Your customers are the lifeblood of your business. So whether you own an ecommerce business or a brick-and-mortar store, letting your customers know how much you value them is important. And once you start thinking about your business in terms of relationships rather than transactions, you’ll find that customer retention comes naturally.

Here are five not-so-common ways to strengthen your relationships with customers and keep them coming back for more.

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1.  Put your mom’s secret cookie recipe to good use. There aren’t many folks who can say no to a freshly baked morsel of goodness. Keeping this logic in mind, I dug up my mom’s secret chocolate-chip cookie recipe and started baking cookies for customers. You don’t necessarily have to be a world-class baker to win someone over, but going out of your way with a small gesture can really bring out your company’s caring for people.

2. Make house calls. Nothing says “I value you” like some face time. At my company, Endicia, we make it a point to schedule in-person customer visits just to check in and see how things are going. This gives us the chance to troubleshoot any potential problems firsthand, and customers love the individual attention.

3. Get your customers talking. There’s no better way to make someone feel valued than by asking his or her opinion. Invite your customers to your office. Set up a customer council. By opening up a discussion and allowing consumers to give their say on areas they’d like to see improved, you’ll start earning their trust.

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4. Personalize services or products. When possible, customize your products for clients; it shows you care. I often prototype customized solutions for customers. For instance, one client was having some trouble having some shipping labels fit a particular type of packaging. So I put on my engineering hat and prototyped a software solution just for that client. When it comes to customer relationships, there’s no such thing as “one size fits all.”

5. Make friends online. If you have expertise on a certain subject, don’t keep it all to yourself. Put it online so others can benefit. When my company was still in its early days, my partner and I spent a lot of time participating on eBay’s discussion boards, engaging with people who had questions about ecommerce shipping services. By answering a few questions, we began building new relationships. And soon enough, those ties evolved into new customer relationships. Make it a goal to identify where your customers hang out online and join the conversation.

Taking the time to grow and maintain your customer relationships is hands down the best business investment you’ll ever make. When your customers are smiling, there’s a greater chance they’ll continue to do business with you over the long run and recommend your firm to friends. And your bottom line will benefit as a result.

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