It’s Relationships, Stupid! The Small Business Return on Relationships

Living in The South

Since I’ve been living in the South, I can’t help but fall in love with people like political strategist James Carville who announced, “It’s the economy, stupid”. He was explaining how a virtual unknown political candidate won against an opponent who had everything going for him. In his mind, people think—and vote—with their bank accounts.

While this may apply to the world of politics, it’s not necessarily true in business. Yes, people like to save money whenever possible. Nevertheless, if money were the only consideration for consumers, the big box stores would’ve completely wiped out local businesses years ago. Instead, small businesses continue to survive—and thrive—even in a struggling economy.

How is this possible? It’s relationships, stupid!

Develop the Relationship

Today’s consumer is concerned with more than just the cost of goods and services. They want to be more than just a number. People are tired of corporate greed and the impersonal nature of giant corporations that only seem to care about the bottom line. It’s time to stop thinking of marketing in terms of Return On Investment (ROI) and consider the importance of Return on Relationship (ROR).

For example, I’ve been using the same mechanic for years. He runs his own shop, and there are times when he charges me more than a chain would for the same service.

However, I continue to take my car to him because he knows me. He knows the make and model of my vehicle, where I work, and whatever pieces of my life I’ve shared with him—and so do his employees. Even more important is that they remember this information. The relationship I have with him creates a feeling of trust in me (an important quality for a mechanic) and keeps me returning. I want to know I give my hard-earned money to a company that values me as a person.

Interact With Your Customers

The ability to develop this kind of relationship is what you have going for you in your business. You can’t compete with the buying power and marketing budgets of big chains.You can—and should—know your customers on a personal level – a personal level that corporate bureaucracy doesn’t allow. No glitzy marketing campaign or deep discount can compare with this.

One way to develop these relationships is through social media. By interacting with your customers through message boards, blogs, and interfaces like Facebook and Twitter, you can get to know them on a personal level. They also get a chance to know you as a person—something that goes a long way toward building your brand recognition.

So how do you get out there and build relationships with virtual strangers? It’s not enough to set up an account to post promotions and updates. Social media is designed for interaction with other people. Get online and start communicating.

Build the Relationship

Here are a few tips:

Be real. All relationships must have a level of transparency. Business relationships are no different. For one thing, you are your brand, and sharing who you are is the best way to represent it. This doesn’t mean you have to share the most intimate details of your life with others. It just means that you need to be true to yourself and your core values.

Don’t post fake reviews or profiles. With just a little online research (and Internet users are a savvy group), anyone can find out the truth about you. Nothing will damage your brand more than dishonesty, and it’s very difficult to rebuild trust once it’s broken.

I noticed recently that a notable home exercise DVD company has come under fire for posting fake reviews about their products. The tip off for most consumers was the overwhelming number of glowing reviews about the products. No one will ever create a product that is loved by everyone, and this is especially true of exercise products whose results depend so much on the user. The damage done by these allegedly fake reviews could be disastrous, because now people don’t know if they can trust the company.

Read and respond. Social media platforms give you a great place to share new products and services or announce a promotion. However, if all you ever do is promote your company, your customers will start ignoring you.

Relationships require communication. A local restaurant used Facebook to announce a promotion for tickets to a recent sporting event. A friend of mine was curious about the event and asked a question about the event that had nothing to do with the restaurant’s promotion. The owner took a few minutes to answer the question. What stood out to me, though, was my friend’s reaction to the comment. She raved, “This is why I love this place. I feel like the owner knows me.”

You should have built into your social media strategy a plan for reading and responding to your customers’ comments. Even if you only have ten minutes a day, use that time to let your customers know you’re listening and care about them as people. If you don’t personally have time to respond, find a member of your team who can dedicate a few minutes each day to do so. Comment on their status updates, wish them a happy birthday, and respond to any comments they leave for you.

Listen

Listen. One of the great benefits of social media is the immediate access it gives you to what your customers are saying about your business. If you’re willing to hear the people, you have invaluable information that will help you create products and services targeted directly to the needs of your customers. Pay attention to what your customers are saying about you and make adjustments when you need to. Instead of anticipating the reaction of your clients, you can know directly what they think.

The Spanish clothing store, Zara, understands this. They’ve created a very successful business model that gives them the ability to pay attention to what customers like and don’t like about the clothes in their stores. Their model lets them target their products to what customers want to buy. In fact, they‘re even able to modify designs based on this customer feedback.

The result is a constantly changing product line their customers want to buy, and this leads to higher sales. You can apply this same concept to your own business by using customer feedback to modify your own products and services.

You got into business to connect with people through products and services they can use. Making a living at it is the added bonus. Social media gives you an unprecedented way to communicate with the people who believe in your enough to spend their money with you. Show people you care about them as people, and they’ll respond even more.

About Gabriella Sannino

International SEO consultant is my title...but who cares about those? What I love is, writing about marketing, social, SEO, relevance, ruffling feathers and starting revolutions. What you read on this blog, will hopefully inspire you to continue the conversation. When I'm not multitasking around Level343 I sneak away and go sailing. I'm crazy about pistachios, and of course Nutella.

Comments

  1. It’s true that small business can’t compete with big companies however it doesn’t mean that they don’t stand a chance being successful online. Even though I’m not an expert in social media marketing however I’m a strong believer that relationship is the key to achieve success. People don’t buy stuff from strangers especially online. That’s why most businesses online participate in social media sites in order to build relationship with their potential customers and build their reputation online.

  2. “Ginormous” – I love it!

    Excellent comment, B., thank you. “Think of your brand almost like a person” – If business people could wrap their minds around this attitude, I think we’d start seeing a whole different way of business-to-client communication.

    Thanks again!

  3. Hi, Mark – thanks for your thoughtful comment. Please note, however, the name on your comment has been edited to remove key words. Please refrain from adding key words within the “Name” field. You may, however, add a link at the bottom of the comment post for this purpose.

    Having said that, you have a great point at the end. Relationships do create a bond, and that bond is not easily broken – a good point to remember. Thanks again for your comment!

  4. Small businesses can’t afford to compete with big businesses in terms of advertising and promotion for the fact that they are just starting up in the business and an expensive ad is not such a good business move, so they turn to a cheap and even free advertising and promotion that is building relationship with their customers. Relationship would create a bond between customers and cannot easily be broken. Nice post.

  5. With small businesses the relationship factor is key. But it’s also extremely important for medium, large, and ginormous enterprises.

    1. You need to nurture the relationship between your brand and consumers. (Think of your brand almost like a person – with its own personality, its own way of communicating, of interacting, of reacting.)
    2. You need to nurture relationships between your consumers/clients and individual employees of your company. (Customers interact with people whether it’s a mom-and-pop show or a global mega-brand.)

    Small businesses can do so in a more informal way. Larger companies need well developed HR policies with regards to service, as well as Customer Relationship Management strategies, procedures, and plans.

  6. Building relationship whether though social media or networking events or any other from does give your customers, that extra peace of mind and assurance.
    To be honest people don’t like change, if something is working, and your enjoying the company the connection, why change, having a good relationship with your end users will also increase repeat sales and not only that, its a great form of marketing, as they would be happily to spread the word to others.

    Just like in your mechanic example you would happily recommend and say ” go to this mechanic as he will take care of you, just say my name”…Imagine your customer base working for you in that way, Powerful stuff, but achievable.

  7. Yes, I agree with you, Relationship is important in every aspect of our life. Not only in business, because we are social creature, we can’t life alone, that’s why we need good relationship.

  8. Richard Berry says:

    Really a nice post and relationships are necessary to build or to extend any company to the greater place and you can find your customers through your relations as well as your goodwill in your relations.

  9. Well, things really change and the business world is definitely not exempted to that. Consumers are very practical and really value relationship more than anything. Establishing a good relationship with them is surely the best solution to have a successful business. Great post anyway. Thanks for sharing this one!

  10. Raymond Deou says:

    Fantastic article! Relationships do give any company an edge as it branches into loyalty too. So the better the relationship, the more loyal the person will probably be to the brand. Assuming that the product serves its purpose.

Trackbacks

  1. The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/C58LUCFw 1) Don’t post fake reviews or profiles…I know you guys do it shame on you

  2. RT @angelibochis: It’s Relationships, Stupid! The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/MHoLqkJN vía @level343

  3. It’s Relationships, Stupid! The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/GVRidQrw vía @level343

  4. [...] It’s Relationships, Stupid! The Small Business Return on Relationships [...]

  5. Marc Custers says:

    @PieterM23 Bedankt voor de RT Pieter! Maar link is niet volledig :-) FYI – http://t.co/og00z02m

  6. It’s Relationships, Stupid! The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/a9jlJvZd

  7. Marc Custers says:

    The Small Business Return on Relationships – http://t.co/og00z02m – @level343 RT @SEOcopy @_Fleur__ @2cre8 #ROR

  8. The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/3b8yXOBf | via @SEOcopy RT @arkarthick @_Fleur__ @2cre8 @jaycbee

  9. Maureen says:

    The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/iX1Di8yP ROR? via @SEOcopy @_Fleur__ @2cre8 @jaycbee

  10. A.R.Karthick says:

    The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/1P0FEL0Z | via @SEOcopy RT @_Fleur__ @2cre8 @jaycbee

  11. Jazz Baker says:

    The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/aEBeDRJn ROR? via @SEOcopy @_Fleur__ @2cre8

  12. Our ActionCOACH Spokane December EnRICHment series topic is SalesRICH. Where we provide ideas on how to improve… http://t.co/tJU6cMbI

  13. John Spence says:

    The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/ohtReEuX ROR? via @SEOcopy RT @_Fleur__

  14. The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/ohtReEuX ROR? via @SEOcopy RT @_Fleur__

  15. The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/il7flTlU ROR? via @SEOcopy RT @_Fleur__

  16. Feba says:

    The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/u5OEMxMQ ROR? | On that note buonanotte my friends…more tomorrow #adomani xo

  17. RT @_Fleur__: The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/adcdVKed ROR? via @SEOcopy

  18. Fleur Laurs says:

    The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/0IkfXamn ROR? via @SEOcopy

  19. The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/u5OEMxMQ ROR? | On that note buonanotte my friends…more tomorrow #adomani xo

  20. Lee Johnson says:

    It's Relationships, Stupid! The Small Business Return on Relationships – http://t.co/dJtbbhpx

  21. It’s Relationships, Stupid! The S.B. Return on Relationships http://t.co/xgHoPzLM James Carville announced, “It’s the economy, stupid”. ;-)

  22. “You got into #business to connect with people…Making a living at it is the added bonus.” http://t.co/bwmczLRu @level343 on #relationships

  23. Jeff Riddle says:

    “You got into #business to connect with people…Making a living at it is the added bonus.” http://t.co/bwmczLRu @level343 on #relationships

  24. James Carville had the right idea "It’s Relationships, Stupid!" The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/qhXOwDJU

  25. The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/jT6yRzR6 via @SEOcopy

  26. It’s Relationships, Stupid! The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/A9Rfa1sI | Love political strategist James Carville

  27. The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/jT6yRzR6 via @SEOcopy

  28. Brad Miller says:

    It’s Relationships Stupid! The Small Business Return on Relationships – http://t.co/tScsI1Qr

  29. It’s Relationships, Stupid! The Small Business Return on Relationships BY @SEOcopy RT @level343: http://t.co/nvJPCWhr

  30. Kevin Green says:

    The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/ANlUKMX3 #RockTheReTweet

  31. RT @level343: It’s Relationships, Stupid! The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/RcIhBCv4

  32. It’s relationships, stupid! The small #Business return on relationships http://t.co/StPyoYBd

  33. It’s Relationships, Stupid! The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/ebC3IFV2 via @level343

  34. Wasim Ismail says:

    It’s Relationships, Stupid! The Small Business Return on Relationships / via @level343 http://t.co/UbZSCtNW

  35. Avi Joseph says:

    RT @level343: It’s Relationships, Stupid! The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/RcIhBCv4

  36. RT @SEOcopy @level343: It’s Relationships, Stupid! The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/rT0Leuel

  37. RT @level343: It’s Relationships, Stupid! The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/RcIhBCv4

  38. RT @level343: It’s Relationships, Stupid! The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/RcIhBCv4

  39. It's Relationships, Stupid! The Small Business Return on Relationships: var url = encodeURIComponent(location.hr… http://t.co/6eXFZaoW

  40. It's Relationships, Stupid! The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/9gU83hKK

  41. Ahmad says:

    It's Relationships, Stupid! The Small Business Return on Relationships: var url = encodeURIComponent(location.hr… http://t.co/KQUh5jMn

  42. dorian young says:

    It's Relationships, Stupid! The Small Business Return on Relationships: var url = encodeURIComponent(location.hr… http://t.co/vNoBoU5V

  43. It's Relationships, Stupid! The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/do3Gq2sf

  44. hollygemer says:

    It's Relationships, Stupid! The Small Business Return on Relationships: var url = encodeURIComponent(location.hr… http://t.co/7taTTH8m

  45. Sunanda Nair says:

    RT @rjfrasca: The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/v4T9u5pJ via @SEOcopy @JuliaRosien

  46. It's Relationships, Stupid! The Small Business Return on Relationships: var url = encodeURIComponent(locatio… http://t.co/o1bFkAEx #fb

  47. Boris Krumov says:

    It’s Relationships, Stupid! The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/JVIa1k0H via @level343

  48. It’s Relationships, Stupid! The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/VII6Drl2 via @level343

  49. RJ Frasca says:

    The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/DUNN5oLD via @SEOcopy @JuliaRosien

  50. Julia Rosien says:

    The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/BG7bzkWM via @SEOcopy

  51. It's Relationships, Stupid! The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/Gh7NJSxU

  52. Gwynne Wade says:

    ROR: Relationships require communication! #smb It’s Relationships, Stupid! The Small Business RoR http://t.co/QNttBWDV via @level343

  53. It's Relationships, Stupid! The Small Business Return on Relationships: var url = encodeURIComponent(location.hr… http://t.co/sBr3JeYk

  54. alma says:

    It's Relationships, Stupid! The Small Business Return on Relationships: var url = encodeURIComponent(location.hr… http://t.co/zPcV91hL

  55. [...] It’s Relationships, Stupid! The Small Business Return on Relationships [...]

  56. @Karelien1 Hier nog een aardig artikel over sociale media & business: http://t.co/uRIJduiG

  57. It’s Relationships, Stupid! The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/oQMi0xAu via @level343

  58. Eren Mckay says:

    RT @SEOcopy: It’s Relationships, Stupid! The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/ubfjtm8L

  59. RT @SEOcopy: It’s Relationships, Stupid! The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/z6irCINz

  60. It’s Relationships, Stupid! The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/O09mmeg6 via @level343

  61. RT @RavenPratt: RT @SEOcopy: It’s Relationships, Stupid! The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/WaxU5aRX

  62. RT @SEOcopy: It’s Relationships, Stupid! The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/gCDrM1jk

  63. Taylor Pratt says:

    RT @SEOcopy: It’s Relationships, Stupid! The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/cfADIoOY

  64. Todd Mintz says:

    RT @SEOcopy: It’s Relationships, Stupid! The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/U8qgyH4g

  65. David Saxe says:

    It’s Relationships, Stupid! The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/M2CmscWP

  66. RT @SEOcopy: It’s Relationships, Stupid! The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/WCnsdeSI

  67. The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/jpNhhA8N via @SEOcopy

  68. RT@SEOcopy: The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/UEqMhWaK – Our latest post ;-) Enjoy

  69. RT@SEOcopy: The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/UEqMhWaK – Our latest post ;-) Enjoy

  70. The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/gj4QrKGz

  71. Bear Files says:

    The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/Bh8txWJo via @SEOcopy

  72. RT@SEOcopy: The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/UEqMhWaK – Our latest post ;-) Enjoy

  73. Reading "It’s Relationships, Stupid! The Small Business Return on Relationships" – http://t.co/cOimu0Op (at @level343 via @smallbiztrends)

  74. RT@SEOcopy: The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/UEqMhWaK – Our latest post ;-) Enjoy

  75. David Saxe says:

    It’s Relationships, Stupid! The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/FSQNOILz

  76. Matt Siltala says:

    RT @SEOcopy: It’s Relationships, Stupid! The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/En3IIezc

  77. Hugo Guzman says:

    It’s Relationships, Stupid! The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/qV5ZlSCv via @level343

  78. It’s Relationships, Stupid! The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/0LDdmU7v, see more http://t.co/mv8Dfihf

  79. TJ McCue says:

    The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/JMZ4oRQV via @SEOcopy >> Not ROI, but ROR!!

  80. Dawn Mentzer says:

    It’s Relationships, Stupid! The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/FSQNOILz

  81. Laura Goede says:

    Importance of Business Relationships> RT @shellykramer: The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/W5lMpWK7 via @SEOcopy

  82. Robert Brady says:

    RT @SEOcopy: It’s Relationships, Stupid! The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/SgNBURHJ

  83. It’s Relationships, Stupid! The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/FSQNOILz

  84. It’s Relationships, Stupid! The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/A9Rfa1sI

  85. Don Rhoades says:

    It’s Relationships, Stupid! The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/A9Rfa1sI

  86. DocSheldon says:

    RT @level343: It’s Relationships, Stupid! The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/GQH7nyKc

  87. DocSheldon says:

    It’s Relationships, Stupid! The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/A9Rfa1sI

  88. RT @celeb_leak: RT @ShellyKramer: The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/TBLei0rj via @SEOcopy http://t.co/B9xgjanm

  89. Lisa Hudgens says:

    It’s Relationships, Stupid! The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/KkKdAfJ0

  90. Carla Young says:

    The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/4qCJMDQz via @SEOcopy

  91. Carla Young says:

    The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/4qCJMDQz via @SEOcopy

  92. Lizz Harmon says:

    It’s Relationships, Stupid! The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/Bm1fZvOa

  93. TheresaAyers says:

    It’s time to stop thinking of marketing in terms of Return On Investment (ROI) and consider the importance of… http://t.co/KoE5EP4M

  94. XPLAIN says:

    It’s Relationships, Stupid! The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/pu56ZZ2B

  95. Great Point! It’s Relationships, Stupid! The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/17pH5AuP via @level343

  96. Silo 88 says:

    Take 5 seconds & skim this one. All common sense, but great reminders. http://t.co/hsRNX5Fx

  97. potgietk says:

    The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/kJZhvwit via @SEOcopy

  98. The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/kJZhvwit via @SEOcopy

  99. Responsa says:

    L'importanza delle relazioni per le imprese: It’s Relationships, Stupid! http://t.co/TbftJdrm via @level343 #smm

  100. L'importanza delle relazioni per le imprese: It’s Relationships, Stupid! http://t.co/TbftJdrm via @level343 #smm

  101. The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/cYFa389M via @SEOcopy

  102. Francesca says:

    It’s #Relationships, Stupid! The Small #Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/i88azlTv by @SEOcopy

  103. It’s Relationships, Stupid! The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/gRfyEKSa via @zite

  104. The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/vjE4J7T1 via @SEOcopy

  105. lyena says:

    RT @level343: It’s Relationships, Stupid! The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/IkalLJjZ

  106. It’s Relationships, Stupid! The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/PAqNgLqG via @level343 Great!

  107. It’s Relationships, Stupid! The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/PAqNgLqG via @level343 Great!

  108. Jan Jammer says:

    Amen & amen! RT @level343: It’s Relationships, Stupid! The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/fNxqwABC

  109. Raymond Deou says:

    It’s Relationships, Stupid! The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/V1Ts7bi8 via @level343

  110. Amen & amen! RT @level343: It’s Relationships, Stupid! The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/wetwmfoQ

  111. It’s Relationships, Stupid! The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/A9Rfa1sI

  112. RT @mistygirlph: The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/zEqqBvFY via @SEOcopy

  113. Pedro Matias says:

    ++;) RT @seocopy It’s Relationships, Stupid! The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/KWyLan9Y – Our latest post ;-) Enjoy

  114. RT @RedheadWriting: The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/qWoQNQ9Z via @SEOcopy

  115. The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/nTHQMcpI via @SEOcopy

  116. Matt Hixson says:

    The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/KuITY2wK via @SEOcopy

  117. The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/QY4gLde2 via @SEOcopy

  118. The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/KbQC6YZQ via @SEOcopy

  119. RT @arkarthick: The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/3z1g9NJI | #smallbiz via @SEOcopy

  120. Kelsey Jones says:

    RT @arkarthick: The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/Ljo7NASO | #smallbiz via @SEOcopy

  121. A.R.Karthick says:

    The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/JQHAqGMG | #smallbiz via @SEOcopy

  122. RT @seocopy: It’s Relationships, Stupid! The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/TBLei0rj – Our latest post ;-) Enjoy

  123. The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/yYVdMr7d via @SEOcopy

  124. RT @seocopy: It’s Relationships, Stupid! The Small Business Return on Relationships http://t.co/5H7aeCyd – Our latest post ;-) Enjoy

Speak Your Mind

*