Your small business thrives when you can count on customers loyally returning time and again to purchase your goods or engage your services. Sure, it’s necessary to have good offerings, low prices and savvy marketing, but sometimes that not sufficient. The deciding factor is often an environment you establish that appreciates and values your customers. This atmosphere doesn’t happen by chance (although it doesn’t hurt if your personality naturally operates this way) — you and your employees have to foster it.
How to Thank Customers
You can show your appreciation to loyal customers, and create more of them, by specific behaviors, programs and events. It’s not rocket science –it just requires common sense and a little empathy. Here are a few suggestions:
- Start at the personal level. Smile. Shake hands. Remember names. Compliment. Inquire. Sometimes, a hug is in order. Don’t underestimate the value of the personal touch, because it can have a strong impact on your customers, who are, of course, only human.
- Lead by example. You and like-minded small business owners can form advocacy groups to promote local businesses as well as popular civic causes, such as safer streets with better lighting. Members of your group can advertise in each other’s establishments, maybe even undertake joint projects. For example, the bakery at one end of the block might offer its goods at the coffee house on the other end. And vice versa. Customers are often attracted to good businesses that are also good citizens.
- Mix it up. Special events, like block parties, customer appreciation days, food/wine tastings, grab bags and contests help create buzz that can attract first-time customers. The goodwill creates something of a psychological debt that customer repay with loyalty.
- Always have at least one unadvertised promotion each day, if applicable. Soon shoppers will be coming in just to catch today’s deal. Make it something worthwhile, like bogos or special financing rates.
- Premiums are a classic. The idea of getting a free radio when you open a checking account in the lobby of a balloon-festooned bank might be hokey, but guess what — it works! You can gear the promotions to your product or service. For example, if you offer financial services, how about free tickets to a seminar on a related topic?
- Loyalty cards, rack up the points and get something for free. This only works when your business relies on repeat business. But if it doesn’t, offer referral fees instead.
- Be very nice to complaining customers. And you should be, because they are helping you uncover and fix problems that others may have not brought to your attention. First, address the complaint head on and try to show immediate action. Second, issue an exclusive coupon or credit to the unhappy customer, something of value that shows you are sincerely trying to keep them from becoming disaffected.
- Use your social media voice. Tweet. Like. Blog. Many forward-thinking businesses use a freelance writer to put out weekly blogs of general interest and value to consumers and other businesses. You do a lot of great things — shout it out on the interwebs and reward especially useful customer posts to your website with coupons or secret words.
Really, we’ve just scratched the surface. Let your imagination run riot and you’ll come up with a dozen ideas. For example, if you are a B2B, think about free extra services, faster shipping or better credit terms. In all cases, consistency is the key. Be grateful and appreciative every day, and you’ll have to beat off the thronging customers with a stick.