Last week, I thanked my customers in a special Thanks-Valentine’s message. The response was very positive. I received dozens of messages that had a common theme: people were responding to my message on a very personal level. Some clients shared their eReleases PR success story. Others gave words of encouragement or advice regarding my new diet and fitness regime. A few clients appreciated that the message included a picture of the eReleases staff, finally putting a face to a name. Regardless, I had created a warm feeling between eReleases and some of our customers. This goodwill will go a long way. If we screw up (and we are humans who do make mistakes), I suspect these customers will be a bit more forgiving.
Public relations is built on relationships. Everyone knows that. Nurturing those relationships is important. However, very few companies focus on nurturing their relationships with customers. They think free shipping, better features, or a really polished website will take care of things. However, that approach forgets one thing: people do business with people. I like Amazon a lot. However, if prices were cheaper elsewhere and buying was equally polished, I’m not sure how much loyalty I would have. I have no personal connection with Amazon.
Power of Personal Connections
I used an accountant who didn’t do a great job and routinely overcharged me. However, I stayed with this accountant for years as I had established a personal connection. We shared pictures of kids, talked about family life and vacations. It was very, very hard to sever ties with this accountant. I knew it was something I needed to do but didn’t want to do. That’s the power of a personal connection.
How Can You Make a Deeper, Personal Connection With Customers?
If you can figure out how to make a genuine personal connection with your customers, you insulate your company a bit from price shopping and the occassional missteps that would routinely cost you that customer. When a company apologizes to customers who have a personal connection, the bulk of those customers will forgive. Southwest Airlines is a company that routinely gets singled out for doing right by its customers, often through refreshingly honest apology letters. I can’t think of other customers who routinely talk about an apology that was posted or sent from other companies, like the Cable company after a major outage. That’s because the cable company has created no trust or goodwill with its customers. It’s apologies read as empty, corporate rhetoric.
Customers as Evangelists
If you have a base of happy customers who connect with your company on a personal level, you will have the biggest arsenal in your public relations campaigns. These customers will share their experiences and go out of their way to recommend you. They will not resent talking with media or potential customers who ask them about your company. This is especially important if you post testimonials on your website as some people may indeed contact these customers. If none of your customers return these calls or emails, that is a sign that these customers have a weak personal relationship with your company.
What eReleases Is Doing to Nurture Relationships
eReleases recently started sending a digital photo to all of our new customers that shows the eReleases staff in funny hats in front of a whiteboard that welcomes each customer by name and company. Nearly half of all customers hit reply and share appreciation for the message. It starts here. Getting personal. It has also meant more emails and columns from me, like this one. Best of all, it is fun. Engaging your customer doesn’t have to be hard work. It should be natural and genuine. Sharing my sense of humor with our customers may not be what works for your company but find what will work for your company. Avoid the generic corporate gifts. Avoid the December holiday cards. No one remembers who sends those. If you want to stand out, send a holiday card tied to a nontraditional holiday. No one remembers who sent the company an end of the year holiday or New Year’s card. But if you send a card with a personal message on Thanksgiving Day or on April Fool’s Day, I guarantee you the customer will remember it.
This article is written by Mickie Kennedy, founder of eReleases (http://www.ereleases.com), the online leader in affordable press release distribution. To subscribe to PR Fuel, visit: http://www.ereleases.com/prfuel/subscribe/.