It may seem cliché to say that “business is all about relationships,” but there is a reason clichés like this exist. Business is, in fact, all about the relationships you build from your partners and investors to your staff and employees to customers and vendors. Every business interaction is also a personal interaction, and you should capitalize on every opportunity to strengthen relationships in every area of business.
One of the key relationships– and one that is often overlooked– is that with your vendors and suppliers. Entrepreneurs rightly focus largely on relationships with customers and clients, but your vendors provide the fundamental materials that make your business possible. For many small businesses, relationships with vendors consist of a monthly transaction– a routine in which there is little to no improvement in the relationship.
While your company may be able to survive with this type of mentality, you would be missing a key opportunity for growth and branding. The vendors and suppliers with whom you work provide the chance for cooperative growth, as they have a vested interest in the success of your business. As your company expands, the business you give them grows as well, and you should use this to your advantage.
The best way to strengthen vendor relationships and capitalize on the opportunities therein is through affiliate and incentive programs. These programs not only reward vendors for their business, they also encourage competition and increased business with performance-based incentives.
In case you are inexperienced in building affiliate programs, here is a step-by-step guide:
- Begin building your program from the perspective of the vendor. What would they want to gain? What rewards would encourage business?
- Create a program that is generous towards vendors, specifically encouraging new business and increased performance.
- Develop an email campaign to let all current and potential vendors know about the benefits of your new program.
- Develop a clear and concise tracking system that the vendors can view. Allowing vendors to see their own– and others’– contributions and progress will encourage competition.
- Create monthly bonuses, programs and additional incentives to encourage further performance, enrollment, and participation.
Try to think of vendor relationships similarly to your customer relationships. Keep things exciting; encourage further business, and take advantage of every opportunity to strengthen the relationship.
As an entrepreneur, you likely have your plate full, from the time the sun comes up until the time your head hits the pillow. Starting your own business is one of the most rewarding possible career paths, but running your business takes more time and effort than any traditional job ever could. In addition to developing and improving a quality product/service, you also need effective marketing strategies to get the word out about your business.
Luckily, the marketing of your brand does not need to be one of the more time-consuming elements of building a successful business. You will need stronger outreach and more efforts geared towards marketing early on, but if your startup marketing is done correctly, it should begin to create its own organic growth. This guide is designed to go over a few of the simple marketing techniques that will help your startup reach the right audience and successfully grow into a thriving company.
One of the fundamental keys to marketing success is defining your audience. Your first step should be to research potential customers, focusing on how your service or product will fill a need for them.
- Put yourself in the customer’s shoes and try to understand what they would want from your business.
- Study your competitors’ methods and try to determine how they effectively reach the same type of customers whom you hope to gain.
Once you have identified your target market, the next step will be reaching out to them. Remember that effective marketing is essentially an exercise in communication. Your marketing efforts should speak to potential customers, not at them.
The worst thing a company can do is to gain a customer’s business then immediately abandon them once the transaction is complete. Your current customers have already purchased your product, and these are the people– or at least the demographic– that are most likely to purchase it in the future.
There are three types of follow-ups which can help to show your customers that you plan to build a real relationship with them.
- In Person – You should try to meet customers face-to-face as soon and often as possible.
- Over the Phone – Follow-up calls should be conducted soon after business is transacted to go over details, answer questions and foster a relationship.
- Email / Letter – Thank you letters and emails will go a long way in showing the customer that they are important. The choice of paper or digital may be based on a number of factors, and there are instances when both are good.
Businesses are constantly scrambling to engage and convert new customers. Successful companies need efficient marketing, customer outreach, and sales to let people know about the company and bring in their business. Unfortunately, far too many businesses focus entirely on attracting new customers, and they fail to nurture and retain the customer relationships that they already have.
Every effective marketing strategy begins with analyzing your current customer base. These are people who have already bought your product or engaged your services, and they provide the clearest information on the type of people who should be targeted for future business. But this information is not only useful for statistical data– the people who have used your business in the past are the most likely to use it again in the future.
Understanding Customer Retention
Customer retention is the ability of a brand or business to retain customers through a set of activities, strategies, and actions geared towards customer satisfaction and repeat business. It is an essential part of good business, and it begins at the very first contact between a company and a customer then lasts throughout the entire life of the relationship.
Retention has been shown to have a direct correlation with the profitability of a business. Since retaining current customers is often simpler and cheaper than acquiring new ones, most successful businesses put a premium on customer retention.
How to Retain Customers
There are many factors that are directly related to successful customer retention, and it is not only dependent upon the specific product or service provided. Customer satisfaction is the measurement that is most closely related to retention, and a high level of satisfaction can be achieved with a quality product/service, exceptional customer service, a focus on customer relationships and several other factors.
Some of the most effective strategies for keeping happy customers and earning repeat business include:
- Constant Contact: Simply staying in touch can be the most efficient way of maintaining a good relationship. You should try to stay in contact with your customer base through email, phone, newsletters, social media and any other means that are necessary and appropriate.
- Inside Access: Your current customers should always be offered the best deals, rates, and specials. They should feel as though being your customer makes them part of a special club with inside access to the best parts of the business.
- Professional Integrity: As in any aspect of a business, professional integrity can be the most important element of customer retention. Do what you say; say what you mean, and always uphold any promises and guarantees made to customers. Simple honesty and integrity will do more for your customer relationships than any clever marketing or special deals ever could.
Today we’ll talk about shameless self-promotion. That’s right, I said it! Shameless! After all, we are learning from Paris Hilton here.
It’s all about self-promotion! Self-promotion comes in many forms and you can use different tactics to get your name out there. Look at politicians! Talk about self-promotion and in some not so discreet ways, at that. But, seriously, consider some of the major superstars we all know. Madonna, Donald Trump, Howard Stern and Bill Clinton, just to name a few.
We all self promote. Did you raise your hand in class to show the teacher you knew the answer? Of course! That’s self-promotion. This is the kind of self-promotion we are talking about. With dignity, class and the knowledge to back it up. If you self-promote only to prove you don’t really know what you’re talking about, you’re going to lose business.
Natural self-promoters are the former and I want to tell you about the three major traits they have and use to build themselves and their businesses.
1.The first is position. You need to position yourself around people who can make a difference in your life. You need to do this frequently. You need to wake up every morning and ask yourself “Who can I meet today who will make a difference in my success?” In fact, go a step further, write it in big, bold letters and tape it on your bathroom mirror.
Who can help me meet my goals?
Is it a prospective customer/client? A colleague with contacts? An association with key members who may become prospects?
Don’t settle into interacting with the people who are the easiest to access. You need to reach outside your comfort zone and there you will find a wealth of new connections that will bring you great success
2.Now, let’s talk about Style. No, this doesn’t mean you need an Armani suit to bring in more business (though, let’s be honest-it wouldn’t hurt) J What this really means is how are you different from your competitors and others in your industry. What makes you memorable with customers?
If you are meeting a lot of people and they don’t remember you once you leave the room, you have a serious problem! This means you have an opportunity to present yourself in a more memorable way.
There are lots of little subtle changes you can make. Reassess your:
- Business cards
- Company message
- Your picture
- Your wording
Maybe even, your hairstyle (of course, now we’re back to the expensive suit, but it really works!)
You get the idea. There are lots of little ways you can work on making your image and business more successful. Also, consider how you sound on the phone and how you great people at meetings or other events. Think about your 30-sec elevator speech.
3.The third trait of natural promoters is repetition. You can’t say it once and leave it at that. Successful self-promoters say it as many times as they need until they get a response. Would you remember a commercial for Coca-Cola if you only saw it once, no! You see it over and over and eventually you head out to the store.
You, also, have to make multiple impressions on those you are networking with in order to build brand awareness. Repetition is in direct connection with positioning. Once you find people to network with, reach out and find hundreds more who can help in your success as well.