“It is literally true that you can succeed best and quickest by helping others to succeed.” Napoleon Hill
It’s been said that the most lucrative source of profit for most companies is in their existing customer relationships. And, that it takes more effort to get new customers than to keep your current customers happy and loyal to your brand.
I do some selective executive coaching, and I witnessed this first hand recently. I was conducting a phone consultation with my client who runs a mid-size, business-to-business service company. Right at the beginning of the conversation he told me that the most important issue he faces in 2009 is the challenge of finding new customers in this tough economy. I asked him what percent of his existing customers are giving the company all the business that is reasonably possible. His answer was typical: somewhere between 20 and 50%.
Turns out that when scrutinized, fewer than 20% of most client relationships are fully developed. Sure, new customers would be great. But for many companies the quickest route to building business and increasing revenues will come from building on the relationships they already have. This applies to personal brand building as well.
It’s not just number of followers
Let’s put this in the context of your personal brand and today’s business climate. The economic downturn is affecting everyone. Employers are laying people off, so the competition is not only fierce, but getting desperate. And it’s not even the end of the first quarter!
It’s harder than ever to rise above the noise and be noticed. Even with the new tools – posting clever videos, using your social networks, etc. – you have to really work hard to get the attention of the decision makers.
Are you just frantically trying to get new followers, fans, connections? “I have 2,000 followers on Twitter!” ” I have 500 Linked In connections!” Terrific. So here’s my question for you – are those fans and connections getting you the interviews and introductions you want? Are you mining those relationships to achieve maximum effectiveness? Or are you just madly trying to increase the numbers and neglecting the quality of the relationships?
Let’s stop for a minute and take a page from business. Consider enhancing your relationships with those who are already your brand fans.
Give to get
Remember that in today’s social media world, the motto is “Give to Get”. Turn the concept around. Are you giving all the help to the people in your network that you could? If you are like most people the answer is not really. Here’s the bottom line; we all have significant untapped potential in our existing relationships.
So, the first, most important thing you must do to thrive in 2009 is not get more outrageous in trying to stand out from the crowd. And you don’t have to step harder on the person beneath you to get ahead. The most important thing you have to do is nurture and develop your existing relationships. And start by GIVING help to others and then asking for their help in your situation.
How business owners strengthen their existing customer base
Take these suggestions from most any company’s playbook and apply them to your personal brand building efforts. Obviously, they may not apply apply directly, but you get the point. Give to get, and use the fan, follower, and connections base you’ve worked hard to develop, both online and offline to help others and yourself.
- Develop and offer a customer loyalty program that rewards frequent buyers
- Send customers a personalized thank-you with a special offer attached
- Customer contact management system to follow up with customers to see if they are satisfied with their product
- Send a free surprise give with special product offer
- Offer a guarantee with the product
Ask people in your network if you can do anything to help them – make a recommendation, link to a blog, retweet on Twitter for them. Thank them when they do something for you. Help out in any way you can – and make it as personal as possible.
Yes, a business needs new customers and you need new connections. But this isn’t about “either/or,” it’s about “both/and”. See how you might help others and then how they might help you. Nurture your existing relationships first and the your brand gets stronger.
Beverly Macy is the Managing Partner of Y&M Partners and teaches a social media class at UCLA. Y&M just launched the “Pay it Forward 2009” project.