Owning the business relationship.
In business, who owns the relationship between the consumer and the brand or company? This was a great question that came up in a networking event I recently attended. And it was a good question.
As a consumer you might be inclined to think "Nobody owns me" or "nobody owns my relationships" but you'd be wrong. Somebody owns your relationship with a product or brand, the real question is whether the company or brand owns it or whether the person that you deal with on a regular basis has that control. And I say that somebody owns it because you will go back to that person or entity or brand next time you want to buy that product --provided they treated you well in the past.
As a business owner you might think that you own the relationship. You own that customer even if another salesperson is the account manager or face of your company, but you'd probably be wrong. You must wonder if the customer has a relationship with you, your brand or their sales person.
If you run a company, as the CEO, do you nurture the relationships with your clients so they stay with you forever? What happens when your top salesperson gets recruited by a competing firm. Are the clients he or she managed in the past going to go with him or do they have a strong allegiance and loyalty towards your company? Will they call you even if Steve has left the company or are they going to seek him out and do business with his new employer. You can't guess at this, you need to know.
Putting all legalese aside, like NDA's and non-compete agreements, you can't force customers to do business with you. People want to do bussiness with people they know, trust and like (paraphrasing @devinelines) And it is because of this that you should find it imperative to manage and work in these relationships as the owner of the company! Should you be in a few social networks working in these relationships? Absolutely.
Make the customer feel special and welcome, all the time, and they'll never leave you. Provide quick turnaround, honest service and provide excellent customer service, even if they aren't buying anything right now. Because this consistency and genuine support will help them remember you next time they are on the market to buy your product.
Stop debating whether to use these wonderful networking resources or not, yes, we know... your business has been doing fine all these years without all these new tools. Phone and fax is all you need right? Have you seen what your competition is doing? They're stealing your customers, they're taking over because they are working in the long-term relationship with these clients, in the networks that these clients hang out at. Start engaging with your customer base. Care about their weekend, compliment them in their achievements. BE THERE, that's half the battle. The other half is caring.