We all know that a loyal customer is priceless. The old 80/20 rule puts it best: 80% of your business comes from 20% of your customers. But if you don’t take care of them, you risk losing them to a competitor. There are many basic steps you can take to reduce the risk of loss – without having to spend big bucks. Here’s a few of them.
- Know who they are. This may seem obvious, but I am often surprised at how companies don’t keep track of their best customers. If you don’t know, then it’s time to find out. Identify your best customers by a specific measurement, such as sales, profits, business size, frequency of visits, etc.
- Make them feel special. In a world of automated phone systems and technology, people really do feel like “just a number”. Recognition is a powerful way to differentiate yourself from competitors and keep them coming back. Recognition can be as simple as greeting them by name whenever you speak with them – and making sure your employees do the same. Read on to learn other budget-smart ways to build customer relationships.
- 6 Quick & Easies
- Good old-fashioned ‘Thank You for your patronage’ cards. Seriously. People send mail so rarely that a handwritten TY Card will stand out and be remembered.
- Thanksgiving cards. Most people send Christmas cards, so they become one big blur. Send a Thanksgiving card, and you’ll be remembered.
- Spice the cards up. Consider including a gift card. It doesn’t have to be a lot of money. It can be to a coffee shop or area restaurant you know they are likely to visit. Or to your own place. The value can be influenced by how important the customer is, and where the gift card is to be spent.
- Cash register surprise. When they make a purchase, from time to time, surprise them with an unexpected discount or special goodie. For example, if you’re a restaurant, offer them a free dessert or beverage of their choice. Always remember to thank them by name when you present it, so they’ll feel extra special.
- Birthday Club. Invite people to join your birthday club, and create a list which you check daily. Email a birthday greetings or, better yet, send a birthday card wishing them a great birthday, and thanking them for their business. Consider including a gift card or discount coupon.
- Testimonial request. Ask them for a testimonial that you can use on your website and with your marketing materials. Position it as free PR for them. The message you’re giving them is that you value their business so much that you’re proud to showcase them to others.
Claudia Newcorn, SBDC Lead Consultant and President of Acorn Enterprises (http://www.acornmarketing.com), has over 25 years of experience in the fields of Marketing, Strategic Planning and Communications. She has worked in a variety of industries, including consumer packaged goods, business-to-business services, telecommunications, beverages, healthcare and housewares. Ms. Newcorn has served as a Professor at St. Mary’s College, teaching courses in marketing and advertising. She holds an MBA in Marketing & International Business from Northeastern University, and an undergraduate degree in English & Psychology from Wellesley College.