Now that you know how important it is to build relationships in your business, let’s look at how to build them.
Essentially you should be making the most of any opportunity to contact your clients, past clients or prospects with information and ideas…
Never send an invoice without including some small message or personal greeting. And if you have sold a product that requires regular service or replacement parts (such as filters), always remind your customers that it is that time again, and that you are ready and waiting to assist.
Newsletters are one of the most cost-effective ways to keep your customers up-to-date on your products or services. They are the perfect vehicle for news stories, testimonials and special offers. If your newsletter contains interesting information and tips, rather than just sales messages, it is almost guaranteed to be read. And remember – offers aimed only at current customers are a powerful loyalty building tool.
Even if your customers only buy once a year, the money that you will spend contacting them every three or six months will pay dividends in repeat business. This regular flow of information keeps your company name top of mind, and helps to establish you as the expert in your field.
A recommend-a-friend offer can be a tremendously effective way of reaching new customers. We all love to tell others how we have cleverly found a business which offers great service or products (especially if we are going to receive a gift for doing so). This is particularly effective as personal recommendations have much more credibility than unsolicited marketing materials.
In a very few industry sectors, such as home renovations or landscape construction, it is likely that your customers will not purchase again for many years, or possibly never at all. In this instance, there is still potential for them to recommend your service to others. Something as simple as a gift, tastefully embossed with your company name, or a small album of photos chronicling the work that was done, can be interesting enough for them to display or show to visitors.
Before the work is complete, always ask if they know anyone to whom they could pass one of your brochures or cards. If you don’t ask, they probably won’t offer, but if you do ask, they just may think of someone.
Finally – remember that there is a marketing tool which could cost nothing more than your time. It is, of course, the telephone and it can be a valuable way to spread information, or to re-qualify past customers for future mailings or e-mailing. The particular advantage of this kind of pre-qualification is that the prospect is considerably more likely to open your letter or e-mail if they have spoken to you and given permission for you to send it.
If you are uncomfortable with this kind of telephone solicitation, make sure you have a script, and practice before you make the first call. It does become easier.
One of your most important tools in relationship marketing will be your database. If this is not already done, it is vitally important that you build a database of everyone who has purchased from you at any time. Once that task is complete it becomes very simple to print out a batch of labels or envelopes for your on-going mailing activities.
Remember – your past customers are the people who have helped you build your company this far. Reward them for this service, and tell them what wonderful things you are doing, and they will reward you with repeat business.