Key Ways to Build Customer Relationships

There a million ways to build a brand. Advertising, SEO, social media, the list is virtually endless for the various ways in which a company can get the word out and increase their public profile. But hands down, the most effective way to gain more business is through relationship-building with customers.

Like any relationship where one party may be is a little more desperate than the other, it may not always clear what the *right* approach can be. Fraught as the situation might seem, it’s actually not all that complicated. Businesses have business plans to keep them on track to estimate profits and costs. In the same vein, creating a customer relationship plan can ensure that businesses are on top of all the ideal touch points.

MarketingProfs provides these key ways to build customer relationships, geared toward moving people through the stages of customer loyalty:

1.    Suspect

2.    Prospect

3.    First-time customer

4.    Repeat customer

5.    Client

6.    Advocate

Relationship-building is about understanding how to help customers transition from Suspect to Advocate. While these recommendations might not all be the right fit for your organization, use them as a starting point for you to strengthen and reinforce how to communicate and interact with customers.

1.    Send personalized notes
A simple card thanking customers for their business sends the message that, well, you appreciate them. Sometimes the simplest sentiments say the most. Just make sure that it’s a handwritten card and not a pre-printed one. Nothing says ‘I don’t have time to thank you properly’ like mass-production.

2.    Open multiple modes of communication
The most effective way to make sales is through soft-sells, and that means getting around industry jargon. Using social media channels like Twitter and Facebook to give customers a way to ask questions, voice concerns, and interact in general is key to building relationships since it removes the barriers put up by template, generic messaging. Consider newsletters, blogs, chat, really anything that opens up the conversation.

3.    Advertise to your current customers
The general rule that 80% of business is generated by 20% of customers isn’t always 100% true. But it’s much easier to help people transition through the customer loyalty stages when they’re already a customer, right? The best way to do this is to reward current customers, or find ways to validate their decision to patronize your organization.

4.    Modify your business plan
You had to know we were cycling back to this, right? But we’re not talking simply about adding customer relationship-building into your business plan. Think of a business that launched ten years ago, in 2006. At that time, for example, you might have been able to sidestep social media. Today? Not if you want to be relevant. Adapt your business plan as necessary to reflect the current market and how your customers want to interact.

It’s true that building your brand is a key way to raise your business profile, but if your goals include gaining more customers, building relationships needs to stay top of mind.