business with a company because they feel unappreciated, not dissatisfied, the idea of building relationships is one that warrants inclusion in a proactive marketing plan.
That said, don’t just think about customers either. Broaden the scope and remember to court and build relationships with influencers or referral sources. And just so we’re clear, a referral source is someone who may not ever be a customer, but by virtue of his or her relationship with his clients, is in a position to refer you.
For instance, an attorney specializing in elder law is in a prime position to refer a financial planner or vice versa. But, if neither of you thinks to proactively introduce yourself to a non-prospect, and to discuss how you can collaborate or at least refer to each other, you have lost a golden opportunity for leads to prospects that cannot likely be purchased with advertising.
Now that we’ve defined the additional category of people who are critical for your proactive relationship building, let’s get back to some tips for doing so. The goal, of course, is to touch base with your customers and referral sources at least six to eight times in a year, in a non-sales manner.
So, mix and match, but stay in touch. And, even if you have to segment your database to A clients and B clients, with the A's getting more personal attention, don’t neglect those who do less, since a small client today can be a big one or a great referral tomorrow.
Remember, in this impersonal-communication world in which we live, a handwritten note to say thank you, congratulations, or some other note will make a positive impression. In a simple study, it was notable that the majority of people will open a hand-written envelope before they open the checks in the mail
Most businesses are capturing customers’ emails and can build a database of complementary businesses for referrals. Start a one-page bulletin in which you provide at least one article of educational information (tips and tricks, for instance), and then a column or small box that updates them on anything important in your business – an award, expansion, new hire, etc.
Surveys are ideal for telling customers you care about what they have to say. You can even report any noteworthy results of your survey in your bulletin, along with any actions you are implementing to respond to that customer feedback. For instance, if you learn that most customers want evening hours, you may open one or two nights a week and then tell everyone in your bulletin to show you listened to their feedback.
If you are going to an event, such as a business mixer, why not personally invite some of your referral sources or customers to join you. Just the invitation is a very personal touch and shows you care.
If you come across one of the many business awards and believe your client or referral source meets the criteria, make a serious impression and take the time to nominate them. Often they will need to provide the write-up for the criteria if you don’t have all the details, but won’t they feel good about you thinking of them in such a positive manner.
Customer Appreciation Events.
Whether you are a service business or a retailer, think of at least one or two events you can create to invite your customers. Whether you host an educational event, invite them to a VIP demonstration/sale/preview, or buy a box of seats at a sporting or charity event and invite them to attend as your guest, you will have valuable time for the schmooze and create goodwill along the way.
While these are only a few ideas to help you tell your customers how much you appreciate them, creativity is your only limit.
Don’t forget to think about your employees, too. They’re no different than your customers – let them know you appreciate them, and your front line will represent your business with more sincere passion than ever before. Remember, it’s the little things that count, and saying “thank you” with a smile doesn’t cost a penny.
Carolyn West-Price Touhey
, owner of SmartBiz Strategy
, is an award-winning marketing consultant who specializes in working with and teaching entrepreneurs and non-profits. Visit her website or phone her at 1-250-335-2342 if you'd like more information about what she does.