All relationships take work, including business relationships.
Today, I’m investigating the relationships we have with our customers and I have compiled a few key pointers to assess whether you would consider yours to be “going steady,” or how to make them so if you are in the beginning stages with a potential client.
Strangely, some of the ideas remind me of the same principles that make a romantic relationship work! I mean to say the factors that take the relationship to that next level, a steady involvement. I had fun compiling it and actually decided that were I to apply these aspects to the engagements I have with my customers, it would surely serve both parties better. So here they are:
12 Ways To Improve Your Relationship With Your Customers
(In no particular order of priority)
- Show Your Appreciation – When a customer makes a purchase or places an order (no matter how small), always express gratitude. I don’t mean bowing and scraping, I mean a simple gesture of mentioning thanks and appreciation for their custom; verbally, or in an email, or even on your invoice.
- Keep Them Interested – Communication is important in any relationship and by keeping your client updated with your new services or available products, you are more likely to interest them in making another purchase. Don’t spam them daily, this will only irritate them and could result in your emails never even getting opened, but if you give them first-hand knowledge of your new products or promotions etc, they feel privileged and may want to jump in before everything’s sold out. A subtle and informative approach works better than a hard-core sales pitch to keep their interest.
- Show They Matter – Remembering something like your client’s birthday and sending them an email or message can make a huge difference in the loyalty of customers. A simple gesture can go a long way. Noting their husband/wife or children’s names, or great achievements, or something important in their life and being able to mention these things in your correspondence with the client, shows a personal interest in them, which is always appreciated.
- Listen – Really listen to the client’s queries or points of view. Don’t just bombard them with your sales pitch. Actually hearing their viewpoint can enhance your relationship, even if this particular sale doesn’t happen. Everybody wants to be validated and their loyalty will be constant if they feel understood and are not bamboozled into reaching for their wallets.
- Don’t Come On Too Strong – Even though you want to close a deal, nobody wants to be overpowered with a bombastic salesman. Relay the advantages and special features of the product and your price in a gentle and non-invasive way, and then leave them to decide. They either want it or they don’t. Don’t force things on them – chances are they’ll only walk away.
- Give Them Some Space – Let the customer have some time to decide if he or she wants to go ahead with the sale. They’re far more likely to make the decision on their own terms than with you in their face and insistent.
- Make them Feel Special – Apart from showing your appreciation of their custom as mentioned above, you can also make them feel like they’re special by adding that little extra to your deal. Any relationship appreciates the little things; the gestures of generosity and caring, so why not treat your clients to a little something extra too? Nothing that will eat into your profits of course, but if you could budget it in your price you could add some small gift in their order as a surprise. A keyring with your logo or a tiny picture of your painting on it, or perhaps a postcard of your work, a pen – anything inexpensive, but this can also be a huge part of your marketing as it plays a large role in them remembering you when they use it. A personal thank you letter always goes far too, as does a certificate of authenticity of your work.
- Don’t be Arrogant Or Brag Unnecessarily – Don’t show every piece of art that has been sold on the sales pages on your website or blogs – a couple is ok but otherwise the client will think he’s left to choose from the left-overs. Whilst you want to look successful, nobody appreciates gloaters. By all means display your best pieces in a portfolio, even if they have been sold, as reference for what you can create for the client, but too many “Sold” or red dots on paintings displayed for sale is a turn-off for customers.
- Don’t Portray Jealousy – Even if your client expresses a liking or a following for a competitor, you’d be wise not to show them if you’re envious. Nobody likes the green monster! And certainly don’t belittle your competition to your client; that would be really unprofessional and could actually result in sparking more interest in them than if you’d said something nice about them or even just smiled at the mention of their name.
- Your Appearance – You may be an artist but you don’t have to arrive looking like a hobo at a meeting with a potential buyer! If they arrive at your studio unscheduled, that’s one thing, but try and look more professional when you have a rendezvous. It shows respect and believe it or not the effort made in one’s appearance can speak volumes of the type of person you are. That’s why business men and women dress to impress.
- Don’t Be Late – Try to deliver your orders as promised and either specify a delivery timeline beforehand or keep the client notified timously if you do hit some snags.
- Even Long-Distance Relationships can “Go -Steady” – with the globe being a single marketplace these days, many of us can sell products internationally, and with regular communication and those little extra touches on the orders, these long-distance relationships can flourish and be as long-standing as your local ones.
I’m sure there are some I have left out, but it’s a start anyway. I would much rather try and implement them now in establishing sound relationships with my clients and keep them loyal, than end up wishing I had further down the road, or worse still, lose them altogether. It would be like trying to fix Humpty Dumpty if things turn sour! Customers are valuable – without them we have no business and so its indispensable to maintain a steady, ongoing relationship.
What’s your relationship like with your customers? Do you have any other suggestions that work for you? I’d love you to share your thoughts!