Living in a city built around a tourism based economy has shown me the businesses who survive aren’t those with the best marketing strategy, but those who have managed to retain loyal customers, both local and returning visitors, throughout every season of the year.
The feeling a customer gets coming back to the business often means more than the quality of the service being offered. For instance, one of the most popular coffee shops in my town thrives due largely in part to offering a location in which people want to be seen. As a self-proclaimed coffee critique I can tell you the difference in product would not be enough to create this much separation in popularity. The trick is in the x-factor, in this case providing a hub in which people can see friends, come to get work done, and really gain a secondary experience through visiting the business altogether.
However, earning the adoration of customers is easier said than done. Like any metric in business it involves a variety of factors, a lot of which boil down to good customer service and unique products of high quality. Small businesses are making a come back, and if yours is to contend in the realm of people defining themselves through brands and products it’s important to start gaining customer loyalty right now.
Here are some great tips to get you started.
Focus On Your Most Valuable Customers
Value can be a subjective term, but in this regard a valuable customer should be measured strictly on what they offer your business financially. Think of those who have recurrent faces first, the ones that are consistently coming back to your business and providing regular revenue. I like to think of these customers as ‘buffers’ because in times when business is slow they provide the difference between a strong month or just barely making it.
Financial value may be variant depending on what you’re selling, also. A coffee house may have valued customers based on them appearing most mornings for a cheap cup of coffee; a painting business on the other hand may have a most valued customer just by getting a couple gigs a year. In either circumstance both add up to lifetime value and your energy and attention needs to cater to those already serving your success.
Taking the time to show appreciation and remembrance for their regular support also turns into referrals as word of mouth, which is the most valuable form of marketing.
Invest In Your Customers Loyalty
While this is an old trick, providing reward incentives has proven to be one of the most effective ways to bring customers back in times when they have options for products. Large companies like Safeway have advanced rewards programs by offering discounts on gasoline when you spend money in their grocery outlets.
Many unit based businesses will offer frequent shopper cards, on which you’ll receive a free product after so many purchases. I know when I’m hungry I’ll tend to see if I have any punch cards in my wallet knowing my purchase will be even more valuable later.
Listen To Their Feedback and Actually Make Changes
This one can be tricky depending on how you’re choosing to receive feedback. Less than 5% of customers will respond to surveys when sent out via email, or posted on Social Media. Rather, take the time to scour sites on the Internet where reviews have already been posted, and take action to improve areas that seem to have recurring complaints or suggestions. Not every gripe has to do with the integrity of your business, but more often than not there’s areas of your regular operation that go unnoticed to staff and employees.
What I like to call a two-for-one is putting a survey on the receipt and offering a small discount on the customers next purchase just for returning the survey. Let the customer know you want to hear from them personally and that their return is extremely valuable, because it is!
Meaningful Customer Service
Do you ever feel like certain customer service requirements are a little overboard? Perhaps less genuine even?
Part of gaining a customers loyalty is making them feel a sense of personal connection to your business and that their time spent there is with recognition. Many small businesses put emphasis on employees learning their frequent customer’s names, along with encouraging conversations that contain more depth than just asking how their day is going. Humans crave attention, even if that’s coming from someone who only knows them in one environment.
As your business becomes more well known, try employing these tactics to ensure your product or service means more than just business as usual. Working to gain your customers loyalty will add up to more than just dollar signs for you, it will make your business meaningful to the lives of others which is a great feeling.