I've been going to a video store up the road from my house for years. They have a good selection of movies and TV series and the staff is super cool to deal with. I enjoy going there in the week to see what new or interesting selections have arrived.
I recently questioned why I enjoy the experience so much. After all it's just a video store. And in this digital age of streaming media, things can be more easily accessed with a lot less hassle. I decided for me that it's a few things; firstly there's a sense of community. We share a common ground: films. So there is always banter around what's new or interesting. Coupled with that there is general chitchat around day-to-day life, which is often very amusing. And lastly I get great service, I'm told via SMS when new movies arrive. As a result of all these factors I've become loyal to my video store.
I think the same can be said of relationships in your own business. So often we let the digital age do all the work - emails, texts, Skype sessions, etc. - instead of real personal contact. Don't get me wrong, digital contact is beneficial and it gets things done. It's far easier to send a mail than make a call or to have a Skype session instead of meeting in person.
The trouble with functioning like this is your relationships often become paper thin, as digital can be very impersonal. And personal contact, much like the video store story I shared earlier, creates a shared experience. This makes you memorable to your clients. If you don't make an impression you'll never stand out from your competitors and you'll always be judged on price only.
At the same time ensure you add real value to your clients and don't just expect work because you've got a relationship. That is nepotism and we can clearly see what that does to the public sector where 'friends' win business but don't add the value.
So how do you do this? Here are 5 simple things that will make a significant impact.
1) Take a genuine interest in your clients. See the relationship, not just the money.
2) Go the extra mile. Do small things above and beyond what's required. See the person not just the task.
3) Say thank you for the opportunity to work with them. Good manners go a long way.
4) Ask for feedback after a job. Look for areas you can improve on.
5) Keep your word even if it hurts. This includes keeping them posted with possible delays or issues.
I've no doubt that if you try these simple things consistently you'll develop deeper client relationships all round. And it will only be a matter of time before your business gets referred to other people your clients know.
You see life would be very boring if it was just all business. Relationships form the core of good business not just a better deal.