Use these 10 tips to serve others well.

The year was 1996 and one of my favorite movies made its debut: Jerry Maguire. Depending on how you feel about the film, it was an emotional rom-com or a great motivational drama. For me, I’m going with the latter. And if you’re with me, one of your favorite lines is probably from the handful of scenes with Jerry’s mentor, Dicky Fox.

One of Dicky’s great quotes is, “The key to this business is personal relationships.” That statement is true for every organization; from Fortune 100 companies to small locally owned shops to nonprofits, they all rise or fall in large part due to the quality and depth of their personal relationships.

Here are 10 ways you can begin building and strengthening relationships.

  1. Customer surveys. Conducting regular surveys will help you stay in tune with your customers. From product selection to prices, you can learn a lot just by asking some simple questions.
  2. Community involvement. Volunteer your time and build into your corporate budget 8 to 10 hours of paid time for your staff to volunteer at a local outreach or charity event. Getting out into the community and serving others speaks volumes. Goodwill doesn’t carry a price tag, but the impact can be priceless.
  3. Handwritten notes. If you really want to get noticed by your best customers, send them a handwritten note once in awhile. In a world of email, instant messaging, and texts, a personal note goes a long way and leaves a lasting impression.
  4. Holiday or special occasion gifts. Identify your top customers and send them a gift. It may be during a holiday or some other special occasion, but let them know you are thinking of them. It doesn’t need to be huge or expensive, but send them something that lets them know they are important to you and your business.
  5. Donate branded products. Keep a supply of branded products handy to pass out to customers or use when local organizations come asking for donations. You may have things as simple as pens and magnets to flash drives and fidget spinners. There are thousands of low-cost products that can be branded and then donated to get your name in front of hundreds of potential customers.
  6. Cross-promotions with other local businesses. Make a list of other businesses and organizations that you can participate in promotions with. This could include restaurants, coffee shops, theaters, bakeries, food or clothing pantries, local authors and artists. The opportunities to get in front of new people and potential customers are endless if you think outside the box.
  7. Holiday gifts. Use special holidays to recognize your most valuable customers. Consider sending them a $25 gift certificate at Christmas or Easter (they’ll probably redeem it and spend an additional $50 to $100 on their next visit).
  8. Sponsor local sports teams and organizations. There’s not a mom, dad, or grandparent who can ignore a business that supports their children or grandchildren. Your business name on a jersey or uniform can reap big benefits.
  9. Phone calls. If you want someone to pay attention, give them a call. Even if you get voice mail, leaving a personal message with your contact information can build the relationship you have with them.
  10. Leadership. Use your years of experience to your advantage. If you started a business, are in management, or work in day-to-day operations, you have something to pass along to customers and the next generation of the workforce. Start sharing your knowledge as a subject matter expert. It may be through simple posts on Facebook, an email, or a blog post; start sharing your story so that others can benefit.

Personal relationships require you to be in them for the long game. They also require you to be in them for the right reasons. When you are building a relationship, make sure you are in it to serve the other person. If you are helping others, you will experience the benefits.

—Chris Rainey

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