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Is your business showing love?

By Terri Wiebold

For many, Valentine’s Day is an opportunity to show those you love or care about a little extra affection and attention. In a romantic relationship, that might mean flowers, chocolates, dinner out or maybe even a Hallmark card. But what about a business relationship? Aren’t the things that build meaningful personal relationships the same things that make great business relationships?

Telling someone you appreciate them is wonderful, but is it enough? Here are a few ideas for ways to solidify your business relationships and maybe even take them to the next level:

Declare your love.
I’m not suggesting you change your relationship status on Facebook or anything, but if you have not done so already, be sure to “like” and “follow” your business partners on social media. Giving them a shout out is a great way to show how much you appreciate their business. The fact that you took the time to acknowledge them will make a memorable impression. Posting a review on February 14 that starts, “I LOVE this business!” is a great way to show your appreciation.

Show them the real you.
It’s natural to want your business to come off as professional with a clean website and corporate-looking “contact us” information, but try to create opportunities that highlight your personality too. Video is a great way to introduce yourself on a website or in social media posts – and the more casual, the better. Personal photos also show a more intimate side of you and your staff, whether on your website, in your advertising or on your business cards (although someone recently told me that business cards were passe’ and no one uses them anymore). I do not agree.

Give them your digits.
Today’s customer wants to connect personally – and not just via a live voice on the other end of the phone. They want to connect on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. When a consumer becomes a fan of your business, they want to share their enthusiasm with everyone they are connected to. Make it easy for them to give you some social love. Clearly position your profile information on your social media, website and company emails, because we all know how it feels when people play hard to get.

Loyalty is key.
Loyalty is important in any relationship, and the bond you have with your customer is no exception. What percentage of your business comes from repeat customers? Any business resource will tell you that it is far more expensive to earn a new customer than it is to retain an existing one. Find ways to reward customer loyalty, like offering discounts or establishing a loyalty program. Send lomg-time customers a gift card to one of your favorite places or something as simple as a handwritten thank you card.

Make it exclusive.
Once you have identified those loyal customers who keep coming back, offer them exclusive deals and discounts; be creative. Provide additional perks “just because.” We all like to feel special and we want to know that our contributions (financial or otherwise) are appreciated. Make sure these loyal shoppers are happy by letting them know how much they mean to your business.

Say you are sorry.
Occasionally, customers will have a less than stellar experience. Instead of being defensive, use this as an opportunity to win back a customer’s love – even if it means a short-term loss. Give your staff permission to offer a refund or extend free shipping to customers who could use an experience pick-me-up. Just make sure you do it right away. A contributing factor to a great customer service experience is having any issues resolved quickly.

Remember, like with any relationship, the work it takes to sustain a connection happens year-round, not just one day of the year.

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