“Our relationships with people are formed by small moments. And relationships are crucial in business.” Those words from bestselling author Tom Rath hold true in every industry. The ability to build trust and loyalty is crucial to success in business endeavors of all kinds, and the skill of forming and maintaining good relationships is invaluable.

It’s not all about warm fuzzies, either; there are huge financial benefits to fostering goodwill. According to Experience Matters, loyal customers are:

  • five times as likely to buy from you again,
  • five times as likely to forgive a mistake,
  • four times as likely to refer new business, and
  • seven times as likely to buy something else from you or your company.

Sounds great, right? So how do you start and keep up a rapport, build loyalty, and reap the benefits of exceptional relationships in business? Let’s start with these simple but effective pointers.

The seven relationship essentials

1. Know your clients.

Although that might sound easy, keeping your database healthy and organized year-round can be a challenge. Set aside a day or two (every so often) to organize your contact list, and make sure you have a system for keeping it current. Include notes about people and transactions.

Great relationships involve customer intimacy. To achieve that, many great database management systems are available, which allow your list to be accessed wherever you are—from any device. Tag your VIP clients and consider offering them something special and relevant at some point during the year: a discount, a gift, or a service.

If you work with a team, make sure your employees spend time getting to know your customers too.

2. Communicate.

Stay in touch year-round without being aggressive or annoying. You may only have contact with a client when he or she has a specific need, but they are still great sources of new and ongoing business.

Don’t allow relationships to lapse or sour over time. You’ve heard the saying, “out of sight is out of mind,” so keep in touch. Periodic and meaningful relationship-building is critical.

  • Mass communication is simple and cost-effective. A regular email newsletter is a terrific way of sharing news with your entire database—new products, customer testimonials, and special offers. But customers don’t feel “special” when they receive them, even if the salutation is personalized, so don’t just leave it at that.
  • Social media sites (depending on your client base) are helpful. They give you an easy way to know what’s happening in a client’s life. When you see a special occasion pop up on someone’s feed, be sure to congratulate them.
  • People usually appreciate periodic personal (non-sale) emails and phone check-ins. As one real estate consultant calls it, “love bombing” should be conversational and client-focused.
  • Some industries lend themselves to face-to-face communication. If you have tickets to a local event, consider inviting a loyal client as your guest. Or, if you’re comfortable in a one-on-one situation with a client, suggest coffee or a meal at a new venue.

3. Be positive!

People want to do business with others who are upbeat and helpful. Whether in writing—such as email or text—or by voice, focus on your client’s needs and questions. Very few of them are interested in hearing about your business woes or challenges, and it’s just not professional to express them to clients.

One great way to build positive rapport is to develop personal communication habits. For example, you could start emails with “I hope your day is going well,” or end them with “Have a great day.” This is a small but powerful way to impact someone’s outlook on their own day and can reward you down the road. Positivity breeds success!

4. Go above and beyond.

If your client experiences an issue, tackle it quickly, and own it—don’t ever get defensive or place blame on someone else. Everyone makes mistakes at some point, but you want your clients to remember how you served as their “champion” and solved the problem.

Being a champion doesn’t just apply to dealing with issues, either. Perhaps a client is looking for a new business for him- or herself. Ask what you can do to share that need with your own network, either on social media or in the real world.

5. Share knowledge.

Establishing yourself as an expert in your industry will build trust among your client base and keep you top-of-mind. For example, real estate agents will typically share information with past clients about property values and sales in their neighborhoods.

A less obvious (and helpful) tactic might be to share tips for closet organizing, decorating, or weatherproofing. Look for facts and resources that cannot be easily found by the client, and recommendations for services they may need. Even a fun video or cartoon can be appreciated—but be sure you know your customer before you go that route. Use your social media feeds to establish yourself as an expert in your field, posting content that is useful to current and prospective clients.

6. Treat every client as if they are your only client.

Active listening is key, as people can usually tell if you’re distracted during a conversation. Unless someone asks about other clients or another client’s success is relevant to the topic you’re discussing, keep those stories to yourself.

Making notes during conversations, and adding them to your database (see tip #1) are essential ways to retain the information your client is giving you, and extremely valuable in future interactions. Take it to the next level: personalized and handwritten thank-you notes may sound old-fashioned, but they go a long way to show that you’ve personally invested time and effort.

7. Use gifts strategically, all year round.

Giving gifts is a tangible way to show appreciation. A group of researchers studied the psychological impact of gift-giving and concluded, “Gift exchanges can reveal how people think about others, what they value and enjoy, and how they build and maintain relationships.”

But when is the right time to send a gift to a client? You’ll want to thank a client immediately after a deal is closed and do something special around the holiday season, but you may also consider “non-traditional” times of year when other businesses are not gifting their clients.

Fast Company even recommends that companies outsource their gift giving. Not only does that ensure you won’t forget or run out of time to organize presents, but it offers personalized and targeted options to increase the impact of each gift. In business, as in other aspects of life, personalizing the gift to the receiver is important.

How do you know when your relationships are exceptional?

To put it simply, the best way to know is to ask for feedback—and be open to hearing it. If you have an established relationship with a client, never be afraid to ask, “How am I doing?” or “Is there anything I can do for you that I’m not doing?”

Beyond that, the proof is ultimately in the bottom line. You’ll get referrals, testimonials, and ongoing new business. A powerful Dale Carnegie quote that still holds true says it all:

“You can close more business in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get people interested in you.”

We’d love to hear your tips for maintaining client relationships. Tweet us @tryevabot or leave us a message on Facebook. Need help sending great gifts to your clients? Reach out to EvaBot to see how we can help you give great gifts without the guesswork.