Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Customer Relationship Matters

Or should it be Customer Relationships Matter?  Both are important.  How often do you touch base and thank your regular customers?  How are you utilizing social media and other methods of developing ongoing customer relationships?

What's your customer service strategy?
Do you spend all your time on Facebook rewarding new 'likers' rather than recognizing your loyal customers for their business?

I read one restaurant marketing book by Rory Fatt and he offers this remarkably simple concept:

  1. Identify your regular customers;
  2. Get them to come more often and spend more money each time; AND
  3. Get them to invite all their friends and tell everyone how great your restaurant is.
Pure Genius! This seems so simple but makes so much sense to all types of businesses.  I signed up for a restaurant rewards system and I get a discount during my birthday month.  What a great excuse for an extra dinner out!  And, since I signed up, the restaurant now has my email and mailing address - this is a great way to keep in touch.

Do you reward your regular customers?
One recommendation I have heard is for businesses to make some form of client 'touch' (enews, postcard, sales flyer, phone call) every 90 days.  This could be as simple as sending out a postcard announcing your upcoming holiday sale or a seasonal offer.  If you have a landscaping company, perhaps you give a reminder phone call for sprinkler service before it freezes, or your auto repair shop sends out a coupon for your next oil change.

It does take some effort on a businesses part - there are many ways to keep track, but a simple spreadsheet can work just fine.

Social Media as a Relationship-Builder

Social media is another great opportunity for small business owners to reach out to customers.  It is not an exact science and while the tools and platforms may be free, there is still a time commitment involved, which if you are the business owner, translates into dollars.  Sometimes you have to try a few things, revise, modify and try some more based on what is working.

How many of these do you use?
Before you dive into Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Constant Contact and others, it would be wise to line out a strategy.  Determine who will be responsible for updates and relationship-building, how much time you will allocate and why (Reward customers? Branding? New markets?).  What is your end goal?

One of the most important things to consider is who is your target customer and where do they spend time online?  If your typical customer is a 50 year old man, is Twitter the best use of your time and effort?  Knowing who you are trying to reach will help focus your efforts.

Social media is about building relationships.  It starts with developing a rapport and building trust, rather than just sell, sell, sell.  Give them something of value.  Selling is of course the ultimate goal, but establishing a trusted relationship is one of the steps to get there.  It takes time and effort and helps if you think about it as a long-term investment.

Recently I was sharing with a client how I learned and used Constant Contact.  He is giving it a try and sent a test run to 14 new customers with one e-coupon and it generated over $100 in sales.  Not bad.

Fostering positive customer relationships can be an excellent tool for getting your loyal and best customers to tell others about you.  If you are not sure where to begin either with developing a plan for reaching out to customers or starting social media for your business, give us a call and we can work together to identify what makes sense for you and your business.