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Wait. What??? Clearly I was having a little fun there, as I’m laughing out loud. OK, I have absolutely NO clue what any of that means. But sadly, that seems to be what this world has come to; technology overload. For a small local business however, there is really only one, time tested, tried and true, tip on building customer loyalty. Ready for the secret sauce? Numero uno, cream of the crop, the top, the secret, the key to small business success, the end all be all. Wait for it…………….
RELATIONSHIPS!!! RELATIONSHIPS!!! RELATIONSHIPS!!! RELATIONSHIPS!!! RELATIONSHIPS!!! RELATIONSHIPS!!!
Want to build customer loyalty? Create relationships. There is simply no way around this, especially in today’s day and age. No apps, mobile devices, computers, or fancy technology required.
Here are a few other tips to consider:
Be a Human - Walk down the street in your local community or business district and strike up random conversations with folks in your area. You know, a good old fashioned “face to face” conversation. You never know you are going to meet and you never know who the other person knows. Be open minded and invite a local business owner or community leader to have a cup of coffee, take a client to a baseball game, attend a random networking event, join a meetup group, volunteer at a non-profit event, show up at a chamber breakfast, ask to be invited to your local BNI group meeting, have an open house or a sidewalk sale. At the end of the day, people do business with and refer business to, those people they know, like and trust. Hence, it's imperative you create relationships and engage with everyone you meet. Use your imagination, get creative and come up with some fun, fresh ways of engaging with local residents and other small business owners. The worst that could happen is you make a new friend.
Listen to your Customer - With the prevalence of mobile devices and ubiquity of Internet connections, it has become easier than ever before to conduct direct surveys to existing and potential customers. In fact, small business owners no longer have to rely on local marketing agencies or hand out paper surveys to learn what the customers are thinking or saying. Adhering to the “voice of the customer” is an essential piece of small business success, and a reliable way to avoid major blunders.
Connect with your Customer - Ever since the Industrial Revolution, perhaps even more so during the current digital and technological advancement, the “gap” between the producer and consumer has greatly widened. The once prevalent communal relationship of the local store owner and neighborhood buyer is no longer the same- we never know who made our pillows, backpacks, and even our milk, all of which we bought at large retail stores as Walmart. Furthermore, as we purchase various items via online distributors as Amazon, even the “hello, how-are-you” interactions have disappeared.
Recent consumer behavior research has shown, however, that there is great value in connecting with the customer at the most personable level. For instance, Starbucks has successfully built their coffee empire in the last decade by requiring their employees to ask for the customer’s name, and write it on the cup. Apple stores allow its clerks to roam freely on the floor, with their phones to function as cashiers, to meet and greet customers individually. All of these efforts are closely related to building a strong and genuine brand by investing in a sustainable relationship with the customers.
Why does this matter? Because small business owners have more flexibility in managing their businesses both comprehensibly and in detail, they can make faster and more accurate decisions to create a personalized and authentic experience for their customers. Rather than competing on price or cost-reducing strategies against the “big firms”, CEOs of small businesses should spend more time thinking about ways to intimately connect their brand with their local and online consumers, open houses, free tours for children, and sponsoring local events and teams could be some viable options. After all, customers want to be treated as people, not as sales numbers.
Establish Your Brand - First, it’s important to understand that your brand is much more than your logo, merchandising or products. Your brand is about the sum total of the experiences customers have with your business. This includes the visual elements of your business, but it also includes what you do, how you do it, what your customer interactions are like, the type of information you share in your marketing and on social media. All these elements help establish the trust and credibility of your business.
Evolve - Remember that expansion and innovation go hand in hand. Therefore, keep re-branding your company and offering more creative products and services, so that your message is always fresh. The trick is to be consistent in offering quality products, services and solutions to your clients. Stay true to your vision, but never stop evolving.
Creative Marketing Strategies - You will be required to implement effective marketing strategies, as marketing is the cornerstone of any business. This will require you to use the best and the latest technology of the day. Therefore, you should take your business online and engage with your customers on social media. Some of the larger platforms include, include Linkedin, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and others. As simple as it sounds, a blog and a website will also be a great way to inform clients about your products or services and provide useful information which will position you as an expert in your field. You should also compile an email marketing list and use it to get the word out there about your company, along with the products and services you offer. You may also take the initiative to contribute to local charities and non-profits, perhaps even volunteering or speaking at local events.
Hope these tips were valuable to you. As always, we are here to help!