Marketing Pitfalls: Keep Your Friends Close & Your Customers Closer
This is part of a series on how small business owners can face and overcome the marketing hazards associated with their operations.
What does your company’s success have to do with your customer relationships?
After all, for every negative experience a person has with a company, he or she tells 6 people. Online, that person will “tell” thousands more. That, my friends, translates into lost revenue.
While it is undeniably true that business owners need to focus on growing their customer base, you should not do it to the extent that you neglect existing customers – once again, there’s that element of balance. Existing customers are the foundation on which the company has been built and it is vital that you take care of the customers you have.
That is really not as difficult as it sounds; actually, it will take far less effort to have existing customers increase their expenditures than to replace them completely.
Where do you begin? Hopefully, you are already on the right path, by offering exceptional service on a regular basis. In a brick-and-mortar business, it starts with saying “Hello, how can I help you?” and “Thank you, come back again,” but it has to go well beyond the basic social amenities. It is important to show existing customers – both in person and online – that you value them. Here are some ideas:
Ask for referrals or offer incentives for new referrals. If you make the incentive significant enough, they will do it more and more and – voila! You’re taking care of your existing customers and growing your customer base at the same time – a true win-win!
Loyalty adds up. How many times you have returned to a business because you had a “frequent customer” card and were on your way to earning significant rewards? This is a popular and effective tool for businesses from mom-and-pops up to cruise lines. Give your customers something to shoot for, perhaps by earning “points” to advance through levels/tiers/
Ask for their opinions, whether it is on products, services or even marketing strategies (i.e., How would you rate the color/font on our website? What drew you in today?). The only people who know your company as well as you are your regular customers. People are reluctant to ask their customers for their opinions because they fear they would be intruding when, in fact, customers actually may be flattered that you value their opinions. In a storefront, this can be done face-to-face;
Don’t be afraid of what you may hear. Don’t brush aside what your customers say just because it is negative or is not in keeping with what you currently believe. You may have to develop a little bit of a tough skin here, but the customers may be right. Those comments can be used to help you tweak your business plan, refocus your marketing efforts or even put more time and effort into what is already working. Organizations that provide exceptional service are masters of listening to their customers. They listen without being defensive.
Get to know your customers – what motivates them, what drives them to dig into their wallets and spend their hard-earned money. And the best way to get to know them is to communicate with them. Gather data for email and /or mailing lists and send out regular communiqués with sales, tips or business news – even if it’s not something they are interested in at the moment, it puts your business’s name in front of them.
Let me leave you with two thoughts:
W. Edwards Deming, well-known statistician and management consultant, said: “Profit in business comes from repeat customers, customers that boast about your project or service, and that bring friends with them.”
And, as internationally known business author and management professor Michael LeBoeuf said, “A satisfied customer is the best business strategy of all.”
That is why you should keep your friends close – and your customers closer!