How to Create Meaningful Relationships with Your Customers

Whether you run a small personal business, or a large multinational operation, it's important to value your customers. While many great companies are built on the backbone of their people - the revenue streams come from paying customers. So, if you go out of your way to make your employees happy, then you should be doing at least as much for your clients. When times are hard and consumers are cutting back, it's your customers who will keep your business alive, not your employees.

Think Long Term

The key to forging meaningful relationships is to plan for the long term and nurture your clients over time. But don't despair if your business is still in the startup stages. Actually, you have the perfect opportunity to build a CRM system that will allow you to gather pertinent information about your clients and target your marketing campaigns. From remembering their birthdays to their buying preferences, all additional details that you can capture about your customers will help forge long-lasting relationships.

Jack Mitchell, CEO of Mitchell Family Stores and author of "Hug Your Customers," believes that the key to lasting relationships is in building a "hugging culture" throughout your company. You may not be in a position to physically hug your customers (and you may not want to). But the term broadly translates into giving your customers what they want. If you deal with people face-to-face, then remember little details about them, such as the name of their dog, or an important event they went to last week.

If your business is largely internet based, then use social media to talk to your customers and humanize your brand. It may not be the same as physically exchanging a dialog, handshake, or even hug with your customers, but responding to comments and interacting online can help to make customers feel valued.

Alejandro Chabán, creator of fitness plan, Yes You Can!, is a great believer in the power of social media to enhance customer relationships. He personally interacts with his followers on social media and congratulates his clients on their successes. He also hosts random weekly VIP calls with customers to listen to their challenges and encourage them in their weight loss efforts.

Speak Their Language

If you do business on a global scale, you'll already know about the need to localize your marketing message to your overseas audiences. But even if you only work stateside, or in a small community, speaking to your customers in their own language is vital. While that might sound like an obvious statement, it doesn't mean simply communicating in the same tongue. Speaking your customers' language is about developing a deep understanding of who your customers are.

So, if you don't share the same socioeconomic demographic or culture as them, then be sure to put in your research. Better yet, tap into your own experiences to empathize with your customers. As a Latino immigrant, arriving from Venezuela to the states in the year 2000, Chabán was overweight and unhappy. He felt misunderstood and underrepresented. He knew that he wanted to lose weight, but not one of the weight loss plans he came across spoke to his needs - or in his native language.

Years later, Chabán would go on a mission to meet the needs of his customers by developing a healthy meal plan rich in Latino flavors. His customers can identify with the Yes You Can! brand and message because it resonates with them on a personal level. Not only does he speak English and Spanish, but he ensures that his motivation coaches are bilingual as well.

Learn from Their Feedback

You can only achieve meaningful relationships with your customers by listening and learning from them. So, find out what they need and want. Don't be afraid to ask, and don't make any assumptions when it comes to providing the product or service you think your customers will like. If you have the opportunity to visit them or interact with them physically, then always be aware of your body language. It can be pretty obvious how you feel about people by the way you present yourself.

Once you have a good idea of who your customers are and learn to speak to their needs, learn from their feedback and use their suggestions to improve. After all, they're the ones closest to your product and usually the first people to find any potential flaws. If you have long term relationships based on trust and respect, your customers will come to you with any negative problems before the word goes viral. Understanding how to communicate with your clients is the key to any successful marketing strategy.