When you own a small business, long-term customer relationship is invaluable. Loyal customers come back again and again, bringing in more revenue than one-time shoppers. Since it takes less money to keep an existing customer than to bring in a new one, investing in your existing audience makes financial sense.
1. Build Trust
Trust is essential in any long-term relationship, including the relationships you have with customers. When a customer trusts your company, it’s easier for them to make big-ticket purchases and become a repeat shopper. They’re also more likely to recommend you to their inner circle of friends and family.
But how do you build trust with customers? To start, be transparent about your products and services. Be honest about what’s included with a purchase, and avoid hidden fees or misleading policies. When something goes wrong, fix it without question. It’s also important to offer consistent service and quality. That way your customers can trust you’ll meet their expectations.
2. Know Your Customers
Think about your customers in the same way as your oldest friends. Remember their birthdays or important events. Ask how their last purchase is holding up. Recommend products that help them save money at home or at work. These small, personal touches make your customers feel special, which goes a long way toward creating a lasting relationship.
3. Stay in Touch With Customers
Long-term relationships require consistent communication, especially if you don’t see your customers regularly. A quick email reminds the person of your company and maintains brand awareness. The next time they need the type of products you sell, your company name will be at the top of their list. Send an email newsletter once a month, or reach out by phone six weeks after a big purchase. Social media is another way to stay in contact. You might try inviting your customers to follow your account, and post frequently about new products, behind-the-scenes glimpses, or special sales.
4. Over-Deliver for Customers
Customers always expect you to deliver what you promise. When you over-deliver, it creates a delightful surprise that makes shoppers more likely to choose your company again. Going above and beyond doesn’t have to be expensive. If you promise to ship a product in five days, send it in four. If you provide services, ask your technicians to stick around for 15 minutes to answer client questions. If you run a restaurant, offer free coffee and tea to diners as they wait for a table. As a bonus, these special extras can help increase word-of-mouth marketing for your business, which brings in more long-term customers.
5. Become a Go-To Industry Resource
One way to build lasting customer relationships is to be generous with knowledge about your industry and your products. If you sell expensive equipment, you might offer free workshops to teach users how to clean or maintain their machines. If you run an online business, you might create a resources section on your website with helpful tips.
Don’t be afraid to go beyond the scope of your products and services. If you build websites but also happen to be a marketing genius, use that knowledge to add value to each project. When customers know you’re wise and willing to help, they’ll keep coming back.
6. Delight in Solving Problems
Many companies are afraid of complaints and negative reviews. When you look at these situations as opportunities to improve, it can pay off in stronger customer relationships. Is a customer angry that a product fell apart? Naturally you’re going to replace the item or offer a refund. The real trick is finding a way to turn the incident into a positive. You might follow up with a note that says, “Thank you for letting us know about the problem with Product X. After your call, we investigated our production line and discovered that one of our machines was calibrated incorrectly. To thank you for giving us the chance to improve our products, we’re enclosing the updated version of Product X.” When you express gratitude and show you take customer feedback seriously, it can erase bad feelings and build loyalty.
7. Make Shopping Easier
To encourage customers to choose your business over a competitor’s, you must make the shopping experience as simple and painless as possible. Are your products easy to find? Can customers find the information they need about each product? Is checkout fast and efficient? When you’re not sure where to start, think about what your customers need, and figure out how to meet that need. If you sell to GST-registered businesses, you might use QuickBooks to deliver GST-compliant invoices that make it easier to file monthly tax returns. If you run an online store, you could make your checkout faster by accepting multiple payment types. The more roadblocks you can remove from the buying process, the more likely customers are to stick with you.
Customer relationships are just like other relationships. When you invest time and energy, they last longer. With consistent efforts, you can create a foundation of happy customers that boosts your bottom line.