Nothing infuriates me more on a company’s website than one that withholds its phone number. Instead, it asks you to send an email to a nameless person who may (but most likely won’t) get back with you. If a person does respond, it’s often too late to make a difference. While I appreciate the efficiency of email, and even understand the necessity, I find the lack of a personal touch off-putting.
I’ve thought about this quite a bit as it applies to larger growers, and smaller growers with plans to grow in the future. How does a grower migrate from small-business culture to a multi-million-dollar corporate way of life and still maintain customer relationships that are individual, not institutional? The conclusion I have come to is that the growers who do it successfully stay true to their small-business roots by doing these four things:
1. They realize it’s the personal touch that counts.
These growers don’t think in terms of customers; they think in terms of customer — singling out the individual person — with his or her uniqueness, from the masses. They’re busy, but not too busy to respond with a phone call or face-to-face meeting when the occasion calls for it.
2. They know their customers.
While it’s true it is much easier to know your customers when their numbers are few, with today’s technology, there’s no excuse for not knowing them just as well when they number in the thousands. Smart growers , whether big or small, leverage social media to listen to customers. They not only listen, they find out what interests them. They interact with customers, too, through answering questions, addressing feedback, and providing educational content.
3. They communicate.
Big growers know this better than most. The bigger the operation, the more important it is to communicate well and often, not only internally, but also externally. They are proactive about keeping their customers up-to-date, communicating values and initiatives, and promoting the industry in positive ways.
4. They connect.
Big growers who haven’t lost their small-business touch make the effort to connect with customers on an emotional level, knowing that long-term relationships built on loyalty and trust are the foundation of a strong business.
Whether you’re a big or small grower, don’t underestimate the value of listening, and don’t lose sight of the personal touch in your business. If you do, you will lose what is important to your success — the person who purchases your plants.