It’s no secret. Finding new customers is more expensive than keeping the ones you’ve got. Loyal customers come back again and again, provide (free) word-of-mouth marketing, and most importantly, refer you to their friends. Building customer loyalty should be a strategy for every small business — but how? Here’s where to start:
1. Be authentic. Small businesses can afford to be more personable, and customers want to deal with a pro who can talk the talk and walk the walk. Be genuine, treat customers the way you would want to be treated, and don’t be afraid to share something personal if and when the moment calls for it.
2. Share your story. Take advantage of outlets like your website and social media. Tell people why it is you do what you do, why it’s so important to you, what motivates you, how you want to make their lives better, and why you’re the right person to deliver what they want. Make it personal and have fun with it!
3. Communicate. (Period). The biggest key to clear communication is active listening. Be genuinely interested in what the customer has to say and make sure to really hear and understand what they want. Once you’re working with a customer, be responsive. If they reach out, get back to them as soon as possible. Keep the lines of communication open. Be proactive about sharing information they will need or want.
4. Show your appreciation in small ways. If someone reaches out on social media, reply in a timely manner. Feature customers compliments or successes on your website and social media. Surprise clients with an unexpected discount for no reason at all. Send cards on birthday and holidays. Always say thank you.
5. Fix any mistakes. It’s okay if you make a mistake. Everyone does. The important thing is to immediately acknowledge it, sincerely apologize, and do everything in your power to make things right. Customers understand that things happen, and if you admit your blunder and make it right, it can actually build their trust.
6. Acknowledge all feedback — good and bad. Be aware of all of the channels where customers can leave your feedback, check them often, and reply to all of it, good or bad, as soon as possible. Getting a glowing review feels great, so it’s second nature to say “thank you,” and tell the customer you hope to work with them soon. If you get a less-than-glowing review, let the customer know that you saw the comment, apologize, and then do what you can to make them happy.
7. Over-deliver. The best way to make a customer happy is to deliver more than you promised. If you know you can do the job in two days, tell them it will take three, or add in a little something extra. Customers love a happy surprise and over-delivering is always a happy surprise.
8. Provide loyalty incentives. Reward customers for their loyalty with an incentive that makes sense for your business. Perhaps they get the 11th service/treatment/lesson free, or receive a discount for referrals.
9. Don’t forget to say thank you. Don’t slack off on customer service just because you’ve already landed a client or they’re all paid up and the job is over. Call to see how everything is going, ask if there’s anything else you can do, and always let them know how important their business is to you.
10. Have integrity. None of this matters at all if you don’t run your business with integrity, because without integrity there can be no trust, and without trust there will be no loyalty. Be honest. Be transparent. Be reliable. Keep your word. The rest will follow.
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