Whether your customers are one time (think buying a highly specialized product or service) or long term, engaging with them is important to the success and longevity of your business.

Here's why.

The one-time customer can give you referrals. Word of mouth advertising by a satisfied customer is free, and the potential customers they refer to you now have a personal recommendation for your product/service. This is especially valuable if your business has primarily one-time customers.

Long term customers are your bread and butter. They are loyal to your company because they are happy with what they've purchased from you. But don't take this relationship for granted. These long term customers should be nurtured at every opportunity. Yes, it's time consuming, but it pays off.

Here are 5 suggestions for engaging with your customers without taking a lot of your time or resources.

1. Whether in person or online, always greet your customer by name.

2. Ask your customers to keep in touch with you by letting you know how your product or service is satisfying their needs. Encourage them to send a photo. Post these exchanges on your website or in your business.

3. Openly appreciate honest, productive criticism. State how you will improve or correct the issue, then follow up to let them know when you have implemented your correction. This lets people know you stand behind your work, and this builds your reputation.

4. Do not respond to inquries or comments with 'canned' responses.

5. Always thank people for contacting you, even if they have a complaint.