As a small business owner, you must differentiate your business from others to ensure that your customers keep coming back. One of the best ways to achieve this is by exceeding their expectations. If you give your customers a memorable experience every time they come to you, they won’t think of any other place to go when they need your service and they will spread the good word about your business to their family and friends.
Here are four strategies that you can use to keep your customers coming back:
The theory of reciprocity, proffered by Robert Cialdini in his book: Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, says that if you provide something valuable to your customers for free, they will feel indebted to spend more money and time on your business. For instance, if you offer customers a free drink or free sample of the food you sell at your eatery, they will prefer to reciprocate your kindness by eating at your place. Similarly, if you provide a free service on your website, you will easily get the users of this service to patronize your paid services.
Focus on how to offer service that your clients need but your competitors are not offering. For instance, a barber shop that wants to beat the competition can provide service to customers before other shops open and extend their operating hours until after others have closed. In French West African nations, many commercial photocopy shops take an official break between 12 noon and 3 pm when the heat of the sun is scorching. But a few business, run by smart business owners leave their doors open and amazingly, customers (particularly foreigners) queue up in the sun with umbrellas to do business with those that are open.
You can acquire customers by your personal effort, but to keep them, you must train your staff to serve them like you do. Remember that you won’t always be available to serve each customer on a one-on-one basis. Training your staff will cost you time and money but it is worth the investment. Even if some of your staff leave after you invest your time training them, they will spread the good word about your training program to potential employees, and this will make it easy to attract the best talent to your business. Bear in mind that employees who are not properly trained can make you lose loyal customers and all the prospects they can refer to you.
To keep your customers, you must not treat all of them the same way. Segment your customer base by their level of patronage, the volume of business they do with you, their gender and demographics. For instance, if you run a car rental business, you should treat those who rent limousines differently from those who always rent a small economy car. Treat corporate customers who make regular bookings for your vehicles differently than those who patronize you occasionally. With the help of customer relationship management (CRM) software, you can manage your customer segments effectively and send out different kinds of marketing messages to them.
Applying these strategies in your business will help you to create a business that will enhance customer loyalty. Customer loyalty will keep customers coming back and they will gladly recommend your business to new clients.
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Image courtesy of Urban Bohemian, flickr creative commons