Rekindling Customer Relationships: Five Ways to Keep the Fire Burning

As another Valentine's Day comes around, newspapers, magazines, and websites are going to be overflowing with articles and advice columns for lovers who are looking for a way to reignite the spark they once felt. But while we can't help you turn up the passion with your special someone-we'll leave that to the experts-we can give you some good advice on ways to keep your customer relationships from going stale. This can be a bigger problem than a lot of business owners and marketing managers might think, but not giving your customers enough attention is a good way to get them to leave you alone. With that in mind, here are five special Valentine's tips to keep the fire burning for years to come with your existing customers:

Stay in touch

This is perhaps the most obvious piece of advice we can give, but also one of the most important. It's easy to assume your clients think of you right away when they have the need-or when they are asked for a referral by a colleague-but that's not necessarily the case. They have dozens or hundreds of other things going on in their lives, not to mention the myriad of other relationships to keep up with. The only way you can stay on the top of their mind is by reminding them once in a while that you are still there.

Whether it's through a newsletter, the occasional customer care call, or just a short meeting at a coffee shop, don't let your buyers go too long without hearing from you.

Don't just call (or write) when you have something to sell

By the same token, you don't want to only reach out to them when you have a new product or service to pitch. No one, in your romantic or professional life, wants to be taken for granted. And yet, when we touch base with clients only to make an offer, the message we send is that they are little more than a source of revenue for us.

Look for opportunities on the calendar to reach out to the people who keep you in business. It doesn't have to be a social visit, but look for ways you can help them without furthering your own agenda. They'll appreciate your willingness to look beyond the short-term gain and value your relationship for the long haul.

Keep things fresh with new ideas

When was the last time you changed things up? Even the most reliable vendors can become boring, so it's a good idea to break out of your shell and try offering something new once in a while. That doesn't mean you have to abandon the products or services that you have become known for, of course, but it's never a bad idea to branch out a little bit.

Sometimes, all it takes for clients to see you in a new light is for them to be reminded of all the great things you can do for their business. Work hard on emphasizing new ideas or specialties once in a while and they'll do just that.

Give a special gift

This might be straight from the romance handbook, but it's also sound marketing advice. Few things build customer loyalty like a simple act of appreciation, so be sure your best customers are occasionally rewarded with a discount, free gift, or other exclusive offer.

To take this one step further, you could even give a gift (like theater tickets, or a bottle of wine) that is a bit more personal and reflects what you know about their tastes. It's a lot more effort, to be sure, but you can bet they'll remember what you did for a long time to come.

Remember that it's all right to let your hair down once in a while

One of the worst things any company or vendor can become, in this economy or any other, is "just another person or group selling something." Why? Because despite the financial realities, despite all the buzz about new forms of online and off-line marketing, and despite the thousands of other vendors out there, most buying decisions revolve around relationships-that is, they are made based on the way people feel about you and your company.

For that reason, it makes sense to be more than any "vendor" or "company," and instead be a trusted friend or team. To do that, though, you need to have your customer see your human side every once in a while. So, whether it's passing along a simple joke or including them on your Christmas card list, make sure to let your hair down once in a while... it's a great way to let customers see you a whole new light.




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