Unforgettable Customer Relationship Events
If you find yourself dragging your feet at the golf course or stifling a yawn during a business dinner, imagine how your client is feeling. OK, you know that developing relationships with customers is important to building profits and helping grow your business, but is it worth your time and effort? Yes, it is, and here’s some proof:
A large manufacturer decided to test the financial impact of having a personal relationship with their customers, so for six months they heightened their interaction with 500 customers through enhanced phone, email and mail contact. Then they compared their purchasing behavior with a control group. The result? The test group made 30 percent more orders than the control group, and their orders were larger than the control group’s — and larger than the orders which they themselves had placed during the previous six-month period.1
As a small-business owner or one-person micro-enterprise, you have a great opportunity to get up close and personal with your loyal customers. And you can do even more than rely solely on contact via phone, email and mail. Yes, it takes time and effort and a little creativity, but developing personal relationships with your clients is good for your business.
So if you and your clients are bored with cloned events (i.e., the obligatory golf game and dinner), plan ones your most-cherished customers will look forward to and remember. How do you do that? You choose activities as unique as they are. Don’t be afraid to get a little crazy! The positive buzz spurred by these customized events can make prospective customers look into what makes your company so special.
Find the right match
When you know what tickles their fancy and what bores them to tears, you can set the perfect scene for your customers to enjoy and tweet about.
Not sure how to get started? Send them an email, note or letter to learn about what type of event they prefer. “Personalize it completely — not a form letter,” says Kathy Klotz-Guest, speaker, writer and founder of marketing consultancy Keeping It Human, Inc. She says sending a handwritten note will personalize your message even more.
“Write to those customers and say, ‘Thank you for being a loyal customer. We see you bought such-and-such, we hope you enjoy your purchase.’ Then tell them you want to honor them with a special event, and ask them what they’d enjoy.”
Based on their responses, search for activities that are outdoorsy, sports-related, for a good cause, artsy, daring — whatever fits their personality. Or ask your customers to suggest events. “Let them have a stake in it, because now they’ll feel their presence matters,” Klotz-Guest says.
Personalize their experience
To really woo your customers, keep your event exclusive, make it fun and get creative. “Get 10 of your best customers together and have a thank-you dinner, with giveaways,” Klotz-Guest suggests. “Let them meet each other and get some networking value out of it.”
If you could provide a unique, intimate experience to thank them for their business, what would that event look like? Try these ideas on for size:
For the ambitious:
- Go rock-climbing — indoors or out.
- Strap on snowshoes or go downhill or cross-country skiing.
- Perfect your aim at an archery or shooting range.
- Take a hot air balloon ride or rent bikes for a lakeside lap.
For the casually active:
- Go to a local sporting event. If you sponsor a kids’ team, hand out T-shirts with the team’s name and your logo, and set up a cheering section.
- Host a pool or beach party, or a picnic barbecue at a local park. Prepare a team game to break the ice.
- Book a private tour at a museum or city zoo.
- Try your navigation skills with geocaching.
- Participate in an interactive whodunit murder mystery at a dinner theater.
For the artsy:
- Sponsor a silent auction to raise funds for a good cause. Ask local businesses to contribute auction items, and invite customers with a shared interest.
- Organize an after-hours VIP shopping event, complete with refreshments and exclusive discounts. If you don’t own a retail store, ask a local shop if they’ll host. Most owners will love the opportunity for extra business and the chance to win new customers of their own.
- Visit an art gallery on opening night or attend a jazz concert or play.
- Take a culinary class, or invite a local chef to your location for a private lesson.
Maintain strong long-distance relationships
If you’re in e-commerce and your customers live thousands of miles away, you can still show them your appreciation:
- Research their interests and order tickets to events or activities in their area.
- Ship gifts and include a personalized note that shows you’ve done your homework.
Then follow up afterward to “share” in their experience.
Reap the rewards
Have fun with your customers at the event, but make sure it brings value to your company and to theirs. “Talk about your business and ask for their opinions. If you’ve got a product in the pipeline, now’s the time to get feedback,” Klotz-Guest says. “Ask them to design what they would consider their ideal product.”
Engaging them in your small business helps create interest and build loyalty. “Suggest they share pictures of the event, and tweet about it. You’re getting mileage not only in mindshare but in social media, too.”
“[Hosting an event] is not only about thanking your best customers, it’s about getting to know them and letting them get to know you,” she says. Klotz-Guest emphasizes that the event should serve a dual purpose for you and your customers: “It’s a two-way street with a goal of building a strong relationship.”
Deepen the relationship
After the event, maintain a strong relationship with your customers and thank them for any referrals they send your way. You may find they become your best cheerleaders. “You don’t just want them to keep buying, you want them to talk about you,” Klotz-Guest says.
Celebrate your customers
For more ways on how to grow your business by building strong relationships with your customers, go to Serve Customers.
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1 Arthur Middleton Hughes (July 21, 2014). “How Relationship Marketing Built Profits,” Database Marketing Institute.