When it comes to relationship marketing, there are only three rules that matter:
- Be relevant. Your customers’ attention is a scarce resource, so don’t squander it by wasting their time – and yours.
- Be engaging. Communicate with your customers using whatever channel provides the highest engagement without being disruptive (for most brands, that’s email).
- Be helpful. Even when you sell, or entertain, add value to your customers.
These rules hold fast whenever you interact with you customers, across every channel – but they are especially important to keep in mind for these three:
- Customer support (the most helpful channel).
- Email (the highest-engagement channel).
- Content (the most relevant channel).
Every time a customer interacts with your brand, you have an opportunity to add value to them, and improve your long-term relationship. To help you accomplish it, we’ve put together a list of 9 strategies you can use in all your customer interactions.
Some of those strategies are low-effort, and will work brilliantly at scale. Others won’t scale at all, and require a lot of energy and attention to detail to pull off.
But all of them are highly effective, and will create a meaningful bond with your customers – a bond that will help you stand out from the competition, grow your business, and create loyal customers for life.
So, without further ado, let’s dive right in!
1. Send small gifts
As we’ve written before, when your goal is to make your customers fall in love with your brand, the little things are the big things. Whatever industry you’re in, if you can differentiate your business from the competition in any way, however small, you will have an edge over everybody else.
That’s where the power of small but meaningful gestures really shines. And sending gifts to your customers is perhaps the most effective gesture of them all.
They don’t have to be inventive, either: a box of chocolate chip cookies, a badge – even a postcard, or some custom stickers can work!
Even if they don’t end up using your gift, it’s the gesture itself that counts.
Most of your competitors would never think to do something like that – that’s why this strategy is bound to impress your customers and strengthen your relationship with them.
2. Don’t close the loop
After you have talked to a customer, don’t just say, “Have a nice day!” and move on. Always leave an opportunity for them to get back to you, and keep the conversation going.
Even saying simple things like, “Can I help you with anything else?” or “Let me know how it goes?” matters. They send a message to your customers – that you care about them, and that you genuinely care about their problems and concerns.
This is a common practice when it comes to customer service (and we hope you use it), but you can take advantage of it in other ways, like:
- When you respond to people on social media or in your blog comments, finish with a question that allows your dialogue to continue.
- When you reach out with an email broadcast, invite your customers to reply.
- In every communication, however one-sided, give people a next step of some kind.
This is a simple practice, and its only job is to keep the line of communication open – all so your relationship can continue to grow.
3. Follow up and check in
If strategy #2 was all about keeping the loop open, this one is about – you guessed it! – closing it.
Let’s say you interact with a customer and help them solve a problem with your product or service. A lesser brand would mark it solved, forget all about it, and move on.
But you can use this opportunity to reconnect with the customer later, just to ask them…
- What’s going on?
- Are they still having that problem?
- Is there anything else you can do?
Actually, here’s another good example: if someone requests a new feature for your product or service, and you happen to launch it a some time later – let them know!
Although it’s literally the opposite of strategy #2, closing the loop achieves the same effect: it reminds your customers that you exist, it adds value in a really authentic way, and it makes your customers feel special. What’s not to like?
4. Turn people away
Yes, you’ve read that right!
You see, there’s one counter-intuitive thing that all great businesses do… They tell “no” to people who want to spend money with them – but who would be better served elsewhere.
It happens for different reasons:
- Maybe your offer isn’t the best fit for what they want to achieve.
- Maybe you’re fully booked and can’t give them the attention they deserve.
- Maybe investing in your offer doesn’t make sense for them at the time.
Whatever the context, a truly great brand will resist the temptation to cash in on an eager prospect, and play the long game.
They would turn them away – or even refer them to a competitor… if the competitor can do a better job serving them!
Here’s the rationale being it: a short-term sale isn’t the most important thing for your business growth. The long-term investment in a great customer relationship can be much more valuable – ten times, or a hundred… or a thousand times.
It can pay off in referrals, positive buzz, and in dozens of other non-obvious ways. All because you decided to take the high road and forego instant gratification!
5. Stick to your guns (or bend the rules)
If the way you interact with customers adheres by strict policies and rules, more power to you!
And if you think that customer satisfaction is more important than principles, or some silly policies, that’s great too.
All that matters is that you pick one – and convey it clearly to your customers.
Just don’t be half-hearted about it. You can’t please everyone and do both. Don’t ever say, “Well, we don’t do X – it’s against our policies. But this time, we’ll make an exception for you.”
Either let people know that their happiness is your highest priority… or that you operate under a set principles you won’t break for anybody, no matter what.
The former will make customers love you more, but it might open up the doors to abuse. The latter might lose you some business, but it will make sure that only the right people are left.
It’s up to you. Prioritize the outcome that matters to you, and act accordingly.
6. Give surprise discounts
Normally we don’t endorse discounts – we think that they cheapen your brand and attract the wrong type of customer (like the #4 on this list).
That said, discounts can be highly useful in a specific context. Like when you just landed a customer, and you want to have a quick and easy way to delight them from the get-go. Something you can use at a moment’s notice.
Giving them a surprise discount, even a small one, is a great way to do that. Even if it’s a token gesture, like 5% off their next order, it’s still a great technique to “break the ice” and start the relationship on the right foot!
7. Commemorate special occasions
Chances are, there are dates and holidays out there that are meaningful to your customers. They could be birthdays, professional holidays, anniversaries – anything that they would remember and want to celebrate, even if you didn’t remind them.
It also helps if you can find an occasion that helps you stand out from the onslaught of identical Christmas-, Halloween-, and Thanksgiving-themed announcements. We know that everyone loves those holidays… and that’s exactly the problem!
You don’t want to be like everyone. Whenever possible, find a more unique way to strengthen your relationship with your customers.
8. Celebrate your milestones
Celebrating milestones – the more impressive the better – achieves two things: it gives you an excuse to reach out to your customers, and it provides some nice social proof… which is critical for marketing!
Here are some ideas of announcement-worthy milestones you could celebrate:
- When a customer has been with you for X years.
- When you’ve reached X thousand customers / users / followers on social media / email subscribers – you name it!
- When you’ve sold the Xth copy of your product.
You get the idea. A meaningful milestone doesn’t need to be gigantic – just big enough to attract your customers’ attention!
9. Proactively solve problems
Let’s come back to customer support for a moment and consider this: why do customers reach out to your support staff?
Most of the time, they want to have a question answered, or get their problem solved.
Like every interaction with a customer, it can strengthen your relationship – or weaken it. And the best way to make sure that the relationship doesn’t weaken is to teach your support staff to be proactive when solving the problems or answering questions.
Encourage them to think, “What’s one extra step that I can take to resolve this problem right here, right now… without making the customer wait?”
For instance, if a customer contacts you to say that their order still hasn’t arrived in the mail, what would a proactive reaction be?
A good customer support agent would probably try to get to the bottom of the issue:
- They would ask more questions.
- They would offer helpful instructions on how to talk to the customer’s local post office.
- They would promise to contact their fulfillment service.
But a great customer support agent would send out a replacement and notify the customer that it’s on the way. Then, they would let them know that they were looking into the issue, and they would update the customer later. That’s it!
Whenever possible, be proactive and take an extra step to improve your customer’s experience. Out of all the strategies we’ve discussed so far, this one is probably the most powerful – use it!
Like most meaningful relationships, the bond with your customers is hard to cultivate, but extremely easy to jeopardize. It will take many authentic, delightful interactions to get your customers to fall in love with your brand, and that’s fine. Rest assured that the payoffs, both tangible and intangible, will be worth it.
And if you take the insights from today’s post and apply them to your business, you will never run out of ideas for delighting your customers – enjoy!
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