{Business Tips} Building Lasting Relationships With Your Customers

As small business owners, we spend a lot of energy attracting new customers — building a fantastic product line, updating our shop photography, rewriting item descriptions, and marketing and promoting our shops.  Of course it is important to spend time working on gaining new customers, but it is also critical to think about valuing (and retaining) what is perhaps the greatest asset to our small companies – the customer who has already made that first purchase.  Getting a sliver of the huge market pie is a great challenge to all business owners, especially for the small business. So when our efforts to draw a customer in have paid off, it is time to direct our energies  to keeping their attention.  But building meaningful relationships with customers is often a delicate balance between too little and too much, when knowing how to interact with our buyers.   Recently I asked members of EcoEtsy for their best advice for building relationships that last.

Getting Started – Giving Special Touches

When it comes time to shipping your customers’ orders, get them out as fast as you can, send a shipping notification, and include samples.

NaturesArtMelbourne chimed in with this great idea:  She includes a handmade thank you card with every order, and she writes her gift message on a removable sheet of paper, so that her customer can give the card again to another recipient.

Prehnite Pendant by NaturesArtMelbourne.etsy.com

Next Steps – Recognizing Repeat Customers

When opening convos from your potential customers, pay attention to the right side of the screen, which provides links to past conversations you’ve had.  When your business is young, you will easily recognize the usernames of people with whom you have previously interacted.  But as you get more sales, and as time passes, you may need a reminder of details here and there.  Often I receive an unsigned convo from a past customer, and I always go back to the past orders so that I can address the customer by name.  It is a simple way to say, “hello!  I remember you!”

When looking at sold orders, always take time to notice the star in the order screen that indicates an order has come through from a repeat customer.  Look at their most recent order to see what they purchased in the past.  If you can work this info into your thank you note, it really shows your customers that their business is important to you (which it is!).

Heather, of EarnestEfforts, finds it easy to look through past invoices each time she sees the star indicating a repeat order.  She adds private notes to each invoice to help jog her memory about past conversations.  She also likes to ask customers a question about their orders (past or present), to open up potential conversations with her customers.

Unusual Recycled Man-Made Wooden Box by EarnestEfforts


Evon, of EvonCassier1, has this smart method of organizing her customers’ history and other details.  She uses her email system to add notes to her contacts, keeping track of not only purchasing history and preferences, but also creates lists for major cities, magazine editors, custom work, etc.  She can even categorize every email contact into multiple lists.  Very tidy and organized!

Power Suit Tote Bag by EvonCassier1

Engaging – Being Responsive

This cannot be understated:  it is important to answer convos as immediately as reasonably possible.  Let your customers know you are interested in talking to them about their needs.  I asked my Facebook followers what was important to them, and they agreed that prompt, friendly, and responsive communication goes a long way to show your customers that you are willing and eager to answer their questions and fill their needs.  In this marketplace, your buyer wants to order TODAY.  If you wait 5 days to respond to an inquiry, you’ve already lost the sale. Like any brick and mortar shop, you need to be available to give your customers more information about your products if needed.  Also, if you are willing and able to customize your products, make sure you communicate your willingness clearly, in  your shop announcement, listing details, and convos.  Someone looking for a customized product is going to find one – usually buying from the first shop who gives a favorable reply.

Lorna, at KnitsForLife knows that, in her market niche, not everyone offers personalized service, and so that is definitely something that sets her apart from the competition.  She knows this loving care is a huge selling point, and makes a concerted effort to let her customers know how willing she is to work together on a wonderful project!

Men's Beanie by KnitsForLife

Interacting – How Much Is “Just Right”?

Knowing how much your customers want your conversation and attempts at building a relationship is a very tricky business.  My Facebook followers indicated that they loved the fact that I came on Facebook to interact with them, but at the same time, said they would be annoyed if I was trying to “market” myself to them constantly.  Knowing safe topics to talk to your customers about is a great way to keep it in the green zone.  Lori Lee-Weber, of WebWorksFiber, knows that her felt balls with jingle balls inside are bought almost exclusively by pet owners, and anyone who has bought toys for their pets on Etsy is a special pet owner indeed!  She points out that everyone likes to feel special, and know that the shop owners are not just bits and bytes, but real people, who have very similar interests!

Felted Wool Balls With Jingle Bells by WebWorksFiber.Etsy.com

Lorna, at KnitsForLife, also shared this brilliant new tool.  JotAbl gives your customers the ability to send a tweet directly to a shout box on your website or blog.  When a customer shouts out, they can choose whether to have their comment show up in their feed, or just in  your shout box.  This not only increases consumer confidence (since you are willing to make customer tweets public, you must have a good track record), but also lets your loyal fans shout to their hearts’ contents without clogging their feeds with gushing love for your shop!

Upcycled Headphone Scarf by KnitsForLife.Etsy.com

Staying Friends – Finding Sympatico

Inevitably, if you follow your heart, do what you love, and say what you feel, you will attract and keep customers who are a lot like you.  You may find that you become real, actual friends, with your customers.  This has certainly happened for me, and for several of the other respondents I spoke with.  Sympatico is that moment when both  you and your customer realize you were made for each other – not just as a buyer-seller relationship, but as human beings as well.

LindaEve, of LindaEve.etsy.com, described a friendship she has built with a customer over the past 4 years.  They exchange Christmas cards and frequently connect for true friendship and advice on every aspect of life, despite the fact that they have never even met “in real life.”  Linda emphasizes that etsy is a real human community, not just a marketplace.

Cuddly Dinosaur Scoodie by LindaEve.etsy.com

Join The Discussion – Further Reading

I found this very thought-provoking article, which makes the assumption that your customers DO NOT want to be your friend.  Shows a stark contrast to what we are doing here,wouldn’t you say?

And if you want to look at this from a converse perspective, this article makes an argument that social media turns our real friends into customers.  I’d personally rather turn buyers of my art into real friends than turn my friends into buyers of my social media – what are your opinions on this topic?


** Credit for the lead photo for this post goes to Joon of FlyingHousewife.etsy.com, who embodies the spirit of treating her customers like friends with super-duper special surprises in every package.  Please check out her art – filled to the brim with love!

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  1. This is a very helpful article. Thank you for sharing!


  2. Great post, Tiffany! There’s so much good information in one place here. I’m off to make some improvements right now.

  3. Thank you very much for you comments, Linda and Heather. I found the article, “Your Customers Don’t Want To Be Your Friend” to be an informative look at how to not be the kind of business your customers won’t want to be friends with. (-; @Heather – definitely a repeat customer is worth a discount code! I post a new code once in a while on my facebook fan page – I think people sometimes lose their codes, and need a reminder sometimes!

  4. Tiffany, this was an awesome article and full of good ideas. I am anxious to read “Your customers don’t want to be your friend” to get that perspective (I expect to disagree).


  5. This was an incredibly informative article! I already have some new ideas and two more thoughts to add. We also always include a handwritten note of thanks & include a coupon code to be used indefinitely by our repeat customers. We figure it is worth 10 percent to have a customer return repeatedly and they appreciate this. We agree that responding immediately with a reply and shipping as soon as possible are two more things that we have found that customers LOVE. As soon as we ship the item send the customer one more message confirming shipment and provide the Delivery Confirmation number that allows them to track their package. This is just one last way to show our customers we care! Thanks so much for including us in this most valuable article! Best of luck to everyone, Heather