Building Strong Customer Relationships from the Beginning

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Every business needs customers. It’s how you make money to pay your employees and maintain operations. However, in order for your business to succeed, you need more than just customers; you need great customer relationships that will drive repeat purchases and encourage referrals.

Customer relationships are the third building block to tackle when it comes to the Business Model Canvas.

We need to determine how you will get, keep, and improve your sales on current and future clients. This step is important because it showcases how you will communicate with and develop relationships with your customer segments. 

The customer relationships sections helps us answer 4 main questions about interacting with our customers:

  1. Customer Acquisition – how are you going to get customers in the door?
  2. Customer Retention – how are you going to keep customers satisfied and sticking around?
    1. Atmosphere
    2. Customer service
    3. Interactions
    4. Onboarding process can help a ton
  3. Upselling/Cross Selling – how can you increase sales with the customers you currently have, as well as future customers?
  4. What type of relationships are we building with customers AND what kind of relationships do our customers expect to build with us?

Types of Customer Relationships

There are a variety of different relationships you can have with your customers, and you don’t have to settle on just one. Some products have a more automated feel (delivery of an e-book) and some are more hands on (coaching, consulting).

1. Transactional

A transactional relationship is essentially not a real relationship. This is when you only interact with a customer when a transaction needs to happen. For instance, a vending machine. There is no established relationship with the customers, and no real brand equity is being built.

2. Long-term

A long-term relationship is what it sounds like – the company is interacting with it’s customers on a recurring basis over a long period of time.

3. Personal assistance

This is a relationship that is rooted in human interaction. Instead of getting an automated phone menu, you are speaking directly with a customer service associate who can help you through the process of buying, as well as after the purchase has been completed.

4. Dedicated personal assistance

A dedicated personal assistance relationship is the most interactive of them. One example is that of a home care aid, they are working with that person in an intimate setting and usually develop the relationship over a period of time. This could also be an account manager for a marketing company, who works directly with one or a few clients as their point of contact.

5. Self-service

A self-service relationship is one where the customer and company have no direct relationship. The company provides all the necessary means for customers to help themselves.

6. Automated services

Automated services mixes automated processes with customer service, in a more sophisticated way. Some automated services help develop a personal relationship with the company. I think that Netflix is a good example of this. While many of us have probably never been in contact with their customer service, they are able to personalize recommendations for movies and TV shows based on our previous watch history.

The company is almost fully automated in terms of delivery of the service.

7. Communities

WIth the ever-increasing desire for human connection in a digital world, this is exploding at the moment, and I don’t see it slowing down anytime soon.

This could include Facebook Groups, forums, in-person events with like-minded people in your area.

8. Co-creation

Co-creation refers to all of the companies who heavily rely on user-generated content to help further community and sales.

Think of Amazon, with all of the reviews being left that are critical in the buying process of this era. This also includes forums, Google Maps, etc. Some companies have social media accounts dedicated solely to reposting their customers experience with their product.

Which of these types of relationships sounds the most like what you offer your customers or future customers?

Customer Acquisition Tactics/Channels

customer acquisition

Customer Acquisition can be defined as gaining new customers. In this example, we’ll be looking at specific ways you can acquire new customers, as well as some that are solely based on optimizing your current funnels.

Keep in mind this list is not comprehensive, it should start getting the juices flowing for you to help figure this out.

  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • Email Marketing
  • Content Marketing – creating articles and other content that can be used for promotion, or for people to share and help drive more traffic back to you.
  • Copywriting – improving your messaging and the words on your page to help move prospects towards a conversion. In other words, presenting your business in a way that makes people want to work with you.
  • Conversion Rate Optimization – improving parts of your website that will help make the experience easier for customers to convert.
  • Social Media Marketing – both paid and organic strategies
  • Using Analytics to find out what’s working
  • Customer Referrals are also a great way to get clients.

How you acquire customers is going to be an important thing to consider when you’re looking at your business and/or creating a business plan.

Knowing where these people are going to find you or how you will reach out to them is critical in determining other steps, like how much it will cost to get a customer, if the market is big enough to sustain your business, etc.

Customer Retention

Customer retention is essentially how you are going to keep customers coming back to you for help. If you have ongoing customers, how do you keep them happy? If you have customers who need one-off projects completed every few months, how do you make sure they keep coming back to you and build that long-term relationship?

Some common ways to retain customers are:

  • Have regular check-ins – make sure you’re keeping them happy and they aren’t slowly become more dissatisfied with your service because of something you weren’t aware of but was an easy fix. This can be a quick email, a phone call, progress report, etc.
  • Offer education about the product or service they are using. If your product has a few nuances or common ways people can utilize it better, send out an FAQ email a short time after they purchase. With a service based business, you can send out “what to expect” emails for different phases of the project.
  • Send out regular newsletters – keeping customers informed of what’s going on with the business, new services that might peak their interest, etc. is a great way to reach multiple people at once, but still offer a personalized touch since only they are receiving it.
  • Highlight them on your website or social media – this works especially well if you have a very visual product. If a customer sends you a picture of them using your product, repost it and tag them! People love when you show that you’re paying attention and it highlights that you care about your customers experience with your product.
  • Overdeliver when you can – I love doing this for clients, AND past clients. Yep, the ones who’ve stopped working with me even. Helping them in some way just goes to remove any “bad blood” or awkwardness that may come when a relationship ends, even if it was amicable. And I guarantee they’ll keep you in mind the next time they have a question or send people your way if they know someone who needs help.
  • Do what you say you’re going to do – this one seems easy but often we make everything sound great up front and then certain details fall by the wayside. Which happens, but when those details are the reason the customer chose your business, that’s a problem.

There are lots of great, creative ways to keep people engaged and stay on as a customer, but I hope that helped spark your interest.

Upselling and Cross-selling

upselling cross selling

Making the most of sales opportunities is a great way to bring in some extra cash flow with minimal work. It also is a great way to make sure your customers are getting all of the value they can from working with you.

Upselling is essentially trying to get them to upgrade to a higher level of service. This could be going from a basic package to the plus package that includes a weekly phone call with your team.

This could also be as simple as the McDonalds example of upselling from a small Big Mac meal to the large meal. You’re selling a higher package that is similar to the first product but is a higher-end product.

Cross-selling is having customers add on additional items that you offer. For example, someone orders a burger, and you offer them to add fries to their purchase.

Both upselling and cross-selling are important in bringing in more revenue for your business, but also in making sure the customer is getting everything they needed.

Go ahead and answer these questions, they’re going to help as we continue on down with filling out the Business Model Canvas.

  • How will you keep them on as customers (retention)?
  • How will you find customers (acquisition)?
  • How can you upsell and cross-sell customers with additional products/services?
  • What type of relationships are we building with customers AND what kind of relationships do our customers expect to build with us?

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