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Building client relationships is crucial for any business. Customer support – and fandom in the form of word of mouth – will determine if a startup survives.

Simply put, if you’re in business, you must have customers. Think of the 80-20 rule. Ideally, spend only 20 percent of your effort retaining clients, and continually build that base. That makes good client relationships the core of any business.

“Understand the client first,” Anne Kedi Siade said. “To build a relationship with an individual, you need to know him. What are his needs, his motivations and in which way does he best want to interact? That’s where it all starts.”

Kedi Siade is a young entrepreneur in transport and marketing, giving her customer-relationship experience in those fields.

“Be fully aligned,” she said. “Many companies lose it all because they refuse to accept that reality and act accordingly. The customer needs to feel valued for his contribution.”

“Relations” is the keyword. Never lose sight that you serve individuals, each of them with special wants, needs and pain points. Although you might have a general approach, remember that one size does not fit all.

Building relationships also demands follow up. Don’t close and go. While you count your money, your competition will step in to continue from where you left off to build their own long-term associations. 

Business owners should work to build genuine relationships with their ideal audience. 

Relationship initiatives start with knowing your audience. Learn their common traits and habits. If it’s a church group, attend congregation meetings. Get to know the group as individuals. Much like social media, don’t rush in trying to sell.

Closing a sale is only the first step in a relationship. Create a closing questionnaire that lists all the services you offer. That can open the door to other sales neither you nor your client previously considered.

Overall, relationship marketing is the art of truly understanding who your ideal audience and client base are. That will boost your conversion rates. 

“Relationship marketing is a whole set,” Kedi Siade said. “To identify the initiative with the higher conversation rate, you need to observe your customers’ habits.

“Once you understand what drives them — and how they interact with your brand — you can choose the best initiative,” she said. “That can be online, offline or both.”

Another factor critical in building a successful relationship marketing strategy is time.

“You need to be patient and consistent,” Kedi Siade said. “Results can’t be expected overnight. The program also should allow for testing, evaluation and adjustment.

“This is when you have direct customers,” she said. “For high-consumption goods, observation also is a key. The idea is to understand mainly the consumers’ decision path. In any case, patience and consistency can be implemented.”

Whether it’s a large account or a small one, treat each client as high value. That will keep you in the frame of mind to provide optimum service and help stave off loss of a customer. Extra effort early in a relationship builds resistance to client loss later.

“Exactly, we should not allow situations to get out of the edge,” Kedi Siade said. “This means having great tracking tools in place, especially at the level of sales teams, with great coordination from marketing. Have a general high sense of reactivity.”

At the first sign of client loss, ask about the problem. Is it dissatisfaction with your service or a competitor stepping in? Review the benefits of your service or product. Many times, a client forgets over time or falls prey to a competitor’s pitch.

People want to be treated with honesty, integrity, truth and a blend of policy and the golden rule.

“The first critical bit about possible client loss would be to make sure I understand from end-to-end how I got to this situation,” Kedi Siade said. “What are the responsibilities of everyone in the process?

“After identifying the drivers of his decision, take the opportunity to meet the client and give an offer that makes him feel valued and considered,” she said. “At the same time, set a new basis for the relationship.”

True client focus starts in training. The emphasis must be on what entrepreneurs can provide for clients rather than how much individual sales will line their pockets. Doing good for others first will benefit the owner and the rest of the organization in the long run.

An organization should be passionate about customer service. Why would customers be satisfied if they are not successful with the product or service?

“The quality of customer-service channels — from ordering to delivering and invoicing – shows customer focus,” Kedi Siade said. “That includes personalized service, promptness and efficiency.”

Referrals are the best indicator of client acquisition success. That shows your customers have such great confidence in you that they will refer friends and family. Their word of mouth is an automatic warm market that you can build on and expand.

The more people talk about a business, the greater its chance for success. More chatter translates to more income.

“Repurchase rate can be one of the critical items — measuring if there has been at least one repurchase along with measuring the frequency of repurchase,” Kedi Siade said. “Referral also is one key item to consider as well. Again, be totally aligned.”

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Jim Katzaman
Jim Katzaman is a manager at Largo Financial Services. A writer by trade, he graduated from Lebanon Valley College, Pennsylvania, with a Bachelor of Arts in English. He enlisted in the Air Force and served for 25 years in public affairs – better known in the civilian world as public relations. He also earned an Associate’s Degree in Applied Science in Public Affairs. Since retiring, he has been a consultant and in the federal General Service as a public affairs specialist. He also acquired life and health insurance licenses, which resulted in his present affiliation with Largo Financial Services. In addition to expertise in financial affairs, he gathers the majority of his story content from Twitter chats. This has led him to publish about a wide range of topics such as social media, marketing, sexual harassment, workplace trends, productivity and financial management. Medium has named him a top writer in social media.

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