Acquiring customers can feel like an uphill battle at times, and it can certainly be expensive. So how do you make sure that once a customer has visited you once, they keep coming back?
We like to think we do a pretty good job when it comes to retaining customers, so we’ve put together our top tips for how small businesses can grow customer loyalty.
More and more these days people find themselves dealing with faceless corporations and robotic websites. Your business is likely to make more of an impact if you can personalise it to your customers.
That might involve interacting with them on social media or using a program to send personalised emails. If you interact with your customers in person then getting to know them and their preferences will help your business feel as if it’s going the extra mile - just for them.
These days, few people will leave the house without their Nectar card - it’s one of the most successful customer loyalty schemes ever launched.
Of course, setting up something like Nectar is beyond the capacity of most small businesses, but you can still create a loyalty scheme to tempt customers back. You could go for a stamp card, rewarding customers after a certain number of purchases, or offer them something on the anniversary of their first custom.
Everyone likes to think they’re getting something for nothing, which is why discounts and giveaways work so well for promoting customer loyalty.
This can tie into loyalty schemes. If you’re offering a prize draw, you could require people to have bought something from you in the past month - just make sure you tell them about it in advance!
You can try all sorts of customer retention techniques, but if you don’t know which ones are working you could be putting money into something that’s getting you no return, or giving up on something that’s actually doing you good.
How you gather feedback is up to you. If you run a business where you interact with customers, you could ask them to fill in a feedback form or just talk to them about a scheme you’ve offered to see if they liked it.
If your business is mostly run online, there are a number of different software providers who will allow you to add surveys to your website, or send them out via email.
Another way of making people feel like they’re getting something for nothing, and that you’re going the extra mile for them, is to offer them that something extra that your competitors won’t.
For example, when you buy your insurance with Simply Business you get a monthly newsletter with a roundup of all the best content from our Knowledge Centre, as well of details of other exciting events we have planned.
If you operate in a particularly competitive industry, one of the ways you can make your business stand out is by offering really good customer service.
Insurance, for example, can be much of a muchness, but we make sure that if someone calls us up or sends in an email that the people they speak to are not only polite and friendly, but also knowledgeable, helpful, and get things solved as quickly as we can.
Also keep in mind that lots of customers expect support to be available when they need it most. This would need a larger team who can bring waiting times down and handle queries round the clock. A virtual call centre could help you achieve this without the need for expensive equipment or the room required to house support staff.
If you - and everyone who works for you - gives your customer the best experience possible, they’re going to be much more keen to come back.
But as a small business owner, freelancer or sole-trader, you already have a lot on your plate with, well, actually running things. Adding in this sort of stuff can feel like a real chore that you just don’t have time for.
However, given how valuable customer retention can be to a business, it’s something you should spend time on. So how can you strike the right balance? Well, anything you can get to run automatically will make life a lot easier.
Automatic emails aren’t too difficult to set up. There are programs you can use to set up emails that will trigger when someone signs up with you, for example.
And if you’re too busy for feedback, you can use programs like Google Analytics to see how much traffic pages on your website get. If you set up a new page when you have an offer on, or even add it to an existing page, you’ll be able to see how popular that offer is.
For the less digitally inclined, if you have physical premises you can have a customer counter installed on your door to see how many people are coming in on any given day. If it goes up when you have a promotion on, you’re probably on the right track.
One of the most important aspects of customer loyalty is being genuine. A helpful thing to try is putting yourself in your customer's shoes. What would you want in their position? What would make you keep coming back to a business again and again?
There are lots of techniques for customer retention, but you know your business and those who use it best. Keep that in mind and it will be hard to go far wrong.
What customer retention strategies do you use? Let us know in the comments.
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