Not long ago, the noted business leadership speaker and author, Simon Sinek, posted a short statement on facebook that caught my eye:
“To drive sales, make a pitch.
To build loyalty, make a friend.”
The reason this jumped out at me from the clutter and gibberish of my facebook feed, is that this declaration resonates deeply with how we at Vacano Creative encourage our clients to think about their business and audience(s).
It’s a well-worn maxim in the corporate world that the cost of customer acquisition is far higher than the cost of customer retention. The thing about tired old saws like this is that they’re often true. I find it both interesting and puzzling that I don’t typically encounter small or mid-size business owners who even think about this. When we dig into this, we discover that it does not only refer to the dollars and cents cost of marketing, outreach, promotion, advertising, and so on. It also refers to time, energy, and opportunity cost. The latter “intangibles” may be far more important than the financial aspect.
Certainly, one-off selling (and move along) makes sense for certain types of businesses. For example, people typically only buy one car at a time. But the vast majority of businesses offer a variety of products and/or services. These businesses have much to lose from a sell-once-and-move-on approach, and much to gain from building an enduring relationship with customers. And customers also have much to gain from an ongoing relationship, as they could likely benefit from other products or services offered.
So how do you build a relationship?
There are numerous activities that foster relationship-building between your business and your customers, clients, or constituents. Here are the 5 that we think are most important to consider:
- Establish, maintain, and grow trust. Treat your customers ethically and honestly. Choose transparency over obfuscation. And above all, listen to them.
- Recognize that customers are buying your products and services to fill a need. Listen carefully to your customers to understand the challenges or needs they are trying to overcome, and be clear that your goal is to help them do so.
- Prioritize customer service. No customer in the world wants bad or indifferent service. A little friendliness, empathy, and attentiveness goes a long way to achieving customer satisfaction. And don’t be afraid to get to know your customers a bit. Think about how the staff at your favorite restaurant, diner, bar, or coffee house talk to you. Is that a factor in why it’s your favorite establishment? Satisfied customers have no reason to go to your competitors.
- Provide value in every interaction. Nobody wants to have their time wasted, either. If you are only pitching and selling at your customers in your interactions with them, you shouldn’t be surprised when they get bored or fed up, and tune you out. Instead, make sure they walk away from every conversation having learned or gained something useful.
- Follow up! Check in with your customers after the sale or project completion to make sure their needs were met and that they are receiving durable benefits from your product or service. Not in an Amazon merchant “rate my product pleeeeeease” email kind of way, but drop them a personal note a couple of weeks or months later to ask them how things are going, and if there are any concerns you can address. This happens so rarely that they’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Once you become truly adept at relationship building, you can work on turning your satisfied customers into enthusiastic evangelists for your products and services, and advocates for your business.
So ask yourself: are you just making sales, or are you building relationships?
If you’re just making sales, or you’re struggling to build relationships, we would love to discuss it with you and explore ideas to help overcome any barriers. Let’s schedule a free 30-minute consultation. By the end of the call, we’ll do our best to provide 2-3 good ideas that you can use for your business, whether you decide to work with us or not.