I usually write about the science of running a business, including the business plan, marketing metrics, financial projections, and so on. Instead, this article is about the “softer” side of business that is just as important to your success. I should know – I just started a retail store last November.
These first 8 months in business have reminded me how important it is to develop relationships with customers. In some ways, it’s a lot like dating, so here are some tips to help you be “the one”…
First Impressions Mom could not have been more right about the importance of first impressions. How your customer perceives your business during that first encounter is critical to having any chance of making a first sale, or beyond to a more long-term customer relationship. A first encounter might be with a receptionist, a sales person, your web site, or a brochure or ad or any other marketing effort. All of these interactions must be designed to create a rapport and affinity with a new customer that makes them want to engage further with your business.
Personality No one likes a “fake”. Your business personality is the personification of your vision and mission statements. Product selection, the physical environment of your store or office, hiring of employees, designing of marketing efforts and so on must all be guided by the question, “Does this decision re-enforce our business personality in the eyes of our customers?” Consistency is key to delivering this message and in having it received by your audience. Any break in that consistency will result in a customer doubting your sincerity and authenticity, decreasing your chances for a long-term relationship.
Emotional Connection There are lots of fish in the sea, so why should a customer keep shopping with you? It all boils down to the fulfillment of your customer’s needs. And, while pricing may be a factor, you will want to focus as much or more effort on the emotional needs you can fill.
How can you make this customer feel special? Just recognizing them goes a very long way. Being able to recall personal information such as family, occupation, hobbies and so on is even better. Adding value through services like education, or special orders for items you don’t regularly stock, are good ways to create a stronger bond.
There is also the need to belong. We use Facebook and on-site events to create this sense of community among our customers and it definitely pays off in added sales, more referrals to friends and family, and that top-of-mind status that is priceless to any business. Plus, it’s just fun getting to know people! I really think you have to genuinely enjoy people to succeed long-term.
How is your business performing in each of these critical customer relationship components? Now is a great time to take this new perspective to evaluate your performance and then make the improvements needed to succeed at the customer “Dating Game”.