Client relationship management is essential to small-business success. Running a small business doesn’t begin and end with making one sale, which is why owners have to learn how to keep customers coming back if they want to thrive in a competitive market. Here are five tips to help improve your brand and keep customers coming back for more.
1. Tell a Story. Customers like to feel connected to a company, even if they never meet the owner and make purchases only online. If you don’t already have a section on your website explaining the history and mission of your company, start by adding a few blurbs about your business.
Don’t be afraid to add in a few personal details. Depending on the type of business you run, leave behind stiff corporate talk and opt for a casual tone. Did you first have the idea for your company when you were a freshman in college? Have you and your siblings been running a small family business for years? Let customers know.
If you don’t think you have an interesting story to tell, start by writing down why you got into business, the company values you adhere to, and why you’re passionate about the work you do. The more your clients know, the more of an emotional connection they will feel, leading to the development of customer loyalty.
2. Stay True to Your Word. When starting a small business and trying to establish a strong reputation, think of what kinds of companies you like to work with most. Chances are, the businesses you have in mind communicate effectively and deliver on their promises.
Telling clients they can expect a service to be delivered within 24 hours is great, but only when an owner can truly accommodate this request. Rather than stretching the truth to drive more business, only make promises you can keep.
When working with small businesses that offer unique services with limited resources, clients are especially understanding. However, no one likes to be lied to, so be honest, and never treat guarantees as negotiable.
3. Use Social Media Wisely. Keeping up communication with customers is easier than ever with so many social-media sites at a business owner’s disposal.
By tweeting or posting to Facebook on a regular basis, clients will be the first to know about new designs and services, and their positive experience with you will always be fresh in their minds. There’s no need to get carried away, though—sending out multiple links a day and constantly emailing customers often backfires and can lead to resentment.
According to a 2012 study commissioned by PitneyBowes, spamming customers can have dire effects on a business. The report found 83 percent of consumers have been annoyed by a company’s social-media practices, and that 65 percent of respondents said they would stop using a company if its social-media behavior annoyed them.
Don’t turn off customers—develop a social-media marketing strategy that’s focused on quality over quantity, and don’t go overboard with posting.
4. Personalize the Experience. No one enjoys being treated like a number, and even though in-person communication may not be the priority for many businesses, customer satisfaction is still of the utmost importance.
One way to make sure a customer is happy is to personalize their experience with your business. If a client is trying to decide between a few services, give them more than just the basic information: Ask them questions about their personal needs, and individualize the experience toward them. Customers can tell right away whether or not a salesperson or designer is really listening to them, and whether they’re getting sincere advice on making a purchase.
Treat each customer like an individual, and do your best to cater to his or her needs.
5. Take Pride in Business Practices. If a small-business owner wants to increase revenues, it’s imperative that they meet client expectations and take pride in their company. That may mean investing in website or office design, but most importantly, business owners should never sacrifice quality just to save costs.
If delivering a quality experience means investing in sophisticated building-design tools or spending more time on each individual design, then that’s what an owner has to do. It may be expensive up front, but those investments will pay off with years of loyalty from clients.
If you’re tempted to take shortcuts or send out a design knowing that something’s wrong with it, remember that sites like Yelp and Epinions exist for a reason. If you deliver a shoddy product design or ignore the needs of a customer, it would be safe to bet that there may soon be a negative review about your company living on the Internet for years to come.
Remember why you got into business in the first place, and take pride in what you’re sending out into the world. Regularly remind employees of the seriousness of quality and service, and customers are bound to work with you again.