Many factors play crucial roles in making a business successful, and among the most important but often overlooked is the ability to build long-term business relationships. These relationships are critical because they often lead to increased sales, improved customer satisfaction, more referrals, better terms and pricing from vendors, and access to previously unavailable resources.
Now that you know why long-term relationships are so important, here are four ways to build them.
1. Communicate regularly
Communicating with customers, suppliers, and business partners is easier if you’ve established long-lasting business relationships with them. One simple way to do that is to reach out to these parties routinely. Try holding weekly or monthly conversations with third-party vendors and suppliers, and try communicating with customers weekly, bi-weekly, or even daily via social media channels and email. The benefit of holding these conversations regularly is to keep them going and strengthen them. The more familiar you get with third-party vendors and customers, the stronger and more genuine you make these relationships.
2. Offer a helping hand
You can't succeed if you're all alone. The nature of modern business tells us that there are benefits to building close, long-term business relationships with customers, suppliers, associates. Business "friendships" bring trust, social interaction, access to exclusive perks, and other benefits businesses otherwise wouldn’t be able to obtain. Whether you're looking to become more trustworthy in the eyes of the customers or meet new business associates, offering a helping hand is one of the best ways to build long-lasting relationships with customers, suppliers, and business associates. So, make sure to offer your help when cultivating relationships. Remember, relationships, even business ones, are two-way streets.
3. Be yourself
Young entrepreneurs face the difficulty of having to appeal to every party they come across. You might think the best way to build long-lasting relationships is to present yourself in the best possible light, but what if this approach isn't genuine? Unfortunately, it's all too easy to create a false persona when you're building relationships. But business relationships built on false authenticity are short-lived—business relationships need to be built on trust if they’re to last. So, stick to your values, and don't put on a mask when you communicate. Be yourself. Be authentic. If you do that, eventually the relationship will bring real value.
4. Get personal
The more people who know you and your brand, the more your reputation and brand can grow. But simply knowing a person or a business contact isn't enough for your brand to reach the next level. For that, you need to get personal with your audience and establish mutual trust and respect. And when you do that, you'll be able to create brand ambassadors—loyal, long-term customers who constantly share your products and services with the people around them. They vouch for you and recommend your products and services to people in their inner and outer circles, giving a major boost to your brand and business. So, don't be afraid to get personal in your communication with your customers. Authenticity is highly valued—and highly rewarded.
A final note
Building long-lasting relationships should be a key goal for all entrepreneurs, regardless of the size and scope of their businesses. Although building these relationships can require time, effort, and patience, the rewards are well worth it—investing in relationships will go a long way toward creating a solid foundation for success.
Erik Bergman co-founded Catena Media and helped grow it to over 300 employees and a $200 million valuation before stepping away to start Great.com, an iGaming organization that donates 100% of its profits to environmental charities. In addition to running a successful online affiliate business, Erik also hosts the Becoming Great podcast, shares entrepreneurship tips with his more than 1 million social media followers, and contributes to sites like Entrepreneuer.com, Business Insider, Foundr, and Forbes.
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