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There are many factors that contribute to the success of an entrepreneurial venture. They include providing a needed product or service, having a can’t-miss value proposition that sets what you offer apart from what customers can get from your competitors and, of course, having a strong, collaborative team that shares your passion and works hard to grow your business.

One factor that’s importance cannot be overstated is understanding what your customers want and need, and providing it to them. This is important, as customers keep us in business. They’re the reason we have our companies. Quite literally, they are our real bosses.

You can look online or in a bookstore and find tons of resources that explain, each in its way, how to serve your customers in an exemplary way. But it’s not until you begin to have personal interactions with them that you’re able to get to know them as people, not as statistics on a spreadsheet. This personal connection is so very important to creating success, since they’ll tell you bluntly, candidly and honestly how to succeed in keeping their business.

We all know there are countless tools out there that measure customer satisfaction, and each has a role to play. We live in an age of data mining, customer acquisition and digital communication. Those items are extremely helpful to business leaders. It’s now possible, via a variety of means, to know more about your customers from demographic, psychographic and behavioral standpoints than they probably realize about themselves. You can and should be using these tools to help develop high-growth strategies.

But don’t neglect the personal connection. When asked by entrepreneurs for advice regarding leadership, I often say that you need to take the time to talk with the people who buy your products or use your services. Ask them what they like and don’t like. Urge them to suggest ideas for improvement. Dig deep to learn what’s meaningful to them so that you can better tailor your offerings to satisfy their needs, address their pain problems and help them succeed. The more time you spend with your customers, the more familiar you’ll be with them, the more effectively you’ll be able to help them and the stronger you’ll be able to bond with them, creating — one would hope — a business relationship that continues over the long term.

Also, provide them with free resources. If it’s relevant to the products or services you provide, give them free information to help them use what you offer to improve their lives, efficiencies or revenue. Over the past several years, as broadband has become the rule rather than the exception, video has established itself firmly as a primary and popular communications medium. In fact, YouTube is now the second-most used search engine, after Google. Today, a vast number of companies are producing easily accessible video content that teaches, trains or informs their customers (while it also attracts potential new ones.) When you offer free, helpful content that your audiences can access at any time, it helps to strengthen the relationship that you already have with them. Beyond this, there are many other things you can do to build customer relationships.

The first step, though, is getting to know who your customers are. Make it a point to talk with them. Be visible to them and assure them that any and all suggestions they make will receive the strongest consideration. Stay in contact with them. You might even want to set aside a day or two a month that you can dedicate to customer conversations. It’s an excellent use of time and there’s undoubtedly much you can learn.