Over the course of fifteen years, I have purchased five Saturn compact cars. In that same time frame, I bought four Gateway computers. Setting aside for the moment my incredible talent for choosing brands destined for extinction (perhaps Kellogg should take note…I do love their cereals and my patronage seems to be a kind of kiss of death), I think the bigger picture here is about brand loyalty. For me and Saturn and Gateway, that all began with relationship-building.
No matter how big or small your business, your success is dependent on relationships, e.g. with existing customers, with potential customers, with vendors, with contractors, with your employees, with your partners. The cigar-chewing, acid-tongued executive may foster fear, but he also nurtures contempt. And in the end, everyone with whom he does business knows that he just doesn’t care.
The proof of all this for me is that if Saturn and Gateway hadn’t gone the way of the Triceratops, I wouldn’t be buying their brands anymore anyway. Why? Because they were like the small town yokels that hit it big on Broadway and then forgot about their roots and the folks back home. Too busy to care, only interested in making a buck, they never called, they never wrote, they never sent flowers anymore. (Actually, they never sent flowers at all, but they both used to offer free services and perks and promos that evaporated as soon as success sullied their souls.)
The lesson then is to never stop working on those relationships because you want your customers, your loyal employees, your dependable contractors and vendors to be around for a long, long time.
Today’s vocab will help you begin to build those important relationships.
Questionnaire –Never underestimate the power of this simple document. Use it to gather clients’ demographic information, their motivation for buying, products they’d like to see developed, complaints they might have. Then post it to your website, shoot it out in an email, throw it on a postcard and into a mailbox. Never stop information gathering. It will keep you connected and show you care.
Referral—It’s time to start naming names, imposing on relationships and just generally making a pest of yourself (at least with your family.) With current clients, offer an incentive for referrals—a bonus, a reward, a gift. Tell family members they’re out of the will if they don’t give you at least three names, then follow up, and ask those three for more referrals. Always remember to ask for a referral or three and you’ll be amazed at how quickly your network and customer base will grow. interest in the product.
Social media—Okay, if you don’t know what social media is, may I be the first to welcome you to the planet earth. That aside, just because you know what it is , doesn’t necessarily mean you’re using it or taking advantage of its fantastic capability to build your business. If not, then it is time. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, etc. We’re going to look at them and you WILL learn how to use them.
Finally, remember when you used to come home from school and your mother would ask you, “Did you make any new friends today?” When you’re operating your small business, you need to ask yourself that question everyday. (Quite likely, it won’t annoy you as much as it did when mom asked you.)
Photo credit: Louisa Stokes, http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=1722