I want you to think about your favorite business, whether it’s a local shop, restaurant, etc.
What are the things that make it stand out to you – is it solely the product that’s offered? I doubt it, because if it’s a place you keep going back to, there’s so much more that they provide and do really, really well. Maybe it’s their customer service, their marketing, or their brands’ message and values. There’s definitely a whole package deal that keeps you going back and earning your loyalty.
Why am I asking you this? As you are trying to build your business, something that you should keep in mind is how important repeat customers are. They represent how well you are doing as a business – from marketing your product to making it (or executing a service).
Trying to figure out the best method to get and keep repeat customers can sometimes feel overwhelming just by thinking about it – you’re super happy and eager to finally have your business up and running, so the last thing you probably want to do is think about how many customers you have, if it’s enough, and how many are coming back to you.
Customer retention is, however, super important for sustaining the life of your business. If this is your new full-time job, you are probably feeling some level of pressure to increase sales. Perhaps you have done everything you can to make your business known to the public - reaching out to people directly through email and phone calls, paid for social boosting and ads -- you name it, and you’ve done it! Yet, you may still find yourself stuck if you haven’t really put effort into strengthening your customer retention.
If this is something you are just starting as a side hustle and are currently keeping your corporate job for the income, you are even more susceptible to give your new business less attention than it needs. And let’s be honest – when you are allotting time for the side hustle and dream, your first focus is on performing your services and getting your brand out into the world. That is by no means a bad thing at all, but you’re underestimating the power of current customers.
Of course, acquisition is important, but your current customers actually provide the most revenue. Why?
I also want to point out the power of referrals and “word-of-mouth” – happy, dedicated, and loyal customers are highly likely to be promoting your business to others. Who doesn’t want free marketing?
There are so many things you can do to increase your visibility and brand presence to hook in those repeat customers, but I’m going to outline a few tried and true methods that really do work:
Zero in on the customer
As soon as you get a customer to fill out a “customer profile,” you immediately have access to a few things: their birthday, age, and location. If you decide to add a question box that asks “What are your personal interests?” or “Tell us more about you,” you may have even more information on who your customer is and what kind of life they live. With all that information, you can start putting the customer in the spotlight and offer them either personalized content or rewards for being a customer.
For example, if you own a spa, you may decide to send out a big discount on a customer’s birthday to be redeemed for any single service on the menu. Why would this create a repeat customer? It shows you care, that you celebrate who your customers are, and you provide an incentive for them to return for your business. Plus, who doesn’t get excited when they see a special birthday gift in their e-mail (or physical mailbox)?
Not in a trade that sells a lot of product, and offer more of a situational service, such as being a repairman? You can still show your customer you care by sending them a birthday card. A little goes a long way, and the gesture will get your company’s name in your customer’s head for the next time they need something repaired!
By learning about your customers’ age, you can send out tailored content. Say, for example, you find a large part of your customer base is in the millennial age group, and you know that there’s a DIY trend happening for skincare. Show your current customers that you are also keeping up with the latest trends and invite them for a private DIY skincare event. You could have your skincare specialist go over your product selections and have her offer personal tips for skin maintenance in-between professional facials.
Knowing your customers’ location can help you understand what their daily life is like and what kind of tailored content to send their way. Is it always raining? Maybe send an email campaign that offers tips on cleaning rain gutters fast and efficiently, or partner with a gutter cleaning service to offer a discount using an exclusive code.
Are they in a place dealing with wildfires? Engage with customers on social media and share up to date info on the current forest fire status, share emergency contact info to local authorities, and simply show you are thinking about them. Showing your customers that you care about their safety will help them to trust you more.
When you find out what personal interests your customers have, that can help inform the way your write your content or what you talk about on social media. If you see your customers are super into your local sports team, use your next email campaign to make a few sports puns or even give a shout out to the team and their next big game. This can also turn into a great marketing opportunity – tell your customers if the team wins a few games in a row, they get entered in a drawing to win a free service or a pair of tickets to one of the games.
Personal interests offer so many opportunities to get customers excited and involved with your brand!
Interact with your customers
By this, I mean beyond your face-to-face interaction while you are working on site with a customer (or over the phone/internet). Put yourself in your customers’ shoes: wouldn’t you want to be thought about more than just when someone wants to sell something to you? How would you creatively implement a regular friendly conversation with people? One big suggestion is to start utilizing social media.
First, figure out the average age group of your client base. This will help determine which social media platforms to get on. For an older crowd, Facebook is probably your best option – it’s very easy to create a community page and offer a space to chat with people. You can host monthly Q+A sessions or keep it simple by chatting on Facebook posts and threads (or private messages).
If you want to share a lot of graphics and images, and create an easy-to-navigate blog, Instagram is super good for that. You can easily interact with customers in the comments, you can host a livestream and talk to people in real time (while offering them a face behind the company), and you can share tidbits of the current workday with Instagram stories. You also have a direct message feature, so if you have customers who want to reach out privately, you can offer that too!
While you can chat with people on Instagram, the better platform to host live chats is Twitter. It’s super easy to start a conversation and reply to customers with a quick tweet – and, tweet conversations are compiled into a thread so it doesn’t clog someone else’s feed if they aren’t interested in the question being asked. With age group, twitter is kind of in-between – it’s dominantly a younger crowd, but you do find a lot of older people on there. You can also easily connect it to your Instagram or Facebook account so that it automatically shares links to any posts on those platforms.
Snapchat is known for its filters and creating a funny, entertaining experience, so if you want to do something more lighthearted, you may consider using it to share a “day in the life of my business” type of marketing. If you want to host an event, you can also create a custom filter on Snapchat so that people who attend can promote your brand name.
For example, say you are hosting an auction for your products and other services, you can choose to create a filter that says “(your company name) Auction 2018.” When someone takes a pic, they can add that filter and share it with their friends. It makes taking photos fun and encourages people to interact in the event.
Aside from social media and other modern-day tech, you can create a strong customer relationship with a good old-fashioned email or direct mail. Mark time in your calendar to send a monthly or quarterly newsletter that is specifically addressed to the client. Don’t force a sale in this, but rather think about what content a customer would appreciate getting. Maybe that’s best practices for reducing energy and saving on an electric bill. Or, say it’s the winter holiday season, you could just send out a warm greeting wishing your client and their family well and include a beautiful holiday or winter-themed image.
Show customer appreciation with incentives
Creating a good loyalty program does just what is suggests – promotes customer loyalty. Say you run a small shop that sells food and cleaning products from local farmers and other small businesses. A good way to promote customer loyalty is with a points program, where you offer a card that gets a hole punch with every $10 spent, and once a customer gets 10-hole punches (or spends $100), they get $10 off their next purchase.
If you run your own gym or boutique fitness studio, you can encourage people to sign up for a rewards program so that for every class they take, they earn points which they can save and add up to multiple rewards (which you would assign different point values). So, say for 50 points, they get $5 off their next retail purchase (from your swag shop), and 150 points gets them 10% off their next month’s membership payment.
Regardless of your trade, another great incentive idea is a referral program – if a client successfully gets someone else to purchase your services, both your current client and the new one they referred will get some discount. For example, if you run a fashion boutique, you could offer $20 off for the successful referral.
Last, but not least -- don’t push your product on customers
You need to build trust with your customers if you want them to be repeat, and that starts with not trying to force a sale. If someone just bought something and your first response is “please buy more” instead of just a warm “thank you” or some other content, you will quickly drive that customer away.
Go through everything I’ve listed previously – personalized content, referral programs, seasonal updates, etc. – there are so many other things you can and should do to keep in touch with your customers before you say “here is what I do, pay me to do it.” Again, if it’s a repeat customer, you don’t even need to persuade them to buy again – it’s more about convincing them you’ve created a trustworthy relationship. Invest in your current customer, and they’ll invest in you!
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When she’s not writing for SB, Pauline runs an intuitive healing business... and is still writing as she types up psychic readings! As she was raised by entrepreneurs, she knows what it takes to be a small business owner.
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