Competition is tough when you're a small-business owner. The internet may have leveled the playing field for you, but it's also given consumers plenty of places to shop. One misstep or bad bout of communication and your customer may go elsewhere.
A customer retention strategy is important in any company, but it may take on even greater significance when your client list is small. Here are a few strategies you can use to keep customers coming back.
1. Email Smart
Email marketing is a powerful customer retention strategy for small-business owners. As we discussed in "3 Signs Your Business Could Benefit from an Email Newsletter," it's an easy way to:
- Communicate information.
- Build relationships.
- Generate leads and sales.
However, Dimira Teneva, content manager for the ecommerce marketing analytics platform Metrilo, says you want to be smart about how you email.
"Don't just spam customers with emails every week," says Teneva. "Use your average time between orders to precisely predict when they're ready to buy again – just before is the best time to send an email."
Teneva also warns against emailing randomly. She suggests setting action-triggered emails to "increase the engagement and positive response to your offers." For example, Teneva says you might want to send exclusive content when a consumer reads your blog.
2. Create Advocates
Tanner Rankin, CEO and founder of the business consulting firm Source Approach Inc. – Business Optimization, thinks small-business owners should double down on creating brand advocates and recruiting social media influencers to promote their brand. Once a customer makes a purchase, he says you can turn them into an evangelist by continuing the relationship with:
- Email campaigns.
- Social media follow up.
- Product inserts.
"It's a great way for the underdog to make a big splash cost effectively," says Rankin.
Bonus tip: Adding a personal touch can go a long way toward making customers advocates. Take for example cofounder of Your Green Pal Gene Caballero's story. As a lawn care provider, his business collects information about clients' pets to give to his vendors. They decided to use that information to send a personalized gift to customers' pets.
"This really wowed our customers," says Caballero. "We received personal thank you notes, videos of their dog chewing the bone we sent posted to Facebook, and thank-you tweets. It worked really well for the time and money we invested."
3. Empower Your Team
Sometimes you need to improve your internal systems to keep customers around. That's what president and founder of the digital marketing firm Anvil Media Kent Lewis did when he decided to allow his employees to resolve issues as they saw fit.
The process, he says, was simple: "We set the expectation up front that every employee should filter questions or challenges before bringing them to management."
Letting his team independently problem solve puts management in more of an advisory role and helps employees build confidence and refine thinking skills. But perhaps more importantly, Lewis adds that "it streamlines processes and speeds up reaction times."
4. Remember You Aren't Special
"Regardless of the product or service you deliver," says Lydia Sugarman, founder and CEO of the integrated business platform Venntive, "it really isn't unique."
She doesn't say this as an insult. Rather, it's a reminder that certain features may factor into a prospect's decision to buy, but they won't keep a customer coming back.
"At the end of the day, it's not about the technology," she says. "It's about building a real relationship with your customers."
To do that, Sugarman keeps it simple: "Be responsive. Be courteous. Be genuine."
Need tips for filling your pipeline? Check out "The Sales Strategy You Can Learn from Your Dog."
About the Contributors
Gene Caballero is cofounder of GreenPal, which has been described as Uber for lawn care. An avid writer since 2014, Caballero earned his MBA with an emphasis in finance and economics. He enjoys playing piano, being outdoors, and anything food related.
As president and founder of Anvil Media, Inc., Kent Lewis is responsible for ensuring the company is living its mission and vision by managing overall corporate strategy, including operations, business development, sales, and marketing. Specializing in analytics, search engine, and social media marketing services, Anvil is an integrated marketing consultancy that provides measurable marketing that moves clients' businesses forward.
Tanner Rankin is the CEO and founder of Source Approach Inc. - Business Optimization. Over the years, he has made partnerships, strategic alliances, and friendships that make his company uniquely suited to provide businesses assistance in raising funds, inventing products, growing, and more – all from the same source, shortening the path to success. Rankin is the author of SEO for Everyone and Social Media Marketing for Everyone.
Lydia Sugarman has mounted art exhibitions in New York and Moscow, produced independent films including Vin Diesel's first short film, skied the Alps, climbed the Great Wall, and raced in outlaw bike messenger races in New York and San Francisco. She is also the founder and CEO of the B2B technology company Venntive, an integrated business platform that has a 75 percent lower TCO than its competitors and is a recognized authority on integrated marketing automation, sales, CRM, customer success, and Integrated Agile Marketing.
Dimira Teneva is content manager at Metrilo, an ecommerce marketing analytics platform geared toward customer retention. She covers ecommerce marketing topics and helps entrepreneurs build their brands and win loyal customers.