Humans are highly social creatures, and our relationships with one another are vitally important. Not just in our personal lives, but in business as well.
While the vast majority of companies remain hyper-focused on sales and revenue targets, the most successful ones have centered their business around building and maintaining authentic relationships with their customers. Like all relationships, it requires ongoing commitment, investment, and effort. And, as many are learning, sometimes the smallest gestures have the biggest impact.
Think about the things you do for the people you love.
You recognize and celebrate their birthdays and anniversaries. You check in periodically to see how they’re doing. You express how much you enjoy and appreciate them. You carve out time and make an effort to get together. Maybe you send unexpected notes or surprise them on occasion with a small gift.
These are little things, not grand gestures. But they go a long way in showing you care. In doing so, they help strengthen the foundations of the relationship as well as the fulfillment both parties receive from it.
And yet, we rarely do these things in business. Instead of small acts of thoughtfulness and appreciation, we send invoices, surveys, and contract renewals. We ask for likes and shares and endorsements. And we show how much we care about the *next* transaction, not the person, people, or relationships that make it possible.
In 1992, author Gary Chapman popularized the “Five Love Languages” for expressing heartfelt commitment to a mate. They include:
- Acts of service
- Gift giving
- Physical touch
- Quality time
- Words of affirmation
With the notable exception of physical touch (professional and romantic relationships aren’t completely synonymous, of course), I believe all of these “love languages” can be applied within a business context. Not in a formulaic or programmatic way. Just little, semi-spontaneous gestures that show you’re paying attention and that you care.
Maybe that means reaching out on your customer’s birthday or when they receive a promotion. Not via LinkedIn, because everyone does that, but with a phone call or handwritten note that will be far more memorable.
Maybe it’s a Home Depot gift card when your customer moves to a new city. Or a gift certificate for an ice cream celebration after their child’s team wins a big sporting event.
I’m a Dallas Cowboys fan, and someone sent me a Cameo with a personalized message from Troy Aikman a while back. It was a small thing, but it made my day, gave me something fun to show my friends and family, and I’ll never forget it.
Even company schwag, when delivered unexpectedly and with the right message of appreciation, can delight customers and provide a lasting reminder of your brand.
The right gesture depends on the individuals involved and the depth of their relationship, of course. But all employees – not just sales and marketing staff – should be encouraged to build better relationships with customers. And they should be empowered to do the little things at the moment of truth, whether it’s a special occasion or unique circumstance or opportunity to help.
But not for every customer, and not all the time.
These gestures must be special and unexpected. They must be sincere and unselfish, without any expectation of something in return. If an act of kindness or appreciation is a thinly veiled nudge toward a contract renewal, the customer will see right through it.
Although it’s difficult to measure, these gestures can have a dramatic impact on your business when executed correctly. In reinforcing the foundations and fulfillment of the relationship you have with your customers, they foster goodwill, word-of-mouth promotion, additional followers and positive reviews, and repeat business.
After all, it’s the littlest things that often have the biggest impact.
Jeff Pedowitz is the President and CEO of The Pedowitz Group and author of the new book, F The Funnel: A New Way To Engage Customers & Grow Revenue.