Business owners often take customer loyalty for granted.
Yet, in this competitive market, nothing could be further from the truth.
The returning customer often is key to the bottom line of just about any business. So often you only see them spending $10 in your store and never making any big purchases. But if they come in twice a week for life, the total he or she spends is a large amount and it is ongoing. Do not underestimate the impact of customer loyalty. As a business owner, you need to be working continually to develop and maintain your relationship with existing customers.
Communication is an important component of that effort. Perhaps the easiest and first step is to simply stay in touch with customers. Figure out the customers’ preferred communication style and let them know you are thinking of them.
Another communication tool is asking for advice and feedback, and then making use of the information you receive. Let people know you appreciate suggestions and even their complaints, and talk about changes you have made as a result of their feedback.
If you can link a specific customer to an implemented change, you establish trust and rapport, not only with that customer, but with all of your customer base.
Remember that in your interactions, one size does not fit all. Customers want someone they enjoy working with; however, every customer may enjoy a slightly different interaction style.
Be flexible as well. Read body language for subtle signs that may help you better respond, even to the people you interact with regularly.
You also must stay on their radar. This holds true for existing customers but also the potential customers you are trying to attract. Today’s consumers are bombarded with more and more marketing efforts all trying to attract their business. Let your customers know of events, new products or new employees, or simply encourage them to stop by.
As you try to stay on their radar, do not be afraid to ‘get out of the box’ sometimes. Find things that will interest them. Offer tips on related topics or ways a product can be used. Maybe you know of a workshop or exhibit that relates to your business. Let them know. Maybe even organize a trip.
Lastly, the most important and maybe the easiest tip is to genuinely listen to them. Pay attention not only to their product and/or service needs, but to who they are and what motivates them. This information-gathering tool can have a huge payoff.
Developing your loyal customers doesn’t just happen. It takes time, effort and patience.
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Glenn Muske is an independent expert on rural small business, working as GM Consulting – Your partner in achieving small business success. He provides consulting, and writes articles for county extension agents and newspapers across North Dakota. Previously, he was the Rural and Agribusiness Enterprise Development Specialist at the North Dakota State University Extension Service – Center for Community Vitality.