(This is a guest post from our friends at Credit.com)
Attracting customers to your business is an important first step, but it's hardly the end of the road. When it comes to building a successful business, retaining and building strong relationships with customers is essential. Customer loyalty programs will help, but there's far more you can do to connect with and leave a strong impression on your patrons.
Here are a few important steps you can take to improve relations with your customers and keep them happy, loyal and always coming back for more.
Under-promise - So You Can Overdeliver
It's a business maxim as old as time, but that doesn't make it any less relevant. Customers who interact with your business are bound to bring with them certain expectations for how their experience will turn out, and exceeding those expectations is a surefire way to win yourself a long term customer.
Whether you're quoting a price point for your services, estimating delivery times or anything in between, always err on the side of being conservative. Then, aim to surprise by exceeding your own estimate. It'll make a great impression on your customers, and you'll also create some room for error in the event that something doesn't quite go according to plan. There's nothing worse for a business than failing to deliver on expectations, and it's important that you do everything possible to avoid it in order to both save money and make more in the future.
Leverage the Power of Email
Email marketing has been around for many years now, and it's proven to be an effective and affordable marketing solution. If you aren't leveraging that power with personalized notes, exclusive offers and other tactics, however, you're missing out.
The best way to engender loyalty in your customers is to make them feel valued, and what better way to do that than to interact with them directly? Use your email subscriber lists to send birthday notes, provide exclusive deals and announce exciting news before it reaches the public. It's a small detail, but one that can make a big difference in how customers view your company and will earn you more loyalty (and revenue) in the end.
Be Quick and Responsive
Amazon is the world's largest retailer, and one of the many reasons for their success is their commitment to exceptional service. The retailer is well-known for responding promptly to vendor issues, shipping mistakes and other problems and working to solve them as quickly as possible. This is great for their overwhelming customer loyalty and driving their consumers to take advantage of their other offers and loyalty programs, such as their rewards card and video streaming service subscriptions.
Learn from Amazon's example and work to develop your own reputation for responsiveness and customer care. Mistakes are bound to happen with any business, but if you listen and take responsibility for all customer complaints and work to resolve them immediately, you can’t go wrong.
Jump Into Social Media
Whether you're a social media junky or you despise the very concept, your business will suffer if you aren't taking advantage of its reach. Social media provides a fantastic platform for interacting and engaging directly with your customers, whether it's offering assistance with complaints or sharing and thanking customers for their praise.
The fact is that people are likely talking about your business on social media anyway, and by jumping in and engaging, you can help to shape the conversation. You may also wish to offer rewards and other incentives for customers who engage with and share your business. This is a surefire and budget-friendly way to engage with your customers and get to know them on a personal level.
In business, your best salespeople are often your customers. Think about the last time you received truly outstanding goods or services from a company. If you're like most people, you probably couldn't wait to tell friends or family members about your experience, and you may have even urged them to buy from the same company. A business that can engender this kind of reaction in its customers is already well on its way to success, as few marketing strategies are more powerful than word of mouth.
While your primary focus ought to be on delivering the kind of superior service that compels people to spread the word on their own, there's also nothing wrong with asking customers to make referrals if they were satisfied with their experience. Pair that request with an incentive in the form of savings or other rewards and you've got the recipe for organic, sustained growth.
No matter what goods or services your business might sell, it's also selling an experience. Whether that experience is positive or negative depends on a wide range of factors, but if you go above and beyond to offer a great product, resolve disputes quickly and courteously and engage with your customers to let them know they're valued and appreciated, your customers are likely to take notice. The principles above are no guarantee of success but they will surely help you leave a strong impression in your customers' minds. At the end of the day, that's often the best marketing tool you have.
Maricel Tabalba is a freelance contributor for Credit.com who is interested in writing about personal finance advice for Millennials and college students. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in English with a minor in Communication from the University of Illinois at Chicago.