It takes time to develop long-term relationships with your sphere of influence. So be patient. Soon enough, your extra efforts will reach a critical mass, and peoples’ loyalty to your business will swell. Some of the best ways to generate that goodwill include:

The Best Ways to Build Long Term Customer RelationshipsCheck-in with your network on a regular basis

When you check-in with your sphere of influence on a regular basis, it lets them know that you’re thinking about them (and who wouldn’t appreciate that?). Every six months or so, consider sending an email or making a phone call with the message, “I haven’t heard from you in a while.” Or, simply, “how’s it going?” Something like, “Can I be of any assistance?” works well, too. If you want a more business-like reason to make contact, just say you’re checking to see if the contact information you have on file for the person is up-to-date.

Send handwritten notes

In this day and age of all-electronic communications, sending handwritten notes (thanking clients for their business and referrals, congratulating them on any personal / professional successes, or just checking in to see how they’re doing) can make a real emotional impact. It shows you genuinely care, and that’s something that will foster long-term business relationships for a long time to come. The best part: It only takes a few minutes to jot a note and pop it in the mail.

Sponsor a popular charity event

Becoming a corporate supporter of a charitable event is not only altruistic, it’s also a great way to win the confidence – and continued patronage – of customers and prospects while building your brand. To get started, visit the Charity Navigator website – a free and completely independent online service that analyzes and evaluates over 5,500 U.S. charities.

Offer your long-term network a special offer

Special offers seem far more special when you tell the recipient it’s a reward for their loyalty. Even if the person doesn’t redeem the offer, they’ll remember that you gave it to them as a thank-you – and they’ll be far more likely to continue supporting your business.

Provide something of value

Your perceived value increases when you provide your sphere of influence with valuable information and other content. Ideas include:

  • Articles – Spend a few minutes every week looking at websites, trade magazines and periodicals for any pertinent articles you can forward to your sphere. Think Wall St. Journal, Fortune, Better Homes and Gardens, Consumer Reports and the like. Even if the article doesn’t do anything for your contact, most people like to forward these things to family and friends.
  • Reminders – Everyone has trouble remembering things – like when Daylight Savings Time starts and stops, how often the batteries in smoke detectors need to be replaced, and the upcoming deadline for money-saving programs (such as the home energy-efficiency tax credits). So send them postcard reminders.
  • Tips – Consider starting a direct-mail marketing campaign where, every month, your past customers get a “Did You Know?” postcard. These could include home-maintenance tips, career advice, notices about upcoming shows / events, a list of the homes that have recently sold in their neighborhood, advice for appealing a tax bill, or anything else you think might be helpful.

Use social networking

Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter are ideal for socializing with your sphere on an informal basis. They enable you to talk about your business and industry in a laid-back, friendly style that allows others to see the real you (and share personal comments / insights of their own). Using these online services to socialize with your business network makes everyone feel like family – and that breeds long-term customer relationships.

Be a consistent marketer

Repetition builds familiarity, and familiarity builds trust. That means, the more marketing emails and mailings your sphere receives from you, the more comfortable they’ll become with your brand. And the more comfortable they become with your company, the more loyal they’ll be over the long-term.

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