The effort to convince a new person that you have the best solution to fulfill a need they have is enormous, especially when you’re a small business without a recognized brand. Building a customer base is like digging dirt out of the ground to make a place to pour the foundation for a new house. There is a distinct feeling of relief once it’s done. Following this, we new business owners experience a kind of euphoria the first time a customer takes the initiative to pick up the phone and call us to make a second purchase.
When customers return again and again the cost of making that initial sale suddenly drops as the return on the “investment” increases. Doing right by our customers can pay off for years, provided we are diligent. As consumers we like to be treated with VIP service; we’re willing to pay a little more for a product just to get the personalized attention.
In business, when it comes to customer loyalty, it’s all about building relationships. The most successful sales people use a technique of maintaining a file on each of their customers with personal and business details that come up in the course of a conversation. They remember to ask questions such as, “How is your daughter doing in her first year of college?”
This helps the customer know the salesperson is really paying attention to them and it helps to create trust. Remember the adage, “We buy from people we know, like and trust.” We get far more repeat sales when we show interest in the customers and refrain from slamming them with the product features or talking about ourselves.
It’s great to stay in contact weekly or biweekly with customers by sending out an email with useful tidbits of information. We cannot rely totally on technology to do the job – it does not replace human contact. Picking up the phone and asking our customers how things are working out for them continues to build the relationships, and it gives them the chance to give us valuable feedback. We need to listen to the needs of our customers and be willing to tweak our service to give them a better experience.
A small business gains a devoted following when we do the small extras that make a difference. Depending on the nature of the business, it might be appropriate to send holiday greeting or birthday card. Whenever possible, sending invitations to customers for events that would interest them is a good move. When a customer makes a purchase, we can give them more than they expected – the “baker’s dozen”. Sending them small promotional items is always a winner. When they reach various levels of purchases from our small business, rewarding them with a significant discount or gift is a winner. This is how we retain our customers.