Every business owner thinks his or her business is unique. Be realistic, what is so unique about your widget? It’s not about your product, it’s about you, your culture, and your relationships.
Your business isn’t special, if I may be so frank. There’s probably a handful of other businesses that offer the very same thing you offer, clamoring to get a hold of your client list. You may think you sell the perfect widget or the juiciest steak, but you don’t. If you’re focusing on trying to perfect your product, you’re losing sight of the much bigger picture. Anybody can sell a widget, it’s all about the relationships you build with customers and clients that keep them coming back.
How Well Do You Really Know Your Customers?
Recently, I attended the 2017 Forbes Small Giants event in New York City — an event which celebrates a select group of small business owners who choose to be great instead of big. Among the panel of Small Giants was Anne Hed of Hed Cycling Products. She spoke of a time early in her career at Hed Cycling that will forever stay with her. A young man called in to ask for a new wheel for his bicycle after his broke. Broke and sure he would become great, Anne was convinced this person had the potential because of his drive and passion.
Hed Cycling gave him $200 a month for a whole year, essentially acting as a sponsor for him to flaunt as he entered races. That man was Lance Armstrong! Hed Cycling saw the drive and determination that fueled Armstrong and saw the opportunity to build a relationship with a client. I’m not saying throw your money at someone because that’s not the point of the story. Get out and understand your clients, get to know them, understand what they need and what you could do to meet their demands. By offering something your customers are actively seeking, you’re almost guaranteeing sales and an increase in customer loyalty.
Do You Communicate With Your Customers?
I visited a restaurant run by a celebrity chef in Lower Manhattan recently. This celebrity chef walks into his restaurant as I enjoyed my dinner and sat in the back chatting with two people he obviously knew. Not once did he greet or make himself known to his patrons. I was offended by that gesture. While the food was fine, his lack of hospitality was a turnoff for me.
Business is all about the people you meet and the relationships that you build with them. You need to think about your customers and clients, and not just in a buy-sell arrangement. You need to nurture and tend to your customers, make them feel like they’re wanted. One of the reasons why social media works the way it does for businesses is because it makes it easier for businesses to interact with their customers, and vice versa. With the absence of a filter, you get to hear customer feedback in its purest form.
Like a hammer, social media is a tool to use with precision, but like any tool in your toolkit, it is not going to get every job done. As an owner, you mustn’t be afraid to get out from behind your desk and meet with your customers face-to-face. I mention this a lot because it’s effective. Whether you’re a B2C or a B2B business, it all comes down to the relationships you build. Anyone can sell what you sell and offer what you offer but they can’t sell what they don’t have: You.