Whether your business is thriving or simply surviving, a successful entrepreneur should always be aware of every option available to drive incremental business and grow the bottom line. From new technologies to business basics, following are three key strategies to assist you in expanding your customer base and growing sales.
Customer retention fuels sales growth: Faced with a challenge of growing sales, many business owners immediately focus on new customer acquisition, but in reality retaining existing customers most often yields greater return. In fact, research from Flowtown estimates that it is six (6) or seven (7) times more costly to acquire a new customer compared to retaining an existing one.
One recommendation to support customer retention efforts is to ensure that you and your staff go above and beyond customer expectations, listening to your customer base to establish a solid foundation of their needs and wants. Each customer that visits your business is there to fulfill some sort of need, so it’s your responsibility to find out what that need is by asking questions and responding to feedback. This activity should also serve as a foundation for training, future offerings, etc., depending on the nature of your business. Microsoft offers some great tips for long-term customer retention.
Another key initiative for many businesses is rewarding loyalty. Loyalty is often a great source of driving existing customers back to your business and can be delivered as a program or an individual offer based on your customer relationship management (CRM) system and technology resources. Common reward options include discounts based on a certain number of orders or visits (buy 10 sandwiches and the next one is free), merchandise credit based on an accrued dollar spend ($10 credit for every $200 spent), or even a loyal customer event that provides an exclusive discount off purchases for a day or set period of time (10 percent off this week). While you may lose a percentage of the sale you’ll gain enormous benefit from the revenue generated by the consumer to earn the reward. And, typically loyal customers extend to become ‘raving fans’ –evangelists that share their positive experience and organically bring in new customers.
It’s important to keep in mind that a focus on customer retention doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t focus on new customer acquisition as well – ideally both are critical to your long-term success.
Continuously evaluate and improve customer service: Do you know how your customers feel about your service and/or support? You and your team may be convinced that you’re exceeding customer expectations, but you really don’t know until you engage directly with customers, listen to them and inquire specifically about satisfaction. Customer service is a key driver not only to customer loyalty but also to attracting new customers as it impacts viral word of mouth marketing and also makes a longstanding impact on your organization’s brand and overall reputation.
Forbes Magazine offers some great insight on becoming more accessible to customers. In a world where anonymity is becoming a retail experience standard, customers are craving the face-to-face interactions that they once enjoyed. It’s important not to hide behind your brand and instead put a face to your brand by letting customers know who you are. Invest time and network with your customers in a way that clearly associates a human being behind the business. Even if you operate primarily online, there are website assets, in-person networking events, trade shows and other opportunities to link your personal identity with your business.
If time is an issue – as it is for so many business owners – additional engagement opportunities exist through a personal blog on your website or via social media. Additionally, these mediums also offer you a platform to have two-way conversations with customers and prospects.
Use mobile marketing to attract an entirely new customer base: Mobile marketing is far from a fad, with demonstrated successes for businesses of all sizes. Keep an open mind as you explore mobile marketing strategies that may be useful for your business. Think beyond print and embrace mobile as a measurable means of attracting new customers to your business.
Entrepreneur Magazine stresses the importance of mobile marketing highlighting the fact that more than 65 percent of people worldwide use some sort of mobile service. Successful small business owners are also exploring mobile compatibility of their websites, or even development of a custom mobile application, which can include integrated loyalty, customer data, and even a digital wallet.
SMS or text-based marketing is another cost-effective mobile marketing alternative for small and mid-sized merchants. Provided that individuals have ‘opted-in’ to receive messages and content or offers is relevant, this is often a very effective outreach medium.
Building a strong and loyal customer base is critical for any successful business owner. Regardless if sales are peaking or you’re struggling to meet goals, tap into every opportunity available to fuel growth. As you explore and adopt new technologies, it is also important not to lose sight of the basics: customer retention and service.