It takes a ton of effort to get customers, but small business owners know that the secret to building a business is keeping the customers you have. Consider that, on average, loyal customers are worth as much as 10x as much as their initial purchase or service fee, and it can cost 5x more to acquire a new customer than it does to keep one you already have.
Being dependable, competitive with pricing, and delivering great customer service is no longer enough to create a sense of loyalty among your existing customers. Today's consumer is constantly weighing their different options and expecting vendors to cater to their unique needs.
Businesses can use a variety of methods to maintain relationships with customers and continuously demonstrate their value. With the right mix of social media, marketing activities, and good old customer service, you can stand out from your competitors in the eyes of your customers and be their go-to vendor.
With the following tactics, you can position your company to develop deep customer retention and ongoing loyalty:
Whether you like it or not, your business is not about you. Your business exists only because of your customers, so you have to communicate to them that you are focused on their needs and on the things that make them satisfied. This should be a major part of your efforts to brand your business, and almost half of small businesses believe that building brand awareness is a top marketing priority. That also means it's getting more competitive to stand out from the crowd. To do it, however, you must establish a customer-focused vision for your business that emphasizes your commitment to trust and excellence. Think about what customers like about you and your business and then translate that into a vision for what your business is all about.
For example, customers probably love it when you make it a point to be on time and do follow up calls after a service visit. Not every provider does that, so that helps you stand out. But why they like that is what's especially important. When you're reliable, that means they can arrange their schedule around a visit and rest assured they'll still be able to pick their kids up from school on time. It means that they can get their own business back to normal quickly because you can fix issues that prevent them from working normally. Make sure you communicate not just the part about being on time, but explain that make it’s a core part of your mission to be on time specifically because you value their time, or that you understand that their problems are costing them money.
Not everything is online these days. Customers still keep files, and they like the convenience of referencing paper-based content. Because of this, and because it helps you effectively communicate your brand, you need to create marketing collateral that you can leave with customers. It is an effective way to keep your company name front-and-center in their brains, and it acts as a reminder for the next time they need your services.
One of the most important things about paper marketing collateral is that it stands alone. A customer isn't comparing multiple vendors when they pick up your brochure. Rather, they're seeing all your company's attributes, special offer opportunities, and other information, all in a very visual, compelling way.
Marketing collateral can come in a variety of formats, but it should all look professional and accurately represent your brand.l. Content should be informative and needs to deliver direct information about your services, pricing, and what makes you stand out from the competition (this is where you can thread that customer-centric mission throughout the collateral). The look and design should be visually compelling, but it should also provide offers for customers to engage with you in the future through special offers and discounts. When a customer sees that they can save money on their next visit, you're already half way to booking them again.
While you are an expert in your particular field of service, the root of any business is all about how you interact with people. And people want to feel like they are appreciated, and saying "thank you" is one of the most effective ways of doing that.
Most of your competitors will think in terms of needs; they need you, and you need their business. While that's true, that mindset is very much about a single interaction - engage, solve, leave. Yet, when you demonstrate appreciation for the business your customer gives you, it makes them feel valued, and establishes the sense that you want to maintain a relationship with them. It's also just plain, old-fashioned good manners, and that's appealing to everyone.
Whether it's with an email, a text, or if you take the time to compose a quick handwritten note, a sincere note of thanks from you will help you stand out from other vendors who appear to take customers for granted.
In a survey of 7,500 North American business owners, 85% said that word of mouth referrals are the single most effective way to acquire customers. In today's market where consumers have more choices than ever before, they increasingly rely on proof points and validation from people like them. Especially with the popularity of online review sites like Yelp, Facebook, Angie's List and others, customers have many outlets to voice their opinions, good or bad; it's the new word of mouth.
Happy customers are usually happy to refer you. The problem is that they may not always be aware of the outlets for doing so, and they may not always think to initiate it on their own, so it's up to you to direct them. As mentioned above, collateral can be an important tool for this. Every time you finish a job, present your customer with instructions for how to provide a review on one of these sites. A visual step-by-step diagram will make it easy for anyone to log on and leave a positive review for you. You may also want to offer an incentive; perhaps a discount on future services or the opportunity to be included in a raffle for customers who submit a review of your company and its services.
Besides creating more validation for your business and greater word of mouth opportunities, these types of reviews and referrals also create a tighter bond between you and the customer who is providing the referral. When a customer speaks highly of you, it creates another form of positive validation and a reminder that you are their go-to vendor for future service.
Do you ever call your customers just to check up on them? Sounds like a nice thing to do, but it would suck so much time that you wouldn't be able to handle the workload in front of you. Social media, however, is an effective and inexpensive way to stay connected with customers and increase awareness of your services.
Facebook, for example, now influences more than half of the buying decisions for customers' good and services needs, and AdWeek says that it could be detrimental to avoid social media in your business.
The first thing you need to do is create the basic social media accounts: Twitter, Facebook company pages, and Instagram all allow you to communicate messages to users and use visuals effectively. In your marketing collateral, encourage customers to follow your accounts, and you should follow them in return. Look for local accounts and engage with them as well. Social media is a great way to deliver personalized messages directly to the accounts of your followers and others who might benefit from knowing about your services.
Social media also provides a great channel for delivering content to stay engaged with your existing customers. Perhaps you want to send them winter maintenance tips. Doing so through the U.S. Mail is costly and email can be time intensive. But you can direct this content (whether it's a downloadable piece or just text in a message) to your users and customers so they benefit from the information and stay tightly connected to you.
OK, take this with a grain of salt, but everyone loves to hate the bad guy. Most experts say that tension makes people pay attention, and in a business context, an enemy helps create this awareness. They also want to quickly avoid the pain that comes from knowing the bad guy could strike at any time. This isn't about actually finding a person or industry to target, however. This is about the culprit that gives you business in the first place.
For a carpet cleaning company, kids' shoes are evil. They track water and dirt all over the house...let's go to war over kids' shoes! Or an HVAC company can align themselves with hot, uncomfortable customers to combat a heat wave with air conditioning...and possibly the opportunity to more effectively keep ice cubes cold in your margarita! Customers like quirky and fun campaigns like this because they are original and entertaining. It also gives you the ability to stay highly connected and stand out from competitors who stick to standard, basic messages.
While you aren't actually trying to instigate anger in people, having a common enemy (no matter how funny it is) is compelling and increases a customer's appreciation for you as a vendor.
Don't forget that one of your greatest assets may be your employees. They represent your business and everything they do can either help or hurt your business' chance of retaining customers, so it's critical that you invest time to train them in customer service that stands out.
A Gallup poll indicates that almost half of employees are unaware of their own company's branding, which prevents them from being a great ambassador for you. To make sure they are consistent with what you think is important, walk your employees through the entire process of engaging with a customer. It starts with marketing collateral, your website, social media - anything that a customer might see before they decide to work with you. That material should reflect the type of business you want to and it should look professional, be clear, and demonstrate a level of trustworthiness.
Then, an employee needs to keep in mind all the little things that go into making a lasting impression: great the customer with a handshake, introduce yourself, be communicative, and do an outstanding job. Courtesy and willingness to go the extra mile will make your business stick in the minds of your customers possibly more than anything else.
If you can put together these seven pieces of advice into your ongoing, regular business practices, you are going to find that customers seek you out. Their loyalty will translate into long term loyalty and ongoing support which will save you money and ensure repeat business in the long run.
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