Businesses today must look upon this element of relationship-building with the utmost seriousness and invest the resources needed to build long-lasting two-way relationships with their customers.
Every successful relationship is built on three things: trust, reciprocity and clear communication.
That's it! I mean, think about it. In any of your best relationships, be it with your spouse, business partner, employer, church - yes, church! These three components exist, right? Especially in the relationships that stand the test of time.
Both parties get something of value out of the relationship, there is trust between all parties, trust that each can and will deliver on their promise and the ability for all parties to hear and be heard with next to zero misunderstandings. Any relationship regardless of how badly wanted will fizzle over time if all three are not present.
Your relationship with your customers, and by extension the general public is no different. Oftentimes, newer companies and some mature ones lose track of these truths. So if you are or hope to be in a long-lasting relationship with your customer base and each tribe of customers, you must work to establish the aforementioned elements.
In this article, we shall examine some of the steps you must take within your marketing efforts and your general corporate culture to help build this coveted long-term relationship. The kind shared between brands like Starbucks and their customers all over the world. Or the kind of relentless passion folks have when it comes to their Apple products.
Listen with all your heart
Businesses today must look upon this element of relationship-building with the utmost seriousness. We must stand, ready to lend a sincere listening ear to our prospects and customers alike. Only then can we develop a full and rich picture of the diversity of needs and solutions required by our often diverse groups of users, clients and/customers.
We must create various systems, whether online or offline to allow our customers to share valuable feedback with us. This kind of open-door policy is most evident with the way Trader Joe's, #2 on Forbes' List of "Companies with the best customer service (2018)", treats and interacts with its customer base.
The Value health foods Grocer, over the last decade or so, has built various initiates around which customers, most of who live and work in communities where these eponymous stores are located, can actively participate with the development of new products, store design, inventory and so forth.
What are they into?
Businesses and marketers today must recognize that their customers are dynamic individuals with varying needs, expectations and interests. During instances when we interact with our customers, whether during focus groups, online forums, or during customer support sessions. We must focus part of our efforts on getting to know our customers as segments and tribes and as individuals as much as we can.
We must extend ourselves to take notes on our customers' favorite pass times, ambitions, goals, etc. We will possess the resources and information we need to build a more intimate relationship with our communities of customers.
Large outfits like Amazon and Harris Teeter invest a great deal of time and money into getting to know their customers. With the help of AI and machine learning, the Seatle-based eCommerce giant, for instance, is able to deliver goods and services finely curated to pique the interest of each unique customer. Thereby making each shopping experience seamless and intuitive.
For customers, shopping is a breeze as the site serves up just what you need, even sometimes before you know you needed it. For the company, such predictive analytics has led to increased profits, cost reduction and brand penetration.
Harris Teeter, the Charlotte, NC-Based subsidiary of Ralphs, via various initiatives aimed at getting to know their customers, are able to tailor each store to the unique needs of those within each community who shop at their stores.
For some neighborhoods, their stores may have fully stocked wine bars, equipped with live music on the weekends. Others may have the added luxury of having a fully-staffed bakery at their local Store, with catering and meal delivery services.
How have others treated them in the past?
Whether we like to admit it or not, during courtship, when we are getting to know someone, the type of person we hope to date and more, this always comes up. Both parties at some point will express some pain points in our previous relationship.
This is a natural part of relationship-building. We tell the new guy or gal why perhaps we left the old one, or vice versa (although it is not often that we advertise why we were dumped). What we liked and dislikes about the ex.
Customers do the same all the time. Our prospective customers and our existing ones will not hesitate to express to us why they stopped using a particular product or service. Even more so these days as they (customers) now have a plethora of outlets to do so.
Aside from the general social media sounding boards, there are outlets like Yelp, TripAdvisor, and even sites like AppRater when it comes to software products. All these platforms are available to allow users and customers alike to share their thoughts and views on a range of products and services.
Let's face it. We are all living in the "how am I doing?" world now. As Comedian Bill Maher talked about in a recent "New Rules" segment. It is then our responsibility as business owners to listen carefully and use this information to build better products and ultimately better relationships with our tribe(s) of customers.
We must, as part of our on-boarding processes make every effort to inquire how our new customers found out about our offering, if they have used a similar product or service, and make every effort to find out what they disliked and liked about their previous experience. Gathering this information will help us curate every experience to meet the unique needs of our different groups of customers. More about tribe segmenting and curation later.
Announce your values
Go beyond your mission statement. Express, to your customers, prospective customers, and the community as a whole what you stand for. Let folks know what your values are as a company or organization.
Many surveys have shown that the modern-day customer or even employee wants to know where their company stands on a range of social issues. Younger audiences especially will go out of their way to spend money and/or work for companies that mirror or complement their values. Folks these days want brands to be part of the social dialog.
A recent poll by Sprout Social found that "two-thirds of consumers (66 percent) say it's important for brands to take public stands on social and political issues," while a 2017 Edelman survey agreed that "the majority of Millennials (60 percent) are belief-driven buyers."
Big multi-national brands, based on their research have found that when trying to reach a younger audience, they must strive hard to express their position on the social issues these audiences care about the most.
As was the case with Is Gillette's, controversial campaign calling out men to do more to fight back against toxic masculinity. Or Pepsi's Kendall Jenner, fight-the-power ad.
As a brand, you must take the opportunity to let your audience know what you are all about and where you stand on the topics of the day. Social media can serve as the ideal launchpad for your communication in this regard.
Meet the family
My husband once told me that most of the brands he buys are relics from his childhood. He told me the reason he likes Calvin Klein's Eternity, although no one below the age of 60 even knows this fragrance exists is because this was his dad's favorite cologne growing up. He loves the smell of "Eternity" because it reminds him of his childhood.
The smell, he said, transports him back to his parents' house with his five other siblings playing pranks on each other and the countless movie nights they enjoyed as a family.
I am sure you have or know someone who feels loyalty to a brand or two because it is a favorite of a family member. As a business/brand you must adjust your marketing and brand outreach activities to cater to your tribe of customers and their family members as well.