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News, tips, and advice for small business owners

How to Build Relationships with Customers

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Stephanie Davis

Without a dedicated customer base, the chances of your small business succeeding are pretty low. After all, when you don’t have customers, you don’t have revenue coming in.

Happy customers talking to each other and holding up gold stars, hearts and using thumbs-up signals to show their happiness.

Today brands are “canceled” for a variety of issues. Depending on which candidate a brand publicly supports, to lack of awareness on social issues, or even poor customer service, brand loyalty can disappear instantly. We are also in a position where consumers are hit with more messaging and products than ever before, which can sometimes make customer interactions challenging. To keep strong bonds with your customers, you will want to develop a strong customer engagement strategy.

Deliver high-quality experiences

Whether you have a physical location for your business or operate solely online, you have to deliver a high-quality customer experience. For example, in a physical business, you might want to consider the layout of your business so it’s not cluttered and appealing to the eye. Additionally, consider having enough staff on hand. People are busier than ever and don’t have the patience to wait long for anything. Instead of expecting customers to become less busy, staff your business with the appropriate number of employees. Operating online? Make sure that customers have a way to communicate with you, and stay on top of responding to them. When something doesn’t go as expected for a customer, they are quick to hop online and fire off a negative review or social media post. By being present online, you can try to minimize these negative ramifications by answering any questions quickly and providing exceptional online customer service.

Keep the lines of communication open

Communication is a two-way street. You want to share messages with customers, such as if you’re closing for a day for any reason, or will have shortened holiday hours. However, you shouldn’t only be talking “at” your customers. To keep improving your business, you should be having conversations with your customers. Is there a certain product or service they are looking for? Is there an uptick in requests for gluten-free options at your restaurant? By frequently checking in with customers, you can ensure that you’re offering what they want, and finding ways to minimize what they don’t.

Maintain an active social media presence

Today ensuring that your business is on popular social networks is no longer an option. Additionally, customers are looking for brands that are going to engage with them on social media. Big brands like Wendy’s, Patagonia, and Netflix are consistently used in social media examples about how to connect with customers on social networks. While you may not have the big-budget, or time, to dedicate to your social media strategy all the time, maintaining a presence and responding to customers will help your small business stand out. Social media makes customer interaction easy, and the best part is you can have those interactions from the palm of your hand.

Personalize marketing efforts

A common digital marketing trend that shows no sign of slowing down is personalization. Raise your hand if you’ve ever seen an ad in your Facebook feed for a company you Googled. Re-targeting is common and will get your company in front of many faces. If you send emails about a product or service, personalizing it with the recipient's name in the subject line could offer higher open rates compared to generic greetings. When it comes to products and services, people want the option to only pay for what they want. By being aware of personalization, and offering options, you can increase customer engagement and give customers a reason to revisit your business.

Ask for feedback

Similar to keeping communication open, make an effort to ask customers for their feedback. This shows that you truly value what they have to say and want to hear about their experiences, whether positive or negative. Additionally, it may be hard for customers to provide feedback without being prompted. You can even put a twist on it and reward those who offer positive reviews online.

Get involved in the community

If you operate your small business in a small town, it’s easy to get involved with your community and connect with customers routinely outside of your business. Some ideas to consider are sponsoring a little league or community sports team or hosting neighborhood parties in the summer months while everyone is out strolling. Small towns are known for coming together in challenging times too. If there is a benefit for somebody in need, you could offer gift certificates to your business as raffle prizes or provide donations. Community involvement is also a great strategy to reach potential new customers.

Offer customer loyalty programs

There is a good chance that you have some frequent customers or even some regulars that you can expect often. While these customers clearly appreciate and support your business, it’s nice to reward them for their loyalty. Punch cards are a common way to reward a loyal customer; after a set number of visits, customers will get a free or discounted item in return. Points systems are also popular in customer retention methods. As an example, for each purchase somebody makes at your business, they would earn points based on the amount of money spent. From there, you could set rewards that they could use points towards, whether it’s a sample of a new product, or the opportunity to get money off a future purchase. One big business chain that does the point system well is Sephora. It allows customers to choose what they want their reward to be instead of having a reward chosen for them, which is nice for the personalization aspect.

Turn to your neighbors

Small business relationships are key to success, and that includes the relationships you form with other small business owners. When you partner with and support other small business owners, you can team up to increase customer loyalty for both of your businesses. It could be as simple as referring your customers to them first or working together to create a promotion where if they purchase something from you, they would be eligible to receive a discount at the neighboring business. This may not work for all small businesses, but it’s still worth trying to support your neighbors and get the added bonus of increased traffic for everyone involved.

Bottom Line

When running a business, you need to have a larger business plan for your customers. Today it’s not enough to just sell a product; customers want to have relationships with brands and know that they matter. By implementing some of the tips above, you might find yourself with stronger customer relationships, and booming business success for years to come.


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