The question any business entrepreneur before starting a business will have to answer is how do I attract new customers? To grow and make profits every business needs to acquire new customers and more importantly keep the ones they already have. As every customer is a prize trophy. For a small business, this certainly is no easy challenge as they are more focus in having new customers at the front door but not paying much attention to exiting dissatisfied customers at the back door.
Earl Scisser, Havard Business School publish a research paper in (September- October- 1990 Edition) Havard Business School Magazine entitled: Zero defection: Quality comes to service. The conclusive results state that- increasing customer retention by 5% increases profits by 25% to 95%. At the time this result surprises many business executives and set-out a massive rush for new customer retention ideas (such as different marketing strategies, pricing methods, brand build) which have continued to pour out huge profits to businesses until this day. Seeing that any little increase in customer retention is a potential increase in profit margin what strategy must a small put in place to attract new customers and retain them? Applying different marketing strategies is a first step in the right direction. As marketing is the most vital part of any business. But most small business owners tend to dwell solely on referrals or word of mouth as their main strategy of marketing their products or services.
Referrals have been used successfully by big names such as Ebay. By their own feedbacks from customers, a big chunk of their new customers confesses they heard about their services from someone else. But in our world today where huge information is available and at just a click of a button a product or service can be order, put together with same day delivery or overnight shipping service how can a small and medium business survive and thrive profitably? What different customer retention strategies can SMBs put in place to connect with new customers and tie them loyally to their products or services. We will look at this in 3 broad steps in how to attract and retain new customers to your small business.
-Identifying your customers
-Attracting new customers
-Keeping your existing customers
STEP 1: Identifying your Customers
You have to understand and have a broad picture of your ideal customer profile for your business segment. Will they be likely young males or females, age females, and males. This will enable plan your best methods to plan your campaigns and obtaining feedback from your customers.
- Getting your customers on board
In deploying your business in an area or particular community, you must get some knowledge of the type of people that live in that community who will spend their money on your products. You should have a detailed knowledge of your ideal customer profile. Say for instance your business is located in a predominantly immigrant community you must try to know the things that motivate your potential customers in that community: their customs and traditions. Your business must blend with the community. As your eventual market campaign and image of your business will be one that is welcomed by your new customers.
Getting your brand build in a community requires a concerted effort by all in your team to meet their need. Since business is all about serving your customers for they are the ones who will increase your sales and your bank account.
You have to understand your business segment thoroughly in order to serve your customers properly and keep them loyally to your products and services.
What makes your business unique and different from others in your community which may still offer a similar service or products like yours. The question you should answer honestly is why should a new customer walk say into your restaurant for launch and return again the next day, they remain loyal to your business? Your response to this question is your Unique Selling Proposition (USP). It varies from one business to the other and is the guide that will navigate your business through tough competition. The USP is the level of customer service that surrounds your business or better still the ambiance that animates your products or services in your business. The USP is dynamic, it always needs improvement to respond to changes in the environment of your business. These changes include new technology, new products, and services, change in the customer profile, economic conditions and competitions. So a business is always close to its customers to better serve them and keep them coming back. This can happen if the business can communicate to its customers to obtain feedbacks and also the business is open for the customers to express their views. Read on to see how this aspect is developed.
Another important point to consider is what your business stands for. Of the more than 700 consumers surveyed in the United States by the Corporate Executive Board, reveals that consumers with a strong relationship with a brand- 64% stated shared as their primary reason. The question is what does your business stand for? Does it represent the value of the community it finds itself? Does it promote a value which is widely shared in the community?
Perform a SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, Threat ) check-up. It will permit you to see clearly how your business performs in relation to your customer numbers. It can assist you in identifying your ideal customers who will remain loyal to your products in the long run.
Strengths and weakness are factors which are internal to your business and can be changed to improve. Having qualified staff with good customer service experience is a strength to your business. Just as having an ideal location. Also, lack of access to loan for investment is a weakness.
Opportunities and threats are factors external to a business. All businesses are faced with threats and have opportunities. An example of opportunity is a suddenly growing number of your ideal customers moving to your zone to find work or new pro-business policy from new government providing a favorable environment for small business to grow. In the same way, a threat can be new competitors moving to your area or a general downturn in the economy.
-Step 2: Attracting New Customers
Acquiring new customers to a new business just like retaining them is one of the biggest challenges all business confront. Why will your customer come back the next time and not go elsewhere? Can you provide some additional motivation to attract new customers and keep your existing customers to always think about? Here are some points to consider.
Your brand is the most noticeable advantage you bring out to your customer. Your brand should be express in a simple and clear phrase which can be repeated constantly in any of your advertisement or out-reach campaigns to your customers.
Brand build around the values you stand for serves as a reminder to your loyal customers that you are always there to serve them through your business. It serves as a catalyst to spread news of your business products or services through word of mouth. Other new customers too can discover for themselves the various advantages offered by your business. Your brand builds on a logo which is consistent with the brand message and color impression. It is usually quoted ‘a logoless company is a faceless company’ by David Airey brand designer. It is worth approaching some experts on this domain to have your brand message well inserted on a logo.
The location of a business plays an important part in its success. This does not only refer to the demographic location- where the maximum numbers of the consumers of such services or products are based but the exact location of the business. A business can be strategically located by other stores or a busy fueling station to capture customers that normally go these places. But when access to your business is so much hassle- the road leading to it is always traffic issues or other painful traffic obstacles such as turning to the left or right will surely hold back even the loyal customers from coming back frequently.
Get your business to a good location. Do some research before deploying your business in a particular place. Get this right and you will benefit fully from this position of strength.
How is your business presented? The appearance? Does it make a real impression to your customers? It is said usually that a first impression is a lasting one. This is true also for business. I have found myself going back to a particular business just because of the impression I had the first time I walked in. If your business put on great prices that is good tactics to attract customers. But it may not be enough. What if there are cleaning issues like litters on the floor, items scatter all over the place and general disorder in the arrangement of products then your chances of new customers returning back is next to non.
All good business that hopes to retain customers make a great effort in putting things organize and keeping the inside of their business generally attractive, while at the same time promoting competitive prices and a discount of their products.
This is one of the principal aspects of any business success. The pricing method of a business is at the center of any business plan to attract and retain new customers. While all businesses have to remain afloat by making profits you also have to make sure your business sells at competitive prices or even lower than those competitors around that offer the same products and services.
What pricing strategy should you adopt to achieve that? A business may decide to bring down the price of certain brands while maintaining a competitive price in others. Now with the increasing sales and having a variety of products to sell from different brands will eventually offset the lower prices given out initially and boost the sale margin your business intended.
How to do this in practice can be through special day buys say on Sundays and Thursdays or Bank Holiday sales as in the UK and Ireland. On which certain quality products are given out at knock-down prices. This information is communicated to customers via emails and brochures. Further bonuses on offer can be through coupons, buy one get one at half price, free and so on.
As a new customer knowing that I can have a better deal down the road then is a motivation for me to drive on even a mile.
As a new small business, you may not have the financial clout of the big guys around but you can stand your ground by a leaving a big impression on your customers and make them loyal to your products and services. How?
- In deploying your different marketing strategies always never forget to keep your promise at all cost to your customers. Your offers should be in line with your brand message. This is especially true when it comes at a time when they least expect it. To have a greater impact your incentives should be accessible to a greater majority of your target audience.
- Customer service
Having qualified staff with good customer experience is an added strength to a business. Research has shown that many customers surely remember the service that was given to them by a business. Good customer service is seen how the staff respond customer’s queries, frustration, and questions. If customers don’t come back surely they did not enjoy your selling process. If this is done correctly can potentially create customer loyalty.
Sometimes because of lack of experience staff member have little or no knowledge of the products or service the business is offering. Maybe they have been let too soon on their own. Then will need to call for someone to else to answer a basic question about a product. This can be frustrating and leave a bad impression of a business.
Some staff members under pressure may not be polite or short in their response. This behavior can spread quickly through customers of that business in a community by word of mouth. Just in the same way good news spread leaving a positive image to a business with the result of increasing customer numbers so too negative remarks by any member of staff can put off sensitive customers.
Staff should be properly trained on the products or services of a business. This will give them self-confidence each time they attend to customers.
Every business segment is, in fact, a network of people working in various capacities to put together values. A network of associates and customers all with a common interest matters much to a business. It will be a good idea to start with your loyal group of customers who are able to deliver more referrals to your business. Since they themselves were referred to you.
Now if your business is restaurant business then you should join groups that are in your domain of activities. In case you need to advise then you can ask from trusted ones within your network. Is here you can get information what type of adverts works well for example.
As you spend time with your business so too your network increases as you join more groups and get to know more influential persons in various business seminars or workshops.
KEEPING EXISTING CUSTOMERS
Your business must adapt to changes in customers taste over time and reinvent itself to be sustainable. As time passes your ideal customer profile may change as well due to changes in technology and people taste. Your small business has to respond to meet the needs of your customers and remain on top. How then will a small business keep its existing customers?
- Get close to your customers-
Do not communicate to your customers only at your place of business. Your customers will welcome information and communication from you. Do encourage your staff to get close to your customers and listen to them.
Some people like lone parents never get to talk to anyone and spend all day at home behind closed doors. All customers will welcome if they get the feeling that beyond purchase a business truly cares for them.
You can keep in touch with your clients through many ways:
-Use your customer preferred contact method: Some customers prefer to be contacted by mail or e-mails. Other chose to accept phone calls at certain times, others not at all.
Your business products and services can be promoted through regular newsletter handed in stores to customers. This can also reach them from your website or by mail or e-mail.
-Remember your customers- On their birthdays and holidays. A business can send to their loyal customers greeting cards and small gifts. To express their care for them.
-Blog: You may want to start providing information to your customers by way of a blog. By this method, new products and services can be promoted. Also, new information about technology to facilitates services, incentives to customers can also be posted.
- Questionnaires: This is one of the best means of obtaining information from your existing and new customers. You can rate the level of customer experience and know if your customers are satisfied. Also, you can get information and suggestion on how you can improve.
Surveys can be carried out by phone through use of call centers, information sent by mail or e-mails, online tools or copies surveys can be completed in store.
- Provide Good Customer Service: Your staff must get some extra training to best serve your customers. Do not send them too early on their own with no experience of your business service. This may be counter-productive. They should have detailed knowledge of the products and services to answer customer’s question. If your ideal customers come mostly from a different culture then you must learn the ‘customer language’ of that culture to be an insider and win them over.
Even under pressure put on a cheerful attitude when dealing with customer query. In case of returning products accept it following the policy of the business. In case a customer is angry, listen more to his/her complaints and talk less. Take action swiftly to resolve the query in a manner satisfactory to your customer. In this way, you have won the client over.
- Ways for customer feedback: A small business should provide all means possible for customers to communicate back. It can really be frustrating for a customer not able to find the suitable means of providing feedback to a business. As matter of fact, this information is valuable to a business to improve its service and get along with its customer. Available means for the customer to provide feedbacks include:
Suggestion Box: Clearly position in-store or at the exit is a more direct means for some customer to provide immediate feedback. It is advisable to respond without delay to the customer query. It may be an advantage to keep writing materials near the suggestion box. Any suggestion or remark whether good or bad should be appreciated and taken on board.
Contact Information: Your business contact information should be available on all receipts, market materials, in-store and online. The contact information should be up to date and clearly visible to customers. This should include- business address, phone numbers, e-mail address and web address.
Online Presence: Most small businesses do not have a website or an e/mail address. In this way, they miss out on an opportunity to market their products to new customers. Having a website is a quick and faster to reach out to customers and get feedback.
The content on your website and your social media posts should be oriented to your target audience.
Build Your Confidence
You can increase your confidence and trust in your business decisions if you have more knowledge.
-Always attend business seminars, training and try to see what your competitors are doing to succeed. So that your business doesn't lag behind.
-Furthermore, you can plan to take part-time courses on marketing, business marketing and entrepreneurship all from trusted sources. See the need to have a business coach or mentor experience in your business segment.
-Read books, magazines, and periodicals on other successful small business. Your local library or even bookshops can provide rich resources for a small fee.
You can succeed with your small business with time. So be positive and be patient as you spend time working on your business segment. Be prepared for possible failures. But you can learn from it and improve on your marketing strategies.