Kelly Borth: Eight keys to developing long-term customer connections

If I did a Google search, I am certain there would be numerous authors who have written about building lasting customer relationships, yet as I speak to CEOs around the country, this question inevitably surfaces.
I have built my business on valuing a long-term customer relationship over a short-term gain.
If your goal is to build customer relationships that last for the long-term, here are eight tips you may want to consider.
Set your sight for distance. Focusing on building customer relationships that last for the long-term requires vision far beyond an impending sale. A short-term focus or placing too much emphasis on the short-term sale impedes long-term vision.
Most of us are old enough to know that vision weakens over time, too. Don’t let the lapse in years change your relationship focus. Maintaining keen vision requires regular check-ins and adjustments.
Choose the right customer. There are many customers who need your product or service, but are they the right relationship for your business? If your focus is long-term customer relationships, chances are you will find yourself walking away from prospects that are looking for a short-term solution.
It is difficult to build an organization that can cater to both disciplines.
Listen to get to the heart of the issue. Effective listening is an art. It is also a conversation. To obtain a full understanding of how your organization can help another company over the long-term requires listening, digging, dialogue and asking more questions.
Your ability to ask the right questions and thoroughly grasp the issue will give you the perspective you need to find the right solutions. This may be an investment of hours, months or years. Usually if you fully understand the issues at hand you can fix the problem.
Understand the long-term goals. Put yourself on the executive team by working toward the same long-term goals. Know where the company is heading and why. This will be a key to developing long-term strategic solutions.
There is a difference in fixing short-term issues and planning for long-term solutions. Most often it’s the long-term strategic solutions that drive the best investments for the short-term fixes.
Earn customers’ trust. Do what’s right. Do what you say you are going to do, when you say you are going to do it. Deliver what you promised. It may sound like a cliché, but if the customer is going to put the company’s future in your hands, the customer needs to feel that you are the most capable person or company to handle the job.
If you meet or exceed those expectations, then you’ve established trust.
Demonstrate sincere interest in the long-term relationship. Tell customers often that you are in the relationship for the long haul. Back up those statements with actions that demonstrate that same long-term commitment. Meet regularly — not just once a year. Keep them on your radar.
Send them information that will help them in their business. Include them in educational venues you feel they will benefit from attending. Introduce them to strategic partners or relationships. Know the names of their spouse and children and their interests outside of work.

Deliver solutions that bring results. This is certainly a requirement if you are going to build a long-term relationship with a customer. Then don’t stop — keep delivering results. Businesses evolve, economic conditions change, people come and go and market dynamics change. Nothing is stagnant, so your solutions need to evolve, too.
Give them VIP status. Show and share your appreciation regularly. Let your customers know how important they are to your company and extend special privileges for loyalty.
Don’t fall prey to thinking that because they have been a long time customer, they will more easily forgive you. Yesterday is but a memory — today is what counts.
Kelly Borth is CEO and chief strategy officer for Greencrest, a 21-year-old brand development, strategic marketing and digital media firm that turns market players into market leaders. Borth has received numerous honors for her business and community leadership. She serves on several local advisory boards and is one of 30 certified brand strategists in the United States. Reach her at (614) 885-7921, [email protected], @brandpro, or for more information, visit