Relationship Building is a facet of small business that cannot be underestimated. It over-arches every aspect of business interaction with:
- Your Customers
- Your Potential Customers
In this article I talk about the how’s and whys of relationship building in my small business and where it relates to today’s environment and I hope you find some useful information here.
1. Your Customers: Build long term client relationships
How & Why do you build a relationship with your customers? “They’re already buying so they’ll buy again!” is not a viable strategy when your marketplace is competitive. Customers will return if they feel engaged, invested, appreciated by your business.
We used an E-Mail marketing strategy to keep ourselves in front of our customers. We collected E-mail address at point of sale and explained it was to keep them informed of discounts and offers and activities. In my experience 80-90% of people are happy to provide their address when asked and the reason explained. We always reminded people, that we would not bombard them with mail, and they would always have the option to unsubscribe.
Armed with this database of clients you can build relationships using a variety of strategies.
- Loyalty rewards,
- Alerts to upcoming events (people loved our Mother’s Day reminders)
- Introduce them to your other platforms.
- Ask for testimonials (it feels good to give back)
- Hints and tips to maximise the customer experience with your product
Remember you do not always need to be selling to a current client, but you do need to keep a presence on their radar. If you are regularly informing people of engaging content, then you can include sale offers too but try to keep a good ratio of product information and product promotion 80/20 rule. Our Emails would typically contain 4 pieces of information, one informative and perhaps 2-3 engaging images of product and calls to action.
2. Your Potential Customers
Building a relationship with your potential customers is slightly more difficult. With the advent of Social Media, it is easier, and brands are building “Communities” around themselves who are advocates of the brand. Members of the community may not yet buyers, but they will be.
So how do know the customer specifically if they have not bought your product? and more importantly how do you build a relationship with them? Brands build communities by creating personas from details of their current clients and potential clients and then targeting that persona with their advertising where that “type” of buyer would be most engaged.
In our case our wedding market was a big part of our business. This is the persona we used
- Demographic: Female, Age range 30-40, Price Conscious, Digital savvy, High reliance on Opinion leaders
- Motivations: Demand originality, Rely on Reputation / Word of Mouth, Demand good customer Service
- Digital Channels: Instagram, Facebook, Wedding supplier sites
- Offline: Wedding magazines, Hotel Wedding Fairs and Wedding Exhibitions
- Message: We will create a Wow on your big day and over-deliver on our promises.
Even though we could not “know” our potential clients our past clients and knowing our product was a great place to start. Knowing this, we could then focus on what content to target these clients with. This would involve some or all the following interactions.
- Sharing videos of past events
- Sharing testimonials
- Free consultations
- Trial / demo examples
- Posting photos of behind the scenes preparation
- Discounted offers
- Invitations to Wedding Open day / evening
The relationship building involved bringing them along a journey with us, so it was easy for them to decide to choose us. If your interactions resonate with your potential client, you are building a relationship of trust with them.
For larger and more complex sales, a relationship building process could be ongoing for months or years. This can involve identifying your key personnel in the client organisation e.g.
- The Buyer / Payer
- The Decider / final Approver
- The Technical / detail person
- The User
- The Influencer
Building relationships with some or all of these is critical to success in larger sales. Your offering and interactions with each of these must resonate with their requirements in order for them to start to trust your product and brand.
In a further article I talk about relationships with staff, stakeholders and networks, tune in!