The better you know your customers, the easier it is for you to produce products, services, and experiences that suit them perfectly. Customer intimacy is your unfair advantage as a business leader.

Last week, I bought an online course from a copywriting brand that I follow closely online. It came to me via email, and when I read the description, I let out a loud grunt. It sounded like exactly what I knew I needed to grow my business. A few minutes after reading the email, I whipped out my credit card and paid the $997 for the course. It was a no-brainer.

I made the purchase because this brand's team knows me well. They demonstrate it with the products they create, the times they release the products and offer promotions, and especially with the words they use in the emails they send.

Developing a deep degree of intimacy with your customers does require an investment of time. And if you're already swamped with other tasks needed to grow your business then it can be tempting to skip out on spending time with your customers, or doing it when you "have time."

But the time you spend deepening relationships with your customers is time well spent that will produce a significant return when you apply the insights you glean to improve your customer experience at every step.

Here are four simple ways to develop a deeper degree of intimacy with your customers that will enable you to produce products and services that are a no brainer for them to buy:

1. Hold office hours.

Last week, I had a call with a client that started off as a mentoring session. By the time we finished, I felt like I learned just as much from her as I gave to her.

As a result, I've started implementing office hours, where I chat with my customers and people in my audience on a regular basis. The time spent chatting with them about their businesses, and challenges with no specific agenda other than getting to know them better builds trust and deepens our bond.

Consider how you can set aside regular time in your schedule to talk with your customers. You could do it over coffee, or even virtually like I did on a video conference.

2. Attend live events.

There's nothing like seeing people live and in the flesh. As you engage with your customers at conferences, trade shows, or even in your local store, you have a mountain of opportunities to hear how they talk about their problem, see what excites them, and read their body language in response to different stimuli.

If you can't find any events that provide opportunities to engage with your customers, create your own. Host meetups, workshops, pop-up shops, or chats that will entice your customers to come out and spend time with you.

3. Get social media on social media.

Have conversations with people as they respond to your posts. Lots of brands have discussions with their customers via direct message as well.

I often tune in to the replay of a live call-in show from a social media expert I follow on Instagram. She uses the feature that allows people who are watching her live video appear on screen with her, where she answers their questions in real-time.

After just a few weeks of watching, I can already see which questions her audience asks most often. And if I can tell, I'm sure she can, too.

4. Customer service calls

All of us have had to have a call with a customer service line at least once in our lives. And rarely do those calls last less than thirty seconds. You can easily spend a mountain of time waiting as the person on the other end of the line is getting your information and catching up on your case.

That time is a golden opportunity to get to know your customers a bit more. It's in these unguarded moments that your customers say things that give insight to their dreams, desires, fears, and frustrations.

Whenever you can, take the opportunity to listen in or participate in some of those calls to find out what's happening with your customers, where they get stuck, and the emotions that are associated with why they are calling you in the moment.

There are a ton of ways you can deepen the relationships you have with your customers. The most impactful (and quickest) ways to do it involve spending time having two-way conversations, rather than solely reading research reports or listening what they say as you watch behind the glass in market research.

Make developing and maintaining a deep degree of intimacy with your customers a priority. When you act on the insights you gain from these relationships, the time developing them will prove more than worth the effort.

Published on: Mar 29, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.