If I were to ask you what makes a business successful, what would you say?
A unique product? Good pricing? Awesome social media dancing? Promotion from another business?
There are a lot of different answers to this question – and yes, many of them are part of the business success formula. Yet if you were to head to your local bookstore and walk through the entrepreneur or self-help sections, you would be face to face with several timeless titles.
Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki
How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
Personality Plus by Florence Littauer
7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
Think & Grow Rich by Napolean Hill
Just to name a few…
These are titles that are evergreen. They are titles that nearly every successful person you can think of has read. They are just as relevant 30 years ago as they will be 30 years from now. Want to know what all these books (and many more) have in common? They emphasize the importance of understanding people and building relationships if you want to be successful.
Our social media focused world has made it easy to overlook this simplest, most crucial aspect of growing a successful business. We see someone starting a Facebook group or having a viral TikTok or aligning with a big business and we think: that is what I need to make some money! But the truth is those things are fleeting; building relationships is not.
There is a multi-billion-dollar industry built around teaching people to build better relationships in order to be successful in every part of their lives. Books, podcasts, private coaching, webinars/seminars, you name it. Despite this indisputable truth, every time that someone asks how I have landed big orders or been successful and I respond with “by building relationships”; they give me a disappointed “like” and move on. I get it, you’re hoping that I will sell you some artificial super-star strategy for business success that is about posting in groups and dancing on TikTok and that one single product that will just make your financial dreams come true. That if you follow these specific steps, your business will blow up.
I get it because there are people who sell this pipedream in our industry and other industries. Few things infuriate me more than knowing that members of my group are actually spending money on “Tshirt Making Courses” and “How to Start a Business” courses that have been put together by individuals with no real experience; who are actually only making money off you buying their course instead of showing you how they were able to make money BEFORE creating the course (which most of them were not). It is most frustrating because the people I see (especially in the apparel decoration and accessory industry) that are sharing these “words of wisdom” are almost always people who are completely checked out of their audience’s experience. They share more information that you want to hear and less information that is based in fact, experience or education.
Despite the many flaws in their strategy, credibility and teachings – these individuals still are following the No. 1 Rule of Sales: they are counting on your relationship with them.
Which brings us to our important question and topic for the month of October: Why are relationships essential for business growth and success?
RELATIONSHIP GIVE YOU AN EDGE OVER COMPETITION
When it comes to the handmade goods and printing market, you are unlikely to have a product so unique that customers flock to you with dollars in hand. The general experience that business owners in our impatient world endure is that if a customer is unhappy with your delivery time or price, they will simply go to someone else – because you are a nobody among everybody. I know that is a little hard to hear, but it is true.
A customer who will pay your prices, wait your turnaround time and continue to support and advocate for your business is one who you have built a relationship with. Today’s customers are not just buying a product, they are buying an experience. As we progress forward, customers are wanting to spend their dollars with businesses that emulate their beliefs, invest in their audience experience and offer the customer value before, during and after the sale.
You don’t have to have the flashiest product or the best TikTok dance: you simply have to make your customers feel appreciated and valued through the relationship you build. That is when you become the somebody they turn to in a sea of “everybody”.
RELATIONSHIPS OPEN DOORS TO OPPORTUNITY
Once upon a time, back in 2008, I answered an ad on Craigslist for content writing. I had limited experience but I needed to generate an income and I knew I could learn this skill; so I applied. I quickly became a content writer for a magazine about ski resorts, hired by an executive editor named Rodney. Over the last 13 years, Rodney and I have become great friends (although never met in person). He has taken me with him as a writer across multiple platforms – nurturing my talent and helping me continue to pay my bills. Today, I am no longer a content writer by day and he is no longer an editor. Today, I am a graphic artist in the print industry and he is a small business owner who finds himself needing bulk coffee mugs, tumblers and more printed for his various businesses to sell that I can provide.
Back in March of 2019, I attended an event here in Downtown Fayetteville, North Carolina where I met Paco & Jerry of Yellow Crayons who share their insight as a brick and mortar DTG and Embroidering shop in our group. They were intrigued by my newly-founded group, Sub That, and my expertise in the printing industry. Today, I have filled orders for them on demand for items they couldn’t print in house. They are clients of mine and I operate as their white toner media dealer and troubleshooting issues with their OKI. Their business being downtown has encouraged me to spend more time downtown and in and out of the many local shops. I have started building relationships with other shop owners during my time in their businesses.
And then, of course, we have Sub That and the relationship I have built with all of you through the group. Within the group I can offer a wealth of knowledge and build a relationship with you entirely based on free information that is designed to help you succeed. Not only have many become my customers – and there is nothing I love more than seeing someone who downloaded freebies for over a year, finally take the plunge on a design membership – but the work that I do and my focus on serving you and building that relationship with you has been noticed by some of the biggest names in our industry. That recognition has created many of the opportunities we have to teach and show more and offer great giveaway items.
What I am getting at here is that opportunities come from many different paths which stem from our relationships. They may be immediate. They may be through referral of a friend of a friend who shared your post but has never bought anything. They may be a decade down the road from someone you have always known. It really doesn’t matter when they arrive, honestly. It matters that you are laying the foundation for them to arrive (without expectations).
RELATIONSHIPS STRENGTHEN CUSTOMER, EMPLOYEE & REPUTATION RETENTION
I have a firm belief that if you focus on your customers then the rest will work out. You could have $0 in your bank account and yet, I would still tell you that focusing on your customers is going to work out the rest. Through 16 years of entrepreneurship and a lot of life obstacles, this one mantra and has never failed me. The principle goes beyond just your customers though; it also applies to your employees and your overall reputation in the community.
As a business owner, you want to be known as a good human and a good business owner. This combination is how you build and maintain a strong reputation within your niche or community. This perspective comes from the relationship you build and the experience you provide for your customers and employees. A business that operates alone and alienates others (including their competition) is one that will not last very long. All press is not good press, despite what they say.
An added bonus of the feel-good vibes that come from a strong connection with your audience, staff and reputation is the confidence boost. This boost gets your mindset right to charge appropriately for your products and take bigger risks with a lot of faith in your business – which can lead to more opportunities. Even if you feel like you are falling and failing and flailing right now; you can find your footing and thrive – through your business relationships. No one has it all figured out. No one starts with it all figured out. Everyone who succeeds learns along the way that the relationships they are building with their business is worth more than gold; and it costs you nothing to create.
Business relationships are the strongest foundation for to build upon. Without them, success and growth will always be limited. So what does it take to build these relationships? What are some misguided mistakes small business owners make? How can you maximize your efforts in your own business? We will be talking about this over the next few weeks as our October focus on business relationships continues.