When you start up a new business you’re going to be facing some pretty typical challenges. Expect that there will be many kinks to work out- numerous tweaks, pauses, and even outright changes that will need implementing until your business is operating smoothly. One such challenge when you first open your doors is generating sales. In those tentative first months to a year, it is especially important to keep initial customers not only coming back for more, but bringing their friends with them.
But, how do you go about building customer loyalty right from the start? Here are three tips practically any business can implement right from the beginning that can do wonders to customer retention and satisfaction:
Make them feel like pioneers. If you are a new kid on the block, you don’t have to hide it. You can embrace it and use it to your advantage. Make your customers feel like they are trend setters, people looking for a fresh product, platform or service. Make them feel special for jumping on board at the beginning, like the first dollar a business earned that now sits framed on a wall.
Reward loyalty. Following on the heels of the previous tip is recognizing and rewarding loyalty. As your prices go up, make sure you lock these people in at introductory prices or offer some kind of discount or added value for their repeat business. You could also offer exclusive product or service trials and give them an early heads up on future deals and promotions. Bottom line: you don’t just want to tell them that you “value their business,” you want to show it through your actions. Actions really do speak louder than words.
Build engagement with a human touch. For an increasing number of small businesses, it’s not enough just to target a specific market, you have to engage with it. The more engaged your customers are with you or your brand, the more loyal they will be. Why? Because engagement = investment. Their investment of time, money, and attention changes the whole picture. Once your customers have invested themselves in your brand, it will be harder for them to get pulled away.
The best way to get that engagement going is to simply start up a conversation. If you own a restaurant walk over and ask how the meal is. If you are selling a product, call up or email your customer after a sale to ask for feedback and offer assistance. Just two points to keep in mind here:
- If you are asking for engagement and feedback, just be ready to also accept some negative comments and/or critiques. Don’t be scared off by these things. You can actually use them to your advantage to improve, grow, and develop your business.
- Keep it human. If your attempts at engagement come across as being scripted or automatic, then it could actually end up turning your customers away. Even when it comes to things like email auto-responders that are scripted, you can still achieve that personal feel, making it look like you sent out a personal email only to that one individual (it’s why the subscriber emails from many top bloggers look pretty plain.
Bottom line: just because you are new, doesn’t mean you should push building customer loyalty to the side. On the contrary, by making customer loyalty a priority right from the get go, you’ll get your business off to the best start possible.
A touch of empathy can really go a long way for a business. Humans like to talk. It’s our natural instincts. Ask your customer, how was your day, good morning, looking good. Make small talk with your customers to let them feel that you truly treasure their presence. Thanks for sharing in Bizsugar!
Yeah, that human touch is very important. With time becoming a premium asset, there’s been a lot of emphasis on outsourcing and automation lately. Though you may be able to accomplish more with these strategies, you’ll lose a precious opportunity to connect with your market. There can be a greater ROI in empathy and a smile than the best CRM software or virtual assistant out there.
Adam – your suggestion about building engagement with human touch is very important. It is only by building personal relationship with your customers you will be able to build loyal customer base and grow your business.
Another suggestion I have is to get involved in the community. Go visit local schools, churches, sports events, Chamber of Commerce and strike conversation with anyone while at the same time making them aware of your business and products / services. I have found this to be very useful especially for those just starting out.
I agree with your suggestion about getting involved with the community on a personal level and as a business, and face-to-face networking can really help you build awareness of your company/brand if you know how to do it properly. This off-line “marketing” can enhance the promotion and outreach of online businesses as well.
In today’s environment, there is too much information out there… we are no longer in the information age. We are now in the recommendation age.
The best way to get new businesses is to create more raving fans. Hence, I agree the best way is to engage with the customers. And through their referral, you will generate more business. The biggest challenge is to get them to come back after the first transaction. With so many competitors and a noisy world out there, we need to give them a great reason to come back after the first time. Engagement is 1 thing, we need to give them an “ethical bribe” to come back… free vouchers etc etc.. Works really well for me… we get an average 30% response rate.
Founder of Business Rescue