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5 Ways to Provide Personalized Service to Small Companies -- Profitably

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When selling their products and services, companies typically target the largest opportunities first and the smallest customers last. The logic behind this is trying to generate the highest return on the investment.

In reality, the opportunity is great when it comes to small businesses, which represent a sizable share of the U.S. economy.

So the challenge for entrepreneurs wishing to make sales is how to efficiently provide a high-touch, personalized -- and profitable -- experience to these small businesses in a manner that resonates. By developing the proper tools and processes to engage with small firms, an entrepreneur can make a high return on his or her investment while generating sales spread across a large group of customers.

In addition, selling to smaller businesses can be profitable since there's less competitive pressure (as a result of the perceived challenge of efficiently interacting with them).

Here are some ways to do so:

Related: Create an Unforgettable Customer Experience With These 5 Tips

1. Make a dynamic first impression.

Starting off an interaction with a highly personalized approach can really help a businessperson stand out from the crowd. Written communications and phone interactions ideally should be done in a customer's native language. Such efforts have a good chance of sending a sustainable, positive message, which can increase future response rates.

2. Practice the platinum rule.

Think about how unique all people are as individuals. Follow the platinum rule, which authors Tony Alessandra and Michael J. O'Connor defined in their book The Platinum Rule, "Do unto others as they'd like done unto them." Let customers interact with the company in whatever manner they choose at a particular moment, whether by phone, email or online chat. It's up to the seller to provide a relevant efficient interaction that appreciates the value of customers' time.

Anticipate the platinum rule for customers, figuring out how often staffers should attempt to interact with customers and on which channel.

Related: Market Research Has Lost Its Mojo. But Here's How It Can Get It Back.

3. Track every customer engagement.

Everyone talks about big data and analytics but what should the seller do with the data? What are the implications to be drawn from it? Aggregate data at a single location, establish an understanding of the terminology, take out duplicates and build organizational resources and tools to disseminate analytics throughout the company.

This can allow a company to truly measure the incremental contribution from sales and marketing to constantly enhance the return on investment. In a true multichannel marketing environment, the hardest thing to identify is what activity the company can stop doing and at what cost to profitability.

4. Be systematically spontaneous.

Social media allows for a dynamic and spontaneous means of interacting with customers, building communities of thought and developing collective knowledge and understanding. While this creates a foundation for promotion, social media can easily be used incorrectly as a platform to sell. Practice the discipline of trying to not communicate for the purpose of selling. This will allow for more direct and spontaneous interaction with others.

5. Make customer service an inherent part of company culture.

There are no businesses that are closer to their customers than small firms. When selling to companies like this, be appreciative of their businesses. In all correspondence, convey this in action and words.

Related: Revive That Old-Fashioned Extra: Excellent Customer Service

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