By Joe Appleton
While having strong relationships are important in practically every facet of your life, they’re especially essential when it comes to having your own company. I believe that for every minute spent on improving a product or service, two minutes should be spent on building connections with current as well as potential customers.
Entrepreneurs who are just getting started as well as those who have been in the game for a while should take a moment to learn a bit about professional bridge building.
THERE’S A REASON IT’S CALLED THE GOLDEN RULE
With every interaction you have with a customer, ask yourself, “is this the way I’d like to be treated?” From the layout of your website and your return policy to your marketing strategy, look at your methods from the customer’s point of view. How would you want to be approached? Which marketing strategies do you find bland or annoying? When in doubt, simply ask your customers how they think you’re doing.
REMAIN 100% HONEST, 100% OF THE TIME
I’m sure there are a few aspects of your business that need to remain confidential, but that doesn’t mean you have to outright lie or politely fib to your customers. Consumers are smarter than business owners might think, and they won’t hesitate to look elsewhere if they get the slightest feeling they’re being bamboozled. No matter how embarrassing it might be to do so, always remain honest. Your company is run and managed by humans, and humans sometimes make mistakes. On a related note, remain truthful about what your products/services can and can’t do, which requires that you and your employees know them down to a near-microscopic level.
SEE FACES, NOT NUMBERS
While the goal of any entrepreneur is to have a successful company, you have to remember that people are buying your products. Just like you, your customers have dreams, hardships, passions and desires. Connect with your customers on a personal level, inquire about their lives and how they like to use your products. Try to remember one customer’s name and something unique about him or her every day. This not only serves to help make a connection, it also gives you a better idea of how you can market and improve your wares.
INJECT A BIT OF HUMOR INTO YOUR INTERACTIONS
Just like your customers aren’t numbers, you and your employees aren’t robots following a preprogrammed sales script. For me, there are few things better than seeing employees have a good time with customers. It gives the employees personalities and lends an air of authenticity to the business, which is a nice change from the wooden and forced greetings, interactions and farewells I sometimes get.
In addition to having general sales available to one and all, offer special sales, discounts and offers for your most loyal customers. Rather than feeling as if you’re potentially snubbing other shoppers, realize that your longstanding customers help keep you in business and may send more business your way than you realize. Compare that with the impact of a one-time customer.
Relationships are everything when it comes to establishing, building and growing a business. Invest time and resources in creating as well as maintaining a bond with an essential cornerstone of your company: the customer.