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BE BUSINESSLIKE AND PROFESSIONAL
The concept of "relationship marketing" does NOT mean getting up close and personal with your customers. You'll save yourself a lot of grief and angst if you just keep things businesslike and professional - friendly to be sure, but not *overly* personal. It's possible to be friendly and helpful in a professional, businesslike manner without stepping over line into personal. The people you're dealing with are not your friends, they're your customers. Of course, over time, you may become friends with certain people who started out as customers. But don't start from position that you have to be friends with your customers in order to engage in relationship marketing. You don't. Keep it businesslike and professional and you won't raise any unrealistic expectations.
ACT IN ACCORDANCE WITH YOUR BUSINESS'S BEST INTERESTS
One way of keeping yourself in check is by constantly testing your decisions against criteria "is this decision in best interests of my business?". If so, do it, recognizing that something can be in best interests of your business even if it doesn't involve cash flowing in your direction. If not, don't.
Occasionally, it will be in best interests of your business to do something that may be perceived by your customer as a personal favor. An example might be giving a refund for a purchase under circumstances where customer is not strictly entitled to one and where you have an ongoing relationship with customer. You do so in interests of customer service and this is certainly an example of something that is in your business's best interests.
Sometimes, however, customers can take advantage of such a policy. To forestall this type of problem, if you decide to do something that benefits your customer/reader/visitor over and above what they have an entitlement to, make it clear, in a subtle way, that you are doing so for business reasons. Be prepared to set limits though. Know how far you are prepared to go before it stops being a business decision and becomes a personal one and to detriment of your business interests.
Being uncomfortable saying "no" is not a good enough reason to sacrifice your business's best interests if that's right decision in all circumstances.
BE DIRECT AND HONEST
Don't be shy about promoting your products and services and letting your prospective customers know you would like for them to purchase from you. Be direct, open and honest about it. For example, if someone emails me and asks for my advice about how to get started in an online business of their own, I'll recommend products that I think will benefit them.
Usually, if I like a product, I'll be an affiliate and so every time someone purchases that product following my recommendation I earn a commission. Would I recommend any products that are directly relevant to my business that I don't have a financial interest in? No. Why? I have a profit motive. My time is money. The key is in products. If I thought there were better products out there than ones I was promoting I'd recommend them too. But only after I signed up as an affiliate so I could earn a commission from my recommendation.
On other hand, occasionally I'm asked to recommend a webhost. I'm an inactive affiliate of one of major webhosting companies but I never recommend them because I think they're too expensive. In this case, I refer enquirer to webhost I use for my own site. I'm not an affiliate of theirs and I have no financial interest in making recommendation. I'm not particularly interested in webhosting as a product to promote so I haven't bothered (yet) to sign up for my webhost's affiliate program. It's just an honest recommendation just as recommendations I make for products of which I am an affilliate are honest recommendations. The only difference is, I make money on latter and why not?
The point is, so long as you're making an honest recommendation, there's no reason why you can't make a profit at same time. It's a win-win situation. So stop being afraid to sell. It's reason your business exists but it won't for long if you don't sell.
Elena Fawkner is editor of A Home-Based Business Online ... practical business ideas, opportunities and solutions for the work-from-home entrepreneur. http://www.ahbbo.com