Last year was a year for the record books. No one could’ve predicted the happenings or the fallout or the hidden blessings from 2020. The global pandemic’s impact on retail business was no small thing, and though we didn’t cause it and we can’t control it, we can learn a lot as we move on toward a healthier, more productive year.
Many of us in retail marketing had to come to terms with what portions of our business and employees were “essential” and “non-essential.” We had to learn new ways of safely conducting business to keep consumers and employees healthy. We had to implement new, rigorous cleaning protocols. We had to learn how to adapt quickly to new governmental regulations which were constantly changing as new science came available. We had to learn how to shut down for weeks, open up temporarily and in a limited fashion, and deal with a work-from-home model or with limited employees because of quarantine requirements.
While we clumsily mastered these practical matters, one consistent factor proved true for the businesses who were able to ride out the unpredictable waves of 2020 – business relationships. Companies who established and maintained strong relationships with consumers and each other were better able to emerge from 2020 with their foundations intact.
WHAT WE NEED IN 2021
The value of relationships is incalculable. The power is invaluable. In 2020’s uncertain economic times, businesses survived because their customers were loyal and their client based didn’t abandon them. Some businesses saw an extra measure of support from fellow businesses or from customers who wanted to see them survive the hardships of 2020 and be around to serve them later on. With the future unclear and budgets tightening up, many purchasers had to downsize their buying, and they overwhelmingly cut businesses that they did not have a strong relationship with. That fact alone proves how important the human connection is to a business, how it can make or break you in times of trouble. This is why what 2020 taught us about relationships might be the most important lesson we learned all year.
HOW TO BUILD AND NURTURE BUSINESS RELATIONSHIPS:
No matter the size of your company, a strong business network is everything. Making connections and keeping relationships going always helps business and should be a top priority. It is a long game, and it’s worth it. Fortunately, sometimes we get a glimpse of just how important it is (looking at you, 2020!). Here are some ways to foster those bonds.
- Work on connecting with consumers where they are. What can your retail biz do with your brand, your imaging, your graphics to connect to your customers who’ve come out of probably the hardest year of their lives. Even a small change in wording can convey that you know them and hear them.
- Focus on service and value. Be a problem-solver, help consumers find solutions and educate employees..
- Be honest and grow trust. Relationships are built on trust and trust is built through a track record of honesty and openness. Whether it’s with employees or buyers, be appropriately honest about your business’s performance, outlook, and potential.
- Be personal. Face-to-face meetings can boost your relationships, and with today’s Zoom culture, you can have them virtually. Even a Facetime or virtual meet-up is better than an email or a phone call.
- Listen and respond. Pay attention, be receptive, offer feedback, and take initiative. People respond to people who respond to them. Let them know they are heard and that you take them seriously and that you are doing what you can to make a difference.
- Be easy to work with. Be flexible with your schedule – try to fit in with your others’ schedules. Be reachable. Be available. And if you aren’t, make sure SOMEONE is. It’s too easy for people to reach out to the next available business. Be that business!
- Nurture, nurture, nurture. Relationships are like plants – they need time and tending to grow. Keep putting in the effort and the time and the care and before you know it, you will have flourishing relationships on your hands. And like plants, relationships can wither, so keep putting in the work. Keep checking in on customers, keep asking what they need, keep congratulating them on their successes, keep supporting them.
Here’s to a great 2021 full of booming business and thriving relationships!
This article was inspired by “2020 Proved That Relationships Should Be 2021 Priority” by Briquelle Neyens and first appeared at skyline.com
Photo by Mehrnegar Dolatmand