Your business is only as strong as its client relationships.

Discovering and nurturing client relationships is the backbone of so many businesses. No matter how incredible a company’s products or services may be, long-term success is only possible when the clients are happy and loyal. From a financial perspective, research shows that obtaining new customers is costly and time-consuming, specifically 5 to 25 times more expensive than retaining existing ones.

Outside of the pure financial gains of keeping customers coming back, strategically improving customer loyalty is a solid, time-tested business strategy. People like doing business with people they trust—plain and simple. And keeping those loyal customers coming back can increase referrals and improve the long-term reputation of businesses.

Whether you’re a startup or a company that’s been around for generations, there are four things you can do to maintain long, quality client relationships.

1.     Deliver value over and over again. From the beginning, avoid overpromising performance when it could be challenging to deliver on those promises. While this happens often in business, it will backfire. Instead, demonstrate your ability to clearly define plans, outputs and results through a strategic plan that your business is confident can be delivered. Then, show creativity in the key performance indicators that determine success. For example, in the real estate development industry, it’s understood that time equals profits, and the sooner storefronts can open, the faster cash registers can ring. Choose to deliver on value that matters to your clients’ businesses.

2.     Communicate openly and honestly. It’s guaranteed that at some point in a client engagement, a mistake will occur. It’s all about how leaders recover from those mistakes when it comes to retaining that business. Rather than covering up an error, express it honestly and explain how it will be resolved. Be generous with the recovery and work with your team to avoid it from happening again.

3.     Value the partnership. Once trust is established with a client, it’s important to constantly invest time and resources to improve that relationship. A client will feel like a valued partner when they see that your business is asking questions, seeking feedback and continually improving its performance.

4.     Demonstrate loyalty. In today’s fast-paced digital world, it can be challenging to maintain loyalty when it seems as though competitors know no boundaries. Develop and adhere to a policy regarding new business opportunities that prioritizes the needs of your existing client relationships. 

Lastly, business leaders should demonstrate commitment to clients even after a contract expires. Just because that client isn’t currently being billed doesn’t mean that they won’t need your services in the future or refer you to colleagues in need of your business. Reach out to say hello, share a compelling article you read or send a note of congratulations on a personal milestone. Those small gestures can go a long way in retaining clients for decades.

Tobi Gold is the President and COO of Skilken|Gold, a national real estate developer that has developed more than 300 stores for an exclusive list of retailers throughout the country including Walmart, Kroger, Publix and Wawa.