Strong Relationships Build Sustainable Businesses
The number one reason why I was successful in selling high end jewellery and clothing wasn't just my ability to sell and make people buy expensive stuff they probably really didn't need. It was my ability to engage and communicate with my customers - where they went from paying my wage to being a true friend. I have customers still sending me Christmas cards that I meet in a business over 10 years ago. It wasn't just my love of Christmas cards and friend making - I always engage with people with the intention of helping them as much as I possibly can, its this attitude that saw customers follow me from business to business and refer friends and family to my services also.
I built a relationship with them not just to sell to them, because I genuinely cared for my customers. I was the person to help them pick out presents for loved ones, help them decide outfits for a special occasion and when I moved businesses so did my customers. They followed me because I valued them, I was honest and they trusted my opinion and feedback.
International Speaker and Sales Trainer Patricia Fripp says it perfectly
You don't close a sale, you open a relationship if you want to build a long term, successful enterprise.
Relationship building is an integral part of any business whether it be customers, clients, employees, competitors, suppliers or stakeholders. Having a relationship with that party built on trust, integrity and genuine desire to assist is a critical component on building a sustainable business. One were you are able to operate from referrals, loyal and constant customers. In a tourist town of just 1000 people we built a retail store that relied on locals being 75% of our customers. That's stability built on relationships with our community.
Marketing for new customers and clients is a must, however making sure that you are valuing your existing clients is by far more beneficial. Keep them engaged with you and your company in as many ways as possible. Emails are great however can be rendered useless because everyone receives so bloody many!! If you also make sure to call, text, invite them to a special event their engagement and interaction increases. With social media absolutely everywhere there are a ton of ways to engage with your customers/clients - it's your job to find what works best for you, your business and clientele. Make sure YOU are always the first name out of their mouth when someone asks for help in your industry. Doesn't matter what industry you are in whether purely online, bricks and mortar or service to consumer. You need to make sure your clients are getting the experience they will go and tell others about. Product or service.
When I first studied business 15 years ago we were told that a happy customer will tell 10 people, a unhappy customer will tell 100 and this was before social media!! You can imagine the difference in statistics now with everyone's desire to have a rant and then other people sharing or commenting on people's experiences. I also know that an unhappy customer that is handled effectively can become the most loyal customer for life too! So don't get disheartened from negative feedback - be thankful for it.
However this can also be used in many effective ways to build positive feedback and relationships.
One new and extremely effective way relationship building is evolving is through social responsibility. Experts are predicting this will be one of the biggest differences with future generations. Their desire to give back to others and the planet is going to be stronger than any other generation. We see this showing up already with companies like Zambreros - Mexican with a Mission, even their motto tells customers what they are all about! They are not a social enterprise however their company and culture are built from being socially responsible by aligning themselves with an organisation that provides food for those in need.
If people believe they share values with a company, they will stay loyal to the brand. - Howard Schultz
This is why branding your business with its mission and true values at the forefront is crucial in building a sustainable business that has loyal and repeat customers/clients. People can smell bullshit a mile away, you might get some dollars out them once but they won't be repeat or recommend your business to anyone else. If you are authentic in your approach and genuinely care about their experience with your product or service they will be your biggest cheerleaders because they WANT to, not because you paid them to do it!
One of the most important areas in building good relationships that aren't your customers is your employees! Yes you pay these people, however you need to be grateful for them for showing up everyday and being the biggest asset your business has. You might just be a solo business owner so this might not resonate. YET! For those that do I implore you - get to know your people, get to know what their genius is, find out what motivates them best, what challenges they struggle and thrive with! It's in these actions you move from having employees to a TEAM of Superstars. A team that will support you, your business, ideas, growth and challenges. They are the ones your customers interact with most, they are your biggest marketing asset and your businesses number 1 representatives - make sure they know they are valued so they will value your customers!
So often I have work in or witnessed workplace environments that have been toxic. It was not an enjoyable experience however I did learn a lot on what NOT to do in business! These businesses didn't get the most or best from their employee because they bluntly didn't have a positive relationship and had no idea about people performance or how to get the best results from the employees. These places then have high turnover of staff which is incredibly expensive to a business no matter what size, they didn't receive the referrals and loyal customer connections weren't formed. All these factors weigh heavily on a businesses profit margin and their ability to keep operating.
Show up and lead by example, build relationships with your team, customers and suppliers. This will teach your team how to build them also. Employees will also get more satisfaction and their productivity will increase, they will be more lucrative to the business because they have people returning to them.
There are many ways to build strong relationships however it really comes down to just a few key fundamentals - be genuinely interested and listen, value and appreciate them and their relationship to your and your business and most of all show your gratitude for their presence in your life.
Have a fantastic day - Don't forget to Show Up, Step Up and Own It.
My Best Regards
Cathryn Mahon - Wild Dynamics