How to Build a Customer Intimacy Strategy: 12 Proven Methods + Examples
It’s a basic fact of business: Whoever knows their customers best will win the deal. And they deserve it.
While the idea of building customer intimacy or being a “customer-centric company” isn’t new, too many businesses use this as a buzzword—rather than a real strategy.
Let’s be clear: Customer intimacy isn’t something you can slap on a whiteboard or check off a list. It must become a fundamental part of your strategy and business.
So, let’s discuss what customer intimacy is (and why it’s important), plus 12 ways to build your customer intimacy strategy. And we’ll round it out with some examples to show it in action.
Discover how account-based sales can lead to better customer relationships and increased revenue.
What Is Customer Intimacy?
Customer intimacy is all about developing a close relationship with customers. It goes beyond being “customer centric”—rather, you will have an intimate understanding of who your customers are, their unique customer needs, plus their fears, motivations, and habits.
Customer intimacy involves your whole business, not just certain customer-facing team members. It’s about reading your customers—and making your product or service the best possible solution for them.
Looking to enhance revenue growth? Explore the CRM tactics in our article.
Why Is Customer Intimacy Important?
Businesses that understand their customers win.
Research from Motisa shows that customers that have an emotional relationship with a brand have a 306 percent higher customer lifetime value (CLV). For a small business or startup? That could be life-changing.
When you have a clear vision of your customer, you are able to generate better insights on what to create, how to innovate, how to market, and ultimately, how to serve your customers better than anyone else.
And if you invest in the long-term relationship, your customers will reward you with loyalty.
12 Ways to Build a Customer Intimacy Strategy + Examples
Whether you’re in the early stages of launching your small business, or are well-established in the business world, you should build a customer intimacy strategy. And the earlier you start, the better it’ll be.
Here are some real ways I’ve seen businesses bake customer intimacy into their everyday activities, plus actions my own team takes to develop a clearer understanding of our customers.
1. As a Business Owner, Actually Care
If you don’t actually care about your customers, you’ll never develop true customer intimacy. It’ll just become another meaningless buzzword.
Actually caring starts with the founders. When leadership gives a damn about the customer experience, that perspective will spread to your team. But if leadership doesn’t give a damn, and the founders don’t give a damn, then it doesn’t matter what you tell your team to do—you’ll never discover true customer intimacy.
If you want to bake it into company culture, caring about people has to be in your nature.
2. Make Your Customer the North Star
Trends, tech, and buzzwords change daily (or faster). So, how do you make sure you’re always focused on what’s best for your customers?
When it comes to customer-intimate companies, no one can beat one relatively unknown online retailer—Amazon. In fact, they consistently rank number one in the yearly rankings of top brands for customer loyalty. How did they get there?
Jeff Bezos recognized that Amazon couldn’t serve its customers well if they were constantly chasing tech and innovation. Fads are distracting.
So, he set the customer as the north star. Instead of asking, “What’s changing in the world?,” he asked, “What’s never going to change for our customers?”
The answer was simple: Amazon’s customers will never want to (1) pay more money or (2) wait longer for the same product.
Amazon used these two facts as guiding principles for future decisions. Instead of getting distracted by trends, they focused on operational excellence and meeting those customer wants.
You can adopt this customer intimacy strategy by asking: What will never change for our customers?
Base major business decisions on that, and you’ll always be putting your customers first—in whatever you’re doing.
3. Hire People Who Focus on the Customer
Customer intimacy isn’t just a business strategy. It has to be played out by your people.
As you scale your small business and add new people to the team, make sure you’re hiring people who buy into the idea of customer intimacy and live it out in their day-to-day work.
This is what we’ve done at Close, and it’s why we don’t outsource customer support or view it as low-tier work. We hire amazing people for support—people who are passionate about solving problems.
The folks over at Alphamoon also see the value in a passionate, quick-to-respond customer support team. Norbert Raus, CEO and Co-founder, says: “Focusing on availability means that we have a dedicated team and a dedicated channel on Slack for each customer.
Whenever customers have an issue or a technical difficulty, they can ping us on Slack, and a team member will respond in no more than 30 minutes with a tailored solution. So far, this method has proven to be very effective.”
4. Get Your Team on the Customer’s Eye Level
In the very early days of Close, our engineering team was sitting right next to sales reps—and learning. They watched how reps were selling, and how they used the software daily. In fact, I think we’re the only CRM that had its engineering team build a product from the sales floor.
So when we started Close, our engineering team had a high level of empathy. They cared about the sales team, and could see the difficulties in sales firsthand.
Now, this may not be possible depending on the current size of your business—but encouraging everyone on your team to interact with customers is one of the most effective ways to build understanding.
This could be through shadowing sales demo calls, participating in customer meetings, or even reviewing common help desk tickets. The more experience your team has with customers, the better they'll be at seeing things from the customer perspective and building real intimacy.
5. Support Your Customers’ Journey with Your Product
You offer your customers a product (more accurately, you offer value—but now’s not the time). But how do you ensure true customer success?
The peer-to-peer relationship you build with your customers should include giving them the resources they need to succeed—at every stage in the customer journey.
For example, you can offer:
- Webinars explaining specific use cases of your product
- Paid professional services to provide necessary support
- Blog posts, eBooks, and other marketing resources to optimize their strategy with your product
These ideas require collaboration and resources from your whole team, which can take some time. But your customers will be more successful because of it. And a successful customer is a loyal customer.
Check out this approach from Cath Brands, Chief Marketing & Innovation Officer at Flintfox. They offer training courses and certifications for their customers to become real industry experts, using the Flintfox products. “We found that customers enjoy engaging in well-crafted training courses, and this approach helps develop that intimacy between a business and its customers.”
6. Call Your Free Trial Users
As a small business owner in a competitive market, going the extra mile helps you stand out.
Calling your free trial users is a customer intimacy strategy for those in the early stages of business, and something we did at the beginning of Close. We knew it wouldn’t scale, but it helped us develop better relationships with each individual customer.
Every time a new trial signed up, I would personally call them to say hello. I’d start by welcoming them to Close. Then I would ask how they found out about us, what their problems were, and what they were trying to accomplish.
This information was vital to understanding our first customers—and learning where we fit among the market leaders. And many times, these people later told me that it was our initial chat that converted them into paying customers.
7. Celebrate Making Your Customers Happy
To help your entire company feel more attached to customers, celebrate customer happiness with everyone—and do it regularly.
Here’s how we do this at Close. We have one specific Slack channel called #nice-things-people-say. Here, the whole team is encouraged to talk about moments when customers were happy.
And all of us celebrate this together—with lots of confetti emojis.
8. Visit Your Customers In Person
In-person visits with customers (when possible) provide insight that you can’t get from emails or phone calls. This is something we’ve always loved doing. So, it’s something we encourage others to do, too.
Entering your customers’ offices means you can learn their problems first-hand, get a feel for their culture, and understand how they use your software within the context of their organization.
You can also observe small details, like:
- How is their workspace structured?
- What other apps are open on their screen?
- What makes them happy and eases stress?
Tangibly encountering the customer’s user experience provides insight into how you can improve the product—or even offer new products.
Best of all, you put faces to numbers. It brings customers to life for yourself and your team.
9. Use Customer Intimacy to Build Product-market Fit
Customer intimacy is important if you want to achieve product-market fit. After all, if you don’t understand your customer, you’ll never know if you’re building something that solves their needs.
Simply having paying customers isn’t enough evidence—you must understand whether or not your customers are successful. To do this, you need to know two things:
- Are they getting more value from your product or service than its cost (high ROI)?
- Do they understand and appreciate the value they receive?
Customer intimacy helps you understand what success looks like for customers. And that’s how you define product-market fit.
10. Make Your Customers Feel Valued
A successful customer intimacy strategy isn’t one-sided. Your customers need to feel genuine interest and care from your business.
The Arbor team does this by incorporating customer feedback into their product. Andrew Meyer, CEO at Arbor, says: “Take their suggestions to heart. Then, reach out to those that gave the feedback and let them know you not only listened to what they had to say—but you took action. Put your money where your mouth is. It’s a surefire way to build customer intimacy and retention.”
At Close, we’ve spent countless hours mingling with our customers, talking to them, sending them gifts, reading their blog posts, following them on social media—genuinely caring about their world. We want them to know that we like them. And that we want them to succeed.
Here are some other ways you can make your customers feel valued:
- Send swag as they hit milestones (in business, in your product, or just in life)
- Provide opportunities to beta test new features that are appealing to them
- Partner with them for co-marketing opportunities
- Support them with resources (like we do here at Close)
With these tactics, you build more than a customer base. You build a fan base.
11. Use Your CRM to Build and Maintain Relationships
True customer intimacy is more about emotions and actions than it is about data. But the interactions you have with your customers today should be fuel for the interactions you’ll have with them tomorrow—and you want the whole thing to scale.
Your CRM is the tool that ties today’s actions to tomorrow’s strategy.
In Close, you can keep track of all the interactions you have with customers, whether via email, phone, SMS, or Zoom calls. Custom Activities allow you to track other interactions, such as sending swag or getting feedback on a beta test. And Close also supplies KPI reporting features to show you what’s working—and what’s not.
When you use your CRM as the foundation for customer relationships, you’ll smooth out the interactions your team has with existing customers—and potential customers.
12. Measure the Data and Success of Your Customer Intimacy Strategy
Measuring a customer intimacy strategy isn’t the same as measuring an email campaign. But there are still some specific metrics that will improve over time, as you develop deeper customer intimacy.
- Net promoter score (NPS): As you measure your NPS and actively collect customer feedback, you should see an uptick in customer satisfaction.
- Referral sales: Happy and successful customers will refer their networks to you. Watch the monthly MRR changes from referrals.
- Churn rates: This is always a good metric for SaaS companies to track in relation to customer retention. But churn can also indicate an issue with your customer intimacy strategy.
Keep measuring and tracking. Then optimize your customer intimacy program to get the most mileage for your effort.
Invest in Customer Intimacy for Revenue Growth + Scalability
A good customer relationship is like a marriage. If you want it to last, you need to work at it every day. You can’t just check “customer intimacy” off the to-do list and expect to maintain great customer relationships.
At Close, we have built relationships with some of our customers for over a decade. And no, it’s not always easy. But the moment you stop investing in customer intimacy, your customers will start to outrun you in terms of customer insight, motivations, and product needs. To quantify and track the impact of these relationships on your revenue, our revenue growth calculator is an indispensable tool.
If you want to have customers forever, you need to keep working on that relationship forever.
And what better way then with a CRM designed specifically for startups and small businesses? Close can help you streamline your customer relationships—and secure scalable growth.