When your promotion has built your authority and led someone to give you their contact details, you have the chance to convert that interest into a profitable long-term relationship.
Just as in personal relationships, you need to give someone time to get to know you and decide whether you are in compatible. In business, you need to take time to demonstrate that you can help them.
Building effective relationships with prospects and customers generally happens in stages:
- Know: Tell them about yourself and what you can do for them.
- Trust: Build confidence by demonstrating the value you can offer.
- Try: Make it easy for them to sample your expertise – either free or at low cost.
- Commit: Encourage them to stay longer and buy more.
The exact process of relationship building will depend on your market and people will take varying lengths of time at each stage.
The 6 Keys to Building Profitable Relationships
The process usually involves the following key elements.
- Start immediately
- Sell quickly
- Stay in touch
- Satisfy your clients
- Segment your audience
- Step up your offers
Many people make the mistake of collecting email addresses and thinking the free report they offer is enough to create a relationship.
In your personal life, if someone asks for your contact details, and then never calls, you may be initially disappointed but you will probably forget them quickly.
Similarly, to establish a business relationship, you need to follow up the contact right away and with enthusiasm.
You only have a short time to show this person you can make a difference in their life.
That means you need to have a communication program set up as soon as someone joins your list. The key aims of this are to show them what you can do, how it can help them and why they should trust you.
It can be done with a series of emails set up to go out at specified intervals in the first few weeks – backed up by additional material sent as physical mail where possible.
When it comes to building trust, there is a fine balance between trying to sell too quickly and waiting too long.
Nobody likes to be subjected to pushy sales messages right from the start. However:
The last thing you want is a mailing list made up of freebie-seekers who will never spend any money.
Bear in mind that people who join your list are likely to have done so because they have a problem they want to solve. They want a solution to that problem.
Not all of them are ready to pay for a solution yet but many are ready to hear about what you can do for them.
Part of the task of developing relationships is building trust. Often this is done by sharing valuable information.
Generally you want to start as soon as possible introducing ways that people can try out what you offer and you want to get them used to the idea of paying for it.
That means you should be able to quickly make offers at relatively lower price points where they can try you out. That price point may be $7 or it could be $197, for example, depending on what you offer.
Typically, the actual price point doesn’t matter too much in determining whether someone will turn in to a long-term customer.
The key is that:
People who have bought something from you are more likely to buy more; so you want to turn people into buyers as quickly as possible.
One of the keys to that is making sure that you make offers to people and that you are specific about what you want them to do.
But you can do that in a framework of sharing valuable information.
In other words, give good information but be specific about how people can get further help by making an investment with you – even if it’s a relatively small amount.
Stay in Touch
There are many different elements in building the relationship – depending on the type of product or service you offer – but email is a particularly effective communication tool. Here are some key points:
- Planned: You need to put in place a series of pre-planned messages to go out to new email subscribers to let them get to know you. The first 30 days is especially vital.
- Practical: You should be giving people information they can use and that they find valuable. Your aim is first to build trust before you try to take the relationship further.
- Persistent: You need an ongoing program of messages and the contact needs to be regular. You shouldn’t mail three times one week and then nothing for a month. A regular ezine or newsletter can be very effective for doing this.
- Personal: For email to help build a relationship, it should have a personal touch. Use friendly language – as if you were writing to someone you know well – and be ready to share a bit of yourself.
- Purposeful: Each email should have a specific aim – it might be to build trust, to share information or – later in the process – to ask for the sale. In the long run, your aim is usually to make money, so don’t be afraid to sell – when the time is right and with an effective message.
Satisfy Your Clients
The long-term success of the relationship will depend on how successful you are at giving people what they want.
- Immediate delivery: Make sure you communicate with people quickly and deliver what they have requested – even if it is free.
- Follow-up service: The quality of relationship will often hinge on how well you respond to questions and problems. Even complaints turn into valued relationships when handled well.
- Exceed expectations: You don’t build relationships by giving people what they expect. That won’t make them stay. You need to give them an experience that goes beyond what they expect so that they have no temptation to go anywhere else.
Segment Your Audience
Although the most effective communication is personal, you won’t always be able to talk with your clients and prospects one-on-one.
However, you don’t want to have one message for all. So you can use the information you have about people to ensure your message and offers are targeted to specific groups.
Splitting your list into different categories is known as “segmentation” and there are many ways you can segment a list, such as when they joined your list, what they have bought from you, whether they open your emails or specific interests they indicate.
When you ensure your communication is tailored to the needs of individual segments, you will have much better results.
Step Up Your Offers
It’s said the most important sale in any relationship is not the first, it’s the second.
So you always want to be thinking of the next sale you can make to someone based on where they are in your process.
That is what turns one-off customers into long-term relationships.
Here are some of the keys to achieving that:
- Upsell: Look for opportunities to sell people something in addition to what they have already bought. That may be at the same time as the sale or soon afterwards.
- Continuity: Find ways to turn a sale into a long-term commitment through some kind of regular fee arrangement.
- Retention: Work on ways to keep people with you – especially if you have a product or service that people don’t need to buy very often. Look for ways to reward your best customers – even a “thank you” or small gift can pay huge dividends.
- Referrals: While referrals are a very effective way of getting new customers, they are also great for holding on to your existing ones. People are less likely to move on if they have recommended you to someone else.
- Reactivation: Past customers can become future customers if you stay in touch and give them an incentive to return.
Getting the Balance Right
All stages in the communication process are important for building long-term profitable relationships. However the emphasis can depend on what stage you are at with your business.
If you don’t have many customers, for example, you will need to work harder in the early stages to get more people on board.
However many businesses make the mistake of putting all their efforts into attracting new prospects.
Even with a small number of customers, it’s often best to focus on existing customers and contacts first.
As a general guide, you should usually allocate your time as follows:
- 60% on existing customers – and most of that with your best customers
- 30% on prospects, seeking to convert them into customers
- 10% on everybody else, aiming to turn them into prospects