1. Business

Building Relationships – The Difference Between Customer and Client


Intro by Skip Cohen

Several times over the last few years I’ve written about the importance of building relationships. In fact, there’s an outstanding book every small business owner needs to read, Unmarketing by Scott Stratten. His subtitle says it all, stop marketing and start engaging!

While Sarah Petty used Walmart as the reference for customers, I like to compare Macy’s and Nordstroms. For example, you can find the exact same short sleeve Polo golf shirt in both stores, but in Nordstroms, you’re going to have somebody immediately ask you if they can help, while in Macy’s you’re going to have to search for a clerk. And, if inventory is low in Macy’s, Nordstroms is going to check the back room for you without you asking. Shopping is an experience at Nordstroms versus just shopping at Macy’s.

Now take it a step further and make working with you a relationship builder. Track your client’s birthdays and anniversaries. Pay attention to what’s going on in their lives all year long. Be active in your community so you cross paths with your clients. If you’re in the portrait/social categories this includes being active in the school system, walkathons, fund-raisers for various events and activities. This is about you building brand awareness by being more than just another retailer.

There’s a great quote from Teddy Roosevelt that’s always been one of my favorites:

“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

If you shop at Walmart, you are a customer. If you shop at a business where everyone knows your name and treats you like a friend, you are a client. To have a successful boutique business model, you need to build relationships and make friends with your customers and they will forever be clients.

How can you turn customers INTO clients? Here are a few suggestions:

  1. MAKE FRIENDS. For one, learn the names of their family members of those who patronize your business. There is no better sales and relationship builder than simply calling people by name. I love shopping at my favorite boutique in town and everyone who works there knows my name (yes, I realize as much as I am there, they should). But, they always call me by name, acknowledge me and welcome me back. Over the years, we have become friends and whenever I hold workshops with others from around the globe, I often drag the entire workshop there to shop there.
  2. GIVE PERSONAL ATTENTION. My mother got a young, new doctor and he has a tremendous desire to grow his practice. When my mother calls, she gets HIM on the phone. Seriously, in this day and age, when do you get to speak directly to a doctor? What do you do to give your clients personal attention?
  3. CARE. Does Wal-mart care that they ran your wedding negatives through the machine with bleach instead of the correct chemicals (saw it happen). No. Do you care that your client’s child is having surgery or that they lost a close family member? People don’t do business with businesses, they do business with PEOPLE. People who care.