The business world is shifting – the power is moving to the customer. The old adage “the customer is always right” has never been truer than it is today. Mobile has taken over small business marketing and the Internet gives customers greater control than in years past – and the information needed to make decisions when it comes to which business to support. Social networks are also giving more power to consumers, with the ability to swap opinions through complaints via Facebook or a re-tweeted complaint that goes viral – and research tells us that only 29 percent of customer complaints were replied to on Twitter out of 1,298 complainants who participated in a study done by Maritz Research. Small business owners don’t need to worry, though. Instead, they need to focus on ways to rise above their competitors. Take into consideration these tips to help with your customer retention strategy:
It’s not enough to simply be competitive – it’s a time when small businesses need to be relevant because knowledge-empowered customers are the ones often calling the shots. The online world means consumers can stumble upon multiple businesses that offer products just like yours. Just one click is all it takes for the customer to buy from a competitor.
Showcase Your Humanity
Go ahead and demonstrate your values and the humanity of your business for the world to see. This can include sharing stories about time spent volunteering, adding a link to a cause you support or writing new content that helps all customers, even those who don’t buy from you. Since most companies price their products and services competitively, it makes it that much more important that your small business finds innovative ways to capture consumer interest. Give your business a human face online so your consumers will get to know you.
Your business technologies need to be compatible with what your customers expect and your competitors offer. The mobile marketplace means relevant information is a must. A pizza shop may sell mouth-watering pizza at the lowest price, but it may lose business if it lacks a mobile website that includes directions, a menu, and phone number. The less competitive business with more relevant technology may win customer business instead, despite the higher cost and less tasty food.
Help Your Customers
Put yourself in your customers’ shoes. How can you help them? One way is by saving them time. This means providing websites that are simple to navigate instead of one that causes customers to leave things in their cart because they cannot figure out how to pay for it. Anything you can do to make the purchase process more simple, such as allow customers to help themselves is where relevance wins over service, hands down.
Build a community around your business by being in their lives. Even if they didn’t make a purchase from you, always offer a heartfelt thank you for coming to your store, taking the time to look at what you offer and ask if you can send information about your products or services. There are also benefits of small businesses partnering with similar small businesses to help cross-promote. The last few years the tables have turned – it’s the age of the customer. The expectations of customers are evolving too, and businesses need to modify their sales strategies accordingly and avoid irrelevancy in order to retain their customers. How does your small business practice successful customer retention year after year? For tips on increasing referrals to your small business, download "The ABCs of Earning Customer Referrals".