“Just love people. That is the strategic plan.” – Brad Lomenick
Many years ago, when I was just getting started, I purchased a convenience store. As a store owner, I sold gas, Snickers bars and everything else a convenience store sells, but what I really sold were relationships. Every other place in town sold the same gasoline, although they may try to tell you that brands are different, I could never prove that. I sold stuff that I made almost no money on simply so I could sell relationships. It was about taking care of the customer. Even in the days of self-serve gas, we would make it a point to go out and pump people’s gas for them, especially if you saw they were in business clothes on their way to work in the morning. Why should they smell like gas all day in their office when I was going to smell like it all day no matter what?
It’s important to ask yourself, as a business owner or any kind of leader, about the needs of other people. How can you solve someone else’s point of pain? It’s easy to forget how simple the equation really is.
I bought a new pair of jeans the other day. My favorite jeans are from Bills Khakis. I love them. Every month they send me a catalog of their stuff. Unfortunately, there is no place in town that sells them so I have to order them. But, here’s the sad part, I don’t even use that catalog to order them through their store directly. Instead, I go to Amazon.com which allows me to buy them with two clicks and receive them two days later with free shipping. Amazon understands what my desires are as a customer and even though I don’t have a personal relationship with them, they have built trust and ease of business with me.
Loyalty Doesn’t Develop on Its Own
As business people, we have to remember that we don’t own our customers’ loyalty. We barely own our inventory, by and large it is a function of cash flow, but what we can own are the relationships. Over the years, I have owned a number of small businesses and the only thing that I’ve taken with me from transition to transition are those relationships that I’ve built. In my economic development experience, I have worked with thousands of companies that we’ve helped grow from startups to some of the largest companies in the world. Consistently the thing that these great companies do (and great people do) is focus on relationships. So, what are you willing to do for your customers?
As one of my mentors, Bill Johnston, would say: It is critically important that your customers understand that you are on the same side of the table with them. You are not on the opposite side of the table; it is not a negotiation of give and take. You want to give to them, be on the same side of their success and then they will allow you to make a living from that relationship.
[bctt tweet=”Long-term success is not about quantity of transactions, it is about the quality of relationships.” username=”ronkitchens”]
Because of great relationships, customers will allow you to build your business from them, but this is no longer an economy where scarcity dictates business success. This is an economy that you can buy anything you want in the world and you’re not even restricted by government money anymore with the emergence of things like Bitcoin. You can buy anything you want, from wherever you want and however you want, so who are you going to choose to do business with? You are going to do business with someone who sits alongside you and is committed to your success.
Long-term success is not about quantity of transactions, it is about the quality of relationships. Do an inventory of your relationships and that will be the key indicator of your future business outcomes.
Question: What are you doing to improve your customer relationships? Or, as a leader, what are you doing to improve the relationships with your followers?