Whether it’s with co-workers, clients, other organizations, or customers building relationships is important. While this seems obvious, there is always a company who is more interested in a sale than a relationship.
I understand you want to make money but if you look at your customers and only see dollar signs you may not be in business for long. If you want to keep them coming back, you’re going to need more than a great product. You’re going to need to have a relationship with them.
A Lesson in Building Relationships
When I was growing up, my dad worked at an auto dealership. Car salesman aren’t always thought of as the most trustworthy of people but my dad always seem to do really well at it, and he had too. We lived in a small town so making a sale at the customer’s expense was a risky proposition at best. It could not only ruin a reputation but a career.
I had always thought that people bought from him because they wanted the product he was selling such as a Ford or a Chrysler. As the years went by I started to realize that this was not the case.
He changed jobs twice. Once when he decided to start his own business and again when he decided to sell his business and join another dealership.
This could have been an issue but the customers followed him. The same people who bought a Ford from him bought a Toyota from him. It turned out that they didn’t care what he sold. Rather, they wanted to buy from him and only him because of the relationship that had been built.
Like Relationships, Rapport is Essential
Building relationships can be the difference between a business’ success and failure. Research has shown that people are more likely to buy a product or service if they have met you.
Chances are if you go to the car lot or any other business, you won’t know anybody there. You’re going to deal with somebody you’ve never met. It’s the same for your business as well. In a perfect world, you would know everybody but we don’t live in a perfect world so you will have to build a rapport with somebody quickly.
I used to work in call centers. People don’t call because everything is great. They call because they have a question or a problem. That really sets the tone but in a few minutes, I could build a rapport with my caller to the point to where they trusted me. I never took that for granted and I had some great conversations with people. By the time we hung up, it felt like they were a new friend.
Building Relationships in the Internet Age
We are in an age where people can go to a website and purchase a product. It doesn’t matter whether it is clothing, groceries or cars. In many cases, we don’t need to ever interact with a person.
It’s more difficult to build a relationship when we aren’t able to interact with somebody but it’s still possible. I was talking to my parents recently about a conversation I had with somebody in Chicago. They asked me how I knew this person. Did we meet at a conference?
I didn’t meet her at a conference and I have never been to Chicago. The truth is we have never met in person but I know where she grew up, went to school and even her major. I know her work history and some of her experiences in the marketing communication industry. I read her blog all the time and she shared much of this information. The rest I found out talking to her through comments on blogs and in forums.
Many times we are so caught up in our message that we forget to be human. Whether you are sharing knowledge or persuading your audience in a certain course of action such as to buy a product or service, don’t forget to be a person. Sharing your experiences can be a great way for people to connect with you.
A Brand can make a Connection too
When something resonates with people, they will feel a connection and create their own idea of what it means. I remember meeting people who were huge fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer but it was more than a television show to them.
People create their own meanings. It’s why Star Wars and Harry Potter have such fanatical followings. These two series have created meaning with people in a way that their creators probably never thought was possible.
They are die-hard fans who see the movies, watch the TV show, read all the books, buy the merchandise, and go to conventions.
It’s not limited to entertainment. I met somebody at a conference several years ago who loved Verizon. When I asked her why it all tied back to the experience that she had when she was a teenager and got her first phone at the Verizon store.
I have used Apple computers since I was seven years old and I have always felt like my Apple products were more than just products. However, I didn’t meet anybody from Apple until I went to my first store when I was in my early thirties.
People joke about the Cult of Mac but there are those who are very passionate about Apple. I have met people who feel the same way about a car company or even a specific model of car. As you saw earlier, it can even be with a phone company.
If you have a brick and mortar store, you have an amazing opportunity to not only make a sale but create a relationship with somebody. I stayed a customer at a bank that I did not like because I loved the people at my local branch. I had great conversations with them. When they finally left, so did I.
Building relationships is hard work. This is especially true when you’re a brand but it’s worth it. Don’t discount what a relationship can do for business.
It will create more loyalty and goodwill than the most successful marketing campaign. A good relationship can be mutually rewarding for everybody involved, and it will keep your customers coming back.