For most businesses it's more costly to acquire new customers than to retain existing ones. But it's easy to let customer relationships slip when we're busy trying to win new business or attending to other urgent operational needs.

We're often reminded of our existing customers during the course of our ongoing operations--but too often we stop at thinking about them instead of directly engaging with them. Here are a few ways that we've learned to keep in touch with our customers even when we aren't actively working together.

Send an Article via Snail Mail

When you read a newspaper or magazine article that's of interest, tear it out, write a quick note and send it along to your customer or client. While you could certainly track down the link to the article online, most people will appreciate that you took the time and effort to write a personal note. A personalized correspondence sends a strong signal that the relationship is important to you. The article need not be related to business; in fact, it's often better to focus on a client's personal interests. After all, relationships are the key to repeat business.

Celebrate Occasions

Find a way to share successes together, even if you aren't together in the same city or able to connect over the phone. Oftentimes, the smaller the occasion the better, because your recognition won't get lost in the noise of other celebratory messages and gifts. Holiday gifts are nice, but they aren't going to differentiate you from any other relationships. Birthdays present a good opportunity to deepen the relationship. Sending a note to a new dad on Father's Day can really differentiate you. A gift card for a small item--a nice espresso drink, for example--has the dual benefit of delivering positive thoughts at the time of receipt and at the time of redemption. The point here isn't to try and win business with gifts; it's to win business with relationships that are built incrementally over time.

Use Technology for Frequent, Brief Touches

Digital communications give us an opportunity to quickly share our thoughts with friends and customers alike. Focus on commonalities and relationship building rather than business content--especially when you're not engaged directly. Text messages can be a great way to informally communicate and help to keep you top of mind for your customers, when done correctly. Social media provides the opportunity to share aspects of your family and friends, which make you seem more approachable to your customers.

Developing relationships with customers is a 24/7 opportunity. Keeping in touch with your customers is good for business and good for the bottom line. These small informal types of communication can drive a lot of value for limited cost. Try it and let us know what you think.

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Avondale's Bradley Hoos contributed to this article.