Your customers drive your business, which is why it's so important to note how they interact with your brand. Don't just reach out to them when you want their business; find ways to continuously show them you care.
Jessica Alba, founder and CEO of The Honest Company, believes brands can learn a lot by staying connected and listening to their customers.
"I think it's important for brands, especially brands [that] are really consumer-centric, to stay connected," Alba shared at the American Express OPEN Success Makers Summit for Business Platinum Card Members. "Customers tell you so much from their behavior and how they shop with you."
Here are six effective ways to connect with your customers and build lasting relationships that will keep them loyal to your brand.
1. Don't use a one-size-fits-all approach.
You want your customers to feel special, and you can achieve this by approaching each one as an individual rather than just another customer. Grouping all your consumers together will only express inauthenticity.
"In our messaging, we will treat a heavy user of our app differently than a light user," said Jon Ziglar, CEO of ParkMobile. "We treat a new user differently than a veteran user. We try to make the messages as relevant as possible to that specific person."
2. Respond to concerns.
Don't just be available when business is doing well or customers are satisfied. If you want your customers to trust and respect you, you need to earn it by proving your dedication to making them happy.
For example, ParkMobile received a one-star review from a man who complained that the app was inconvenient and took time away from his date. Instead of ignoring the comment or making excuses, Ziglar said, they contacted the reviewer directly to express their remorse and offered a gift card to the exact restaurant where he had been that day.
"He really appreciated the gesture, and we turned a 'hater' into a huge ParkMobile advocate," said Ziglar. "He even let us feature his story in a social media campaign. Sometimes, you have to go above and beyond to build raving fans of your business."
3. Keep it personal, not transactional.
Peelu Shivaraju, the owner and operator of a Money Mailer franchise in Michigan, says being more personal with customers creates and strengthens your bonds with them.
Rather than being aggressive when selling, try to be more consultative and conversational so clients understand your intentions are pure, Shivaraju recommended.
"Nobody likes a salesperson," he said. "Don't go in talking about your product; go in and ask them questions about their business."
4. Focus on face-to-face interactions.
It's common to experience miscommunications when using technology as a main source of contact. While emails and telephone calls are convenient, nothing beats face-to-face contact.
You can understand your customers better in person than over the phone or through a screen. Shivaraju makes it a point to drop in on clients to introduce himself and establish both a professional and personal relationship with them.
"I like to get to know my clients, what their businesses are all about," he said. "I do a lot of research about their business and ask them lots of questions to genuinely show interest. I want to learn everything I possibly can so that I know how best to help their business."
It's easier to learn about a client by talking to them in person. However, some people feel more comfortable speaking to you from a distance. Shivaraju advised asking your clients what their preferred method of communication is and sticking with that.
5. Grow with your current clients in mind.
If your customers are happy, your business will continue to develop. Shivaraju said not to get too caught up in quick growth, especially if it means giving less attention to clients and jeopardizing your customer service.
"I understand that business owners are always busy, so I always try to work around their schedules," he said. "All new clients get a follow-up visit after the first mailing goes out, as well as another in a few months to see how it's going. As long as [clients] give me a reasonable window of time, I'll always make myself available at a time and place of their choosing. My clients always come first."
6. Show your appreciation.
Just as you would with supportive friends and family, make sure your customers know you recognize their importance.
Shivaraju shows his appreciation to two important groups of people: "The first is to my clients. They pay me money, so it's my responsibility to create the best possible ad I can for their business and get them high-quality new leads. The second is to the consumers of my product. I need to have my envelopes filled with quality hyperlocal content, filled with businesses that me and my family are comfortable doing business with so that they get opened and used."
Shivaraju mails out envelopes to his consumers, thanking them for purchasing local goods and services. He also recommended sending holiday cards and discounts to show gratitude.
Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.