How small businesses can ensure customer loyalty

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If you’ve got a small or medium sized business it’s likely that you know quite how hard it can be to go from having a blank order book to having a database full of customers. Everything from the finding the perfect hosting for your new website to sales and marketing can be hard – but it should get easier. Why? Because each of those customers in your CRM or database should be coming back for more!

They’ve responded to your marketing, they’ve gone through the sales process, they’ve given you money!

Sadly, many businesses neglect the very customers they’ve spent time and money finding – meaning they’re released again into the wild… good news for you, you get to make them your customer, then keep them by ensuring you do the following:

Communicate on their terms

There are countless ways to keep in touch with customers – and everyone’s got a favourite. For every person who’s keen on accessing ‘live chat’ on your website, there’s another who will be frustrated if there’s no phone number to call. Try to make sure you’ve got all the bases covered and make them all known – that way you can be sure you’re leaving no customer wanting.

Provide perks for coming back

If you have a loyalty card at a supermarket you’ll know the sheer weight of vouchers and coupons you get handed to you, in the post, emailed… and so forth. Supermarkets are always looking to keep their customers, and we can learn a thing or two from them. Offer incentives on next orders and make sure your customers know – people love to save money, whether it’s theirs or on behalf of their business.

Find out how they want to pay

“No, let’s go somewhere else, they only accept cash” – If you’re the type of person who prefers to use their credit or debit card, you’ve probably said this more than a few times. Just like ways of communicating, people like to know they can pay in a way that suits them – and there are a lot of ways! Cash, card, cheque, bank transfer, direct debit, recurring card payment, PayPal – to name just a few. Making sure you’re equipped to take a customer’s money is the key to being able to keep taking it in the future!

Tell people what you’re doing for them

If you’re bending over backwards behind the scenes then let your customers know! You don’t have to express your discomfort, enormous working hours or how you’ve missed your child’s sports day on their behalf – but letting people know you’re going the extra mile is really important. People often aren’t aware how good your product or service is until they’ve gone somewhere else – by which time it’s too late.

Offer great service

You should have planned provision in place for offering good service, no matter what your business is. Are you a coffee shop? A smile and quick efficient service are key. Stainless steel banding company? Lose the jargon, offer great solutions and stick to your timescales. Whatever you do, there are a few simple steps that people want from you – and they’re crucial, because it’s likely that no one’s ever going to give you a second chance if your service is poor. In the UK, studies show consumers are more likely to vote with their wallets then almost anywhere else in the world.

There’s no replacement for the human touch

Customers love using machines and automated services for convenience – the proof can be found by looking at how much Amazon is worth – but when it comes to service, consumer like to know they’re dealing with a real person who understands them. When was the last time you had a real person give you an update on your sales order? When did you last get a handwritten thank you note after using a small business? These are the things that stick in people’s minds – exactly where you want to be when they’re looking to spend money again…

Customer birthdays and occasions

There are any number of reasons that companies might want to take your date of birth as part of a registration, security or age verification process – but how many of them remember it when it matters? This is something that Facebook does extremely well, it collects your dates and occasions then helps you revisit them – do you remember what you were doing 4 years ago today? Facebook does, and it’s probably shown you this morning – part of the reason you keep going back.

Perhaps you could celebrate the birthday of the product you sold your customer? It’s a nice touch, keeps you fresh in a person’s mind and gives the impression you’re genuinely aware of what’s happening for them.

Offer referral incentives

People love to recommend – so give them a reason to recommend you. If that reason is a discount when they next order that’s fine, but a great reward is something they don’t have to spend with you. If you’re selling a product or service with a big margin, why not send flowers, chocolates or some other small gift to say ‘thank you for sending another customer our way’. Imagine if you could ditch your marketing budget and just send flowers for every new customer you had sent your way? – Look after people and you can!

Refer customers yourself

If you’re in communication with your customers and find yourself unable to provide a product or service they ask you for – why not make an onward referral yourself? It shows a real care for the customer you’re dealing with, especially since they perceive you get no financial gain from the recommendation – you don’t, but you’ve just won the admiration and loyalty of a customer by doing so!

Be the authority in your marketplace

If you can provide information that surpasses all other information that’s out there on your chosen industry, product or service – you’re onto a winner. It’s the information age – so arm yourself with the best information and customers will keep coming back, certain that you’re the people to point them in the right direction when it comes to finding the right product in your field – and don’t worry, you’re a business, no one said you had to be impartial…

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