Have you managed to build a solid customer base, or are you working towards that goal? Customer conversion is certainly an important part of business development. However, retaining customers is just as important. The best way to positively impact a sense of loyalty among existing customers is to make them enthusiastic about doing business with you. This requires showing them love and appreciation in meaningful and tangible ways.
Here are ten things that you can do to show your customers the love that they deserve.
#1. Personally Acknowledge their Patronage
When a customer is kind enough to spend their money on your products and services, they should be thanked in as personal a manner as possible. This appreciation should be from a known member of the organization. Avoid form letters, automatically generated emails, or calls from support staff. A handwritten letter or personally written email shows true appreciation.
#2. Offer Meaningful Incentives that Pay Off Quickly
Customers love to be rewarded for their loyalty. What they hate is waiting for months on end before they finally ‘qualify’ for their reward, or finding out that their reward is completely useless to them. A good incentive program should provide a small reward such as a discount or freebie after the first purchase.
Also, avoid chintzy ‘rewards’ that are nothing more than cheap, plastic trinkets. Customers will always appreciate a small discount over an object that they will lose in a few days.
#3. Get to Know Your Customers
The more you know about your customers, the more you are able to customize their experience as they do business with you. Make a concerted effort to know the names of your customers, their interests, the organizations they have joined, the charities they support, and their sports team loyalties. Keep this information in your customer database, and use it to make your customer’s day whenever possible.
This can be as simple as calling up a loyal customer who is a baseball fan, and inviting him to attend a local minor league game. At the very least, you will know of a few conversation starters that you can use. If you are not willing to create your own customer database, please consider using a free or inexpensive CRM package.
#4. Give them Good Advice, not a Sales Pitch
Never sacrifice a good customer for the sake of a single sale. There is nothing that aggravates a customer more than being sold something that they did not need. If there is another business who is better qualified to help your customer, or they simply do not need your services, let them know. They will remember your honesty, and the fact that you were looking out for their best interests.
#5. Keep them Interested and Informed with Useful Content
Start a blog, online newsletter, or email list. Don’t use it for sales and marketing. Use it to provide your customers with content that is useful to them, and that demonstrates your expertise. Here is are a couple of examples. If you are a cosmetics representative, send your customers free tips on hair and skin care that they can use on a regular basis. If you are involved in the media business, write a weekly blog reviewing upcoming music and movie releases.
#6. Train Your Employees Well
From the perspective of a customer, the best employees are courteous, competent, and empowered. They should know your products and services, they should treat every customer with respect, and they should have the power to make things right when something goes on. If you have employees who are consistently telling your customers that they cannot help them with their problem, or that they must check with a superior before taking action, something is very wrong.
#7. Leave them with a Story to Tell
You know that it is very important that each customer feels as if they have been appreciated and cared for, but why not select a customer, every so often, to receive the VIP treatment? Offer up a deep discount, provide them with tickets to a sold-out event, do anything that will motivate them to tell their friends and family members about their experience.
#8. Give them a Gift
The gift doesn’t need to be expensive or lavish. In fact, something small and consumable is usually the best option. If you own a mail order business, toss in a gift card for a well-known coffee shop or fast food restaurant. If you own a brick and mortar store, throw a few fun-sized candy bars into your customer’s bags as they are checking out. One small, Chinese restaurant in the Midwest managed to impress their customers by providing them with a bunch of bananas, container of berries, or cantaloupe at the end of each meal.
#9. Help them with their own Business Efforts
Why not reward customer loyalty with a bit of your own loyalty. Try to feature a local business once or twice a month on your website, blog, or company newsletter. Use this space to profile their business. Thank them for their loyalty and encourage customers to give them their business. If you have a storefront, it may be a good idea to provide other small business owners with a place to post bulletins about their companies.
#10. Listen to them
If a customer has a complaint, a story, or a question, the best way to show your appreciation is by simply listening. Don’t offer a scripted answer. Don’t make excuses. Don’t offer an immediate refund. Just listen to them. Then, address their question or concern in a way that validates them.
There are many other ways to use marketing and customer service techniques to make customers feel appreciated. However, these are ten things that any business owner can do regardless of the size of his or her enterprise. They emphasize fostering good relationships with customers along with providing meaningful rewards that customers can use. If you are feeling skeptical about these techniques, feel free to try just one or two. You have a lot to gain if they pay off.
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