It’s nearly Valentine’s Day—so it’s time to show your small business customers some love. In today’s #MeToo and #TimesUp climate, that doesn’t mean doing anything your grandmother would be ashamed of you for. And it doesn’t (necessarily) mean sending customers a box of chocolates or Valentine’s Day cards. No, it means insuring your customers know that you appreciate them, every day of the year, not just Valentine’s Day.
You face stiff competition for your customers. After all, they have more options today than ever before. With a mere swipe of their phone, a customer can find someone new to do business with, and, whoosh, just like that you’re history. Just like competing for that special gal or guy in your life, you’ve got to make yourself attractive and then keep working at your relationship.
How do you attract and court that special someone —in this case, a potentially long-term loyal customer?
First, you have to get yourself noticed. You’ve got to be seen and look good. Perhaps it’s time to try to do some “online dating.” How about posting some attractive pics of your business and your products on Instagram? Or Facebook? And, go on, add a few enticing well-written captions that show off your personality. But don’t stop there. Tell them exactly what you’d like to do to them—and have them do to you: in other words, include special offers and a call to action, such as “buy now,” and a link to your shop or the product you’re selling.
They’re tempted to take the plunge but hesitate. Perhaps they were burned in the past by a small business in your industry (even customers have a “type”).
Try these five strategies for converting prospects into customers:
- Introductory offers. These are short-term, deep discounts for new customers, or free products or services for a limited time. If you own a hair salon, you could offer discount coupons for the first haircut. If you have an ecommerce site, you could offer free overnight shipping for the first month.
- Loss leaders or teaser rates. You may actually lose money on these exceptionally low prices on a product or service. Supermarkets do this at the holidays by offering Thanksgiving turkeys at a loss in the hopes that customers will do all of their shopping with them.
- Sampling. Freebies give prospects a chance to try your product or service at no charge. Your bakery could give free cookie samples. If you develop an app, offer a free 30-day trial.
- Beta testing. Many of your prospective customers will jump at the chance to try and provide feedback about your products before release or sale to the general public. Technology companies use beta testing extensively but this strategy can work in a range of industries, such as sporting goods.
- Positive reviews by influencers. Customers go where others have already been. Ask influencers—people others look to for purchasing advice, such as bloggers, journalists, experts, well-known industry insiders and even celebrities—to use and review your product or service.
Now that your prospects have gone on the “first date”—tried you once—how do you deepen the relationship? Communication is key.
- Stay in touch with current and past customers regularly. Customers want to hear from you. Just be sure not to be a pest. As a general rule of thumb, on social media, post once a day, sales no more than once a week, and email newsletters once or twice a month.
- Let them choose how they’ll hear from you. Different customers have different preferences—emails, newsletters, texts, or social media. Just get their permission to contact them first.
- Keep track of your customers and prospects with a good CRM program. Get in the habit of tracking every customer interaction—not just orders—and their specific needs and concerns. Then you can personalize your offers, emails, and rewards. A few to choose from: SalesforceCRM, SugarCRM, (if you’re just starting out, a free CRM solution might suit your small business) Insightly, or Apptivo.
- Deal with customer complaints. Don’t ignore a complaining customer. Unhappy customers can spread bad reviews of your small business like a virus. Respond to their call, email, or social media post quickly. Admit your errors, apologize, and solve the problem.
Copyright, Rhonda Abrams, 2018
This article originally ran in USA Today on February 7, 2018