Location, Location, Location!
No, this is not a real estate tip. I'm actually writing more about "proximity" than "location," but hopefully the metaphor will play out successfully....
As a small business or local nonprofit, you have one distinct advantage over the big players: you have the opportunity to form direct relationships with your customers. It may not always be face to face, but you have the ability to create an intimacy that just can't be duplicated on a mass scale. Having proximity opens the doors to opportunities that are extremely cumbersome for a larger entity to attempt to emulate.
Every time you talk with a customer in person, email someone who has a question, or engage in conversation with a client on the phone, you’re building a relationship. You often know the names of your customers and what they like. You may even know something about their personal lives. In today's mass-communicated environment, your ability to build personal relationships can be the biggest advantage you have.
Two of my best clients came through what some may call serendipity, but which are great examples of building and leveraging relationships.
While volunteering at a local business event, a corporate marketing and public relations veteran I had worked with in the past (and had not seen in several years) saw me, asked me what I'd been up to, mentioned she was now working for a new organization, and that they were looking for someone to produce a series of videos for them. A few days later, the job was mine. And to date, I've produced dozens of projects for them.
A couple of years ago, I received a call from a large, nonprofit Southern California hospital. They had been referred to me by their Vice President of Development, who I had worked with for several years back in the '80's and '90's in a completely different industry, then lost track of for almost a decade. A few days later, I started my first project with them. To date, I've produced more than a dozen projects for them as well.
Serendipity? Or proximity? My proximity to both decision-makers wasn't even current! Yet, the foundations I had built years before were not lost. The relationships were established. The sense of trust was fixed. They knew who I was and what I was capable of. They knew I had the ability, and the personality, to provide exactly what they were looking for. Of course, I still had to produce. This was not nepotism, but rather a foot in the door. And if you're good at what you do, that door is twenty feet wide and beckoning you to come in!
Let’s dig a little deeper here.
1. Your business has a personality
When you integrate your personality into your business, it differentiates you from your competition - and allows people the opportunity to decide to work with your organization because of who you are. That greatly reduces the tendency for customers to focus on tangibles that are the easiest for your competitors to match.
Of course, convenience and pricing are always going to be factors in their purchasing decision, but a great experience is also a deciding factor. In fact, a 2011 Accenture Survey found that service experience and brand awareness (your company’s personality) are the top factors for customers making a purchase - not price.
2. You know your customers
You know your customers in a way that big businesses don’t. If someone tweets you, you may know who they are. If they call the store, you probably know their name.
Your customers will remember their interactions with you, whether it was virtually or face-to-face. If it was a good interaction, they’ll tell friends about it and they’ll keep coming back.
3. You can build relationships that last
A lot of your customers are coming to you because they genuinely like your business, and the more times they come back, the more likely they are to become your most loyal fans. Long-lasting relationships can be the most important part of your company's sustainability and growth.
So, ask yourself:
- How do I make sure that my relationships with customers last?
- How can I continue to build those relationships?
- How do I show the personality of my business across all points of contact? (I.e. in store, on my website, in my emails, etc.)
- How can I use my personality to create a memorable - or Wow! - experience for my customers?
- How can I give my customers recommendations that suit their individual needs?
The odds are good that you already have great relationships with your customers. Continue to focus on those relationships. You’ll find that your current customers are your best source of new business, because they end up marketing your business for you!
Thanks to Blaise Lucey @BlaiseLucey00 for his insights on this subject.