Building customer relationships
When it comes to the crunch, we’re all working as hard as we can to make sure the businesses we have invested so much time and energy in survive and grow.
I know it’s not quite that simple, but when you pare back everything you do, that’s the aim. If you wanted an easy life, you wouldn’t be running a business – especially in our sector! It’s everything but easy.
You wouldn’t be employing staff, worrying about HR, health and safety, pensions and the myriad of other issues that running a business entails.
I know why I do it – because I love it. As I’ve said before in this column and I’ve said it elsewhere too (on the BBC no less!), I think concrete cutting and diamond drilling are sexy and I can’t think of another industry I’d rather be in.
I’ve been asked, in recent weeks, to speak at quite a few events to give my take on industry and on leadership and how I feel businesses can do more to bring through apprentices, to show women that there is a route into and through our sector and to talk about business in general.
My first, and actually, my overriding message is you have to enjoy what you do – life is what you make it, whether you are in business or not and if you are not having fun, then find something else to do.
There’s not a one-size-fits-all method to achieving that aim of growing your business but in this era of social media and of digital communication, I think it’s crucial to remember that people still buy from people and that relationships matter – maybe now, more than ever.
There are various aspects to how you develop and build a relationship with a customer, a supplier or an associate and it’s important to create trust from the outset.
I think that is true for every business but I believe in our sector it is absolutely vital. I think, at times, we underestimate the importance of the work we do – probably because we are so close to it.
So when I receive an email from a client when we’ve just completed a job that says how well it has gone, that says how well our team has performed and that they will be calling upon us again, I couldn’t be more satisfied.
If it’s a new client, we’ve already built some trust. We might have been recommended originally by a regular customer but that doesn’t buy you instant confidence from the new client, it just gets your foot through the door.
So it is the way the team operates, the level of service, the communication and ultimately getting the job done on time and on budget that will stand you in good stead for the future.
It sounds simple but how many companies do you know out there who spend fortunes on consultants, strategists and systems in a bid to grow their business but actually don’t get the basics right?
As that trust builds with the new client and as you increasingly become important to their business – so much so that they feel they couldn’t do their job without you – then suddenly they will be recommending you to others and the process begins again.
They might not, they might use you once and you might not hear from them again. Until a year, two years, ten years down the line and they find themselves in the same situation and they remember you did a great job for them and get in touch again.
As I said before, I think in this day and age – when everything is so instant, so throwaway – that those relationships that you develop are more important than they’ve ever been.
Don’t get me wrong, I use social media, I push myself forward as an industry spokesperson and I try to keep my name out there wherever possible because again, I am indirectly developing a relationship with clients and potential clients.
“I saw you on TV the other day Julie,” is how conversations sometimes start, “it reminded me, we’ve got quite a big job that we’d like you to look at…”
Also, in my very early days of growing my media persona, I was working really hard to get in to speak to a senior figure at a very big contractor in the UK but I was struggling.
I attended an event a few days after appearing on the BBC’s Breakfast News and he made a beeline for me to say he’d seen me and could we chat about potential work.
So it was building a relationship indirectly but, nevertheless, it was another great example of people buying from people but rather than face to face, he felt he’d got to ‘know me’ through my media profile.
Ultimately, I want every piece of media, every event I speak at and every tweet I send to somehow have an impact on growing my business because, as I said at the top, that’s the aim.
But, having said all that, I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t love it!