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Building Customer Relationships for Long-Term Growth

Building Customer Relationships for Long-Term Growth

Written by: Kelly Hillock

August 1, 2023

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Building Customer Relationships for Long-Term Growth
5 min read

One of the most valuable assets a small business can have is a loyal customer base. Loyal and returning customers translate to consistent income for your business and often act as brand ambassadors, organically spreading the word about your business to new potential customers. In today’s competitive business landscape and with constantly evolving customer preferences, a small business that can foster meaningful connections with its customers will be set up for long-term success. The most successful companies have the customer are the forefront of their business plan or mission statement.

But, how do you get from having a service or product you’re passionate about to instilling a similar passion in your customers? In this article, we’ll explore strategies for small business owners to build customer relationships and foster loyalty.

Exceptional customer service

Customer service is at the heart of every business and truly exceptional customer service is a cornerstone to building lasting relationships. Small businesses can set themselves apart by prioritizing customer service. Taking the extra step to resolve customer issues or exceed expectations can leave a lasting positive impression.

  • Hire talented and attentive employees: Your staff are the frontlines of your business and often your business’ first impression. Ensure your employees are trained properly in how to interact with customers and know your policies and procedures. Having employees who genuinely care about your customers having a great experience will make a difference.
  • Prioritize timely and helpful responses: Develop procedures for staff to follow with common customer interactions and feedback. Ensure timeliness is a priority – the more prompt you can be in assisting customers or resolving issues, the better.
  • Have effective communication tools and channels: The right communication tools can help your staff promptly resolve any issues with customers. Dedicated customer phone lines, online chat boxes, or email are all great tools to help your customers communicate with you. Additionally, having internal processes for your team to communicate and resolve issues makes your operations a seamless process for employees and customers.

Consistent communication

Consistent and authentic communication is key to maintaining strong relationships with your customers. Engage with your customers regularly by sharing updates and regular content that is both relevant to your business and adds value to your customers. Authenticity is important – customers appreciate genuine interactions with a business and are more likely to trust a business that communicates with transparency and honesty.

You can keep in touch with your customers in a variety of ways, including:

  • Social media
  • Email newsletters
  • Blogs or articles
  • Bulletin boards in your place of business

Communication should be aligned with your company. For instance, social media posts could be about upcoming promotions, new products, or how to use your product or service in a new and interesting way. A local coffee shop might post about a new seasonal coffee drink or the best pastry to pair with a dark roast coffee on its social media channels. It might also send customers a monthly newsletter with information about how the coffee is roasted and feature interviews with staff. These types of authentic communication build a relationship with customers and keep them engaged and interested in your business.

Loyalty and referral programs

Rewarding a customer’s loyalty is a great way to encourage connection with your returning customers. Take Starbucks for example – customers earn points every time they make a purchase, and once they stack up enough points, they can redeem a free drink. Loyalty programs incentivize customers to keep patronizing your business. Loyalty programs don’t need to be complicated or dependent on technology. A “frequent flyer” punch card is still utilized by many small businesses. Loyalty programs show appreciation to your returning customers and foster a sense of community by showing them your business values their continued support.

In addition to loyalty programs, offering a referral program encourages customers to act as brand ambassadors for your business. This encourages customers to actively recommend your business to others and rewards them for doing so by offering a discount on their next purchase. This is another way to foster community with your business and grow your customer base.

Social responsibility

According to PwC, over 75% of consumers want to support businesses that invest in causes they care about and are more likely to purchase from a company that supports environmental, social, or governance (ESG) causes. This type of social responsibility increases the trust consumers place in a company and makes them feel better about supporting a business that shares their values.

As a small business, supporting your local community fosters connection. Whether sponsoring the local Little League team or hosting a fundraiser for the high school, there are many ways to support causes that align with your business and give back to your community. This shared sense of purpose with your community creates a connection with your customers and humanizes your business. It also serves to get your business in front of new audiences who want to support a business that aligns with their values.

Personalizing the customer journey

In today’s digital age, personalization is the key to marketing success. It’s also a way to foster connections with your customers by understanding their preferences and making it easier to get what they want from your business. Utilizing tools such as a customer relationship management (CRM) system helps track preferences and purchase history to better understand what your customers want. For example, you could offer repeat customers a discount on one of your popular products.

Having information on purchase history allows you to make more informed decisions about your business as well. The more information you have collected at your disposal, the more you can update your business’ strategies. For example, knowing the most popular and least popular products so you can make more informed inventory purchases. Or, knowing the busiest time or season for your business so you can ramp up marketing efforts during slower seasons.

Customer loyalty: The bottom line

Building customer relationships is a cornerstone of your business’ success. Choices for consumers are abundant, which makes prioritizing real relationships crucial for small business success. Loyal customers are the best way to maintain and grow your business. With these tips, you can start incorporating strategies to foster meaningful relationships with your customers and ultimately, increase revenue.

About the Author

Kelly Hillock

Kelly Hillock is the content marketing manager for SmallBusinessLoans, where she writes and edits articles for small business owners. Kelly has over eight years’ experience in copywriting across a variety of industries, focusing on entrepreneurship and finance. She has a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from San Diego State University.

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