Attracting new customers isn’t the only thing small business owners have to think about. In fact, retaining customers is even more important (and cheaper) than getting new ones. Most people understand how to drive in new customers through advertisement, but how can a business keep customers coming back? This is a tough question to answer, and it’s also the major factor that will determine whether a small business succeeds or fails.
There are as many answers to this question as there are businesses in the world. Ultimately, each business will have to develop its own unique strategy for retaining customers. However, there are some broadly applicable tips that will help business owners to keep their customers coming back. Read on to learn more about these tips.
Focus on customer service
The surest way to alienate a customer is to provide poor service. Not only will that customer fail to return, but he will probably also badmouth your business to everyone he knows. Prevent this unfortunate outcome by making sure that every customer has a positive experience in your business. If there is a problem, make sure to address it quickly (even if the customer isn’t quite right, the customer is always right).
Provide customer rewards
This simple tip is especially valuable for restaurants, but any business can apply it. One common method of providing customer rewards is to provide a free service after a customer has returned a certain number of times. For example, a burrito restaurant might give a customer a free item after 10 purchases. This is simple to keep track of: just give out a card and punch out a hole for each return visit.
Providing customer rewards will keep customers coming back because they’ll want to earn their rewards. The cost to the business is just a few dollars per customer, which will the customer’s repeat visits will more than make up for.
Change things up
Sometimes, the best way to keep customers coming back is to offer variety. Offer a weekly special, focus on bringing in seasonal items, or rotate new products into your inventory. This will keep customers interested in your business, as they’ll want to return to find out what’s new. If everything is always the same, customers may lose interest because they know what to expect; novelty is always a good way to provoke curiosity.
This tip doesn’t contradict the last one, though the two may seem at odds. Consistency is important: customers want to know what they can expect from your business. This is one of the biggest takeaways from the success of fast food restaurants, which value consistency above all else. It doesn’t matter whether you’re buying McDonald’s breakfast in Santa Fe or Anchorage, you’ll get the exact same sandwich either way. If a customer can’t rely on a certain level of quality, they can’t rely on your business, and that means they won’t be coming back.
The biggest thing keeping many businesses from consistency is a lack of funding. If you’re having trouble funding your business, one good option is to take out an unsecured line of credit. Advanced Funds Network (AFN) is a highly-regarded source of financing for small businesses.
Develop personal relationships
As a small business owner, your biggest advantage over large corporations is your ability to develop relationships with your customers. The customers who really know you are the ones who will keep coming back year after year, ultimately forming the backbone of your successful business. Focus on getting to know your customers to keep them coming back.