Many small business owners devote a great deal of energy to finding new customers. That’s always a good idea, but it misses a larger resource for growth: existing customers. One of the keys to a successful business is to persuade a customer to buy again–and again. According to a recent report by Accenture, 75 percent of consumers are more likely to buy repeatedly from a business that recognizes them by name and recommends options based on past purchases.
In fact, there are many steps that any small business owner can implement to strengthen the relationship with existing customers and win more business from them. Think about starting with one of these five steps:
- Personalization: Personalization can turn one-time transactions into a long-term relationship. No, I’m not talking about putting your customer’s name on the things they buy. Personalization is about making a connection to your customer. It’s why at Bizfi, even though we have a highly automated application process, we still insist on having our funding team have a conversation with every small business owner we fund. For your small business, personalization might mean learning about the desserts your customers prefer or how they prefer to hear from you—phone calls, emails, text messages and the like.
- Survey your existing customers: Surveys go hand in hand with personalization. If a customer purchased your product online, you can ask them how the user experience was in a quick survey before they leave your website. If you want to expand your product offerings, you can use a survey to find out what types of products your customers would be interested in buying, and what they liked and don’t like about the shopping experience. Online survey companies like SurveyMonkey can help you present your survey to your existing customers—if you have their email addresses. These survey companies also have many established survey formats, so you won’t have to write your own. Don’t have email addresses for all your customers yet? Check to see if your point-of-sale (POS) terminal can email customers their receipt, then start asking everyone if they want their bill that way. Most will agree.
- Solve issues quickly: Not every product works exactly right and sometimes the services a business delivers don’t meet expectations. When your customer’s expectations haven’t been met, you must work hard to make sure their issues are resolved to their satisfaction. If you are dealing with an angry customer in person, make sure your body language communicates that you are listening to what they are saying, and take a deep breath before you respond. If you are dealing with an angry customer online—where many consumers are venting grievances these days—acknowledge the complaint and then give the customer a phone number that they can use to reach you to talk out a resolution. When the problem is solved, go back to their original post and thank them for working with you to resolve the situation to their satisfaction.
- Reward loyalty: Everyone loves getting a gift from time to time, and your customers are no exception. Loyalty card programs are now within reach of even the smallest businesses, but maybe your loyalty program doesn’t need to be formal: You know who your regular customers are. They next time they come in, give them a special appetizer while they are deciding on the rest of their meal, or maybe a small accessory that will complement the last outfit they bought from you. If you do opt for a formal loyalty program, plan out all your possible rewards, from discounts based on their spending, to discounts for referring new customers or being an influencer on behalf of your business. You want to make sure that your rewards motivate your customers to keep doing business with you.
- Track your progress: Of course you need to monitor how your efforts to build your business through your existing customers are going. As you implement each of the strategies above, take a minute to understand how each helped to build your sales. If you’ve personalized your communications, are more customers opening your emails or responding to your text messages? If your survey showed your customers wanted more of certain merchandise, did they step up to buy when you put it on your shelves? If you worked to resolve a problem with an angry customer, did that person choose to do business with you again or refer a new customer? The answers to these questions should help you to build an even stronger relationship with your customers in the future.