Embarking on a new relationship with customers isn’t all that different from starting a courtship with a new girlfriend or boyfriend. You begin by trying to catch their attention, and then slowly build upon mutual interest with the hope of turning it into a long-term engagement. There’s a lot of give and take. Communication is optimal. And of course, both parties have to be honest and uphold their end to make things work. This Valentine’s Day, think of the ways you can romance your customers to achieve a lasting relationship.
A first encounter is your chance to make one amazing impression with the person you’re hoping to woo. In marketing, this refers to the initial point of contact between your business and your prospective customer. Before you can ask this person out to dinner—or even ask for a phone number—you need to be sure that you’re ready to put your best foot forward. Your first point of contact should be an accurate reflection of who you are and what you can provide, so that they can make up their mind if they want to learn more. Bold, memorable creative is also a key aspect (it always helps to look your best). Your call to action should also be a highlight of your first impression. If you want to make future contact and set up that pivotal first date—if you want to get your foot in the door—then you’ve got to get your customers invested and curious to learn more.
Once you’ve started going out on dates with your object of affection—or in this case, once you’ve gotten past the first point of contact and initiated a relationship with your customer—the next step is to begin to get to know them, and let them get to know you better as well. It’s not enough to achieve one transaction one time from an interested party. You want to take the successful sale and turn it into a deeper familiarity with your brand, and a deeper investment in your company. Throughout point-of-sale interactions and beyond, you must continue to show your customer that you are committed for the long-haul. That you appreciate their former business with you, and welcome its return. Reminders of prior interactions while keeping your line of communication open are vital at this stage. And to be perfectly honest, it wouldn’t hurt to send flowers. Small tokens of continued interest and gratitude go a long way in nurturing a growing relationship.
Okay, so you’ve made it through the trial-and-error period (perhaps provided some products and services to your target audience) and now it’s time to get serious. You want to exclusively supply your products or services to them from now on. This might entail developing incentives for customer loyalty, such as additional discounts or benefits for long-term users. It may also mean that your customer has been invited to register for further information and involvement, such as through a newsletter or subscription. Either the promise of future business or a well-established opportunity to embark on future relations is the equivalent of engagement between you and your customer.
Between businesses and their target markets, a marriage is achieved when your customer decides that your brand is the best choice for their continued patronage. They are very familiar with everything you can and will do for them, and they are no longer shopping around. This marriage may come in the form of a contract, or it may be a far less tangible connection. Whatever the terms and conditions may be, this promise of fidelity is never simply cemented with an ‘I do.’ It takes ongoing effort and continued work to ensure that your business stays top-of-mind and best-suited for your betrothed. As you both grow over time, communication and flexibility may be necessary so that the relationship remains mutually beneficial.
If you’re thinking that a baby in a carriage is what comes next, you’re absolutely right. The offspring of your business/customer relationship are the referrals and reputation that you earn through your ongoing trustworthy performance. The longer you maintain satisfying and strong relationships with choice consumers, the stronger your brand will grow and the more rewarding contacts you will gain throughout the life of your business.