Serious SME: The Powerful Art Of Customer Retention
No one would look down on an entrepreneur that looks at how large businesses have a strong loyal fan base with envy. Isn’t this the goal that every business has in the end, to cultivate an almost cult-like following for our services and products? Well, that may be going a little too far with the description but, we do want a stable and loyal core customer that silently pledges their purchasing to our business. But these large businesses have been around for decades and decades, some of them for over a century. They have the power of bloodline backing them, as parents that use their products and services will introduce them to their children and the cycle continues with their children. The process of gaining such a core following is called customer retention. Retaining customers despite a healthy and competitive market takes a lot of precise maneuvering and a deep understanding of the strategies that work. It truly is a powerful art, that many small and medium-sized enterprises fail to grasp. Without a core consumer, no business can stand the test of time as there will be many life-threatening turmoil events that you will go through before you make it into the big leagues.
Father like son
Human beings are susceptible to emotional connections. We are all aware of the passage of time and how it affects our lives. We see the people around us change as we grow older and as they do too. Things that are useful in their life, we tend to learn about. Using this philosophical approach of how heritage is important to us, you can market your business to become a part of the consumer’s life. Coca-Cola made an advertisement campaign that did just this, as they showed how a father and his son were enjoying a Coca-Cola drink. It played on the fact that once upon a time, the father was young, and now that he has a son, he is sharing something from his childhood and life with his offspring. Therefore something is being continued and passed down, almost like a faded memory that has been retouched by an artist to look new again.
Devise a marketing campaign that focuses on this kind of story, but do so in a manner that makes your business relevant in today’s day and age. This could be done in a video advertisement and in fact, this would be the most effective way as you need to tell a story. On the other hand, a pay-per-click picture slide advert would be good also. The key is to show how your products or services have made the old ways of doing things obsolete, but crucially in a tasteful way. Don’t mock the way it used to be, but rather paint that era of time in the whimsical light, and therefore, connect that sentimental value from the older generation and link it to how their children live now. It’s a psychological challenge as much as it is an artistic and marketing task. Customer retention is achieved when the current crop of consumers believe that they have something in common with their parents, by using what you have to offer. Your business becomes synonymous with a cord of time, that reminds them of their loved ones.
Time served pays off
Why should a customer be loyal to you? As someone once said, ‘the world don’t run on love’. How true that statement is because as soon as tough times arrive, just hoping that supposedly loyal customers will live up to their proclaimed love of your company is foolhardy. There must be real-world rewards for sticking by you through thick and thin. This way there is proof that you actually care and acknowledge them rather than just use words or verbalisations to thank them.
Create a customer loyalty program, whereby customers that want access to the premium services and products that your business offers, are able to receive them. A customer premium account can be for those that regularly buy from your business and this means that their frequency can be accumulated in a number of ways. Points are one way many retail companies wish to measure the loyalty of a customer. For example, if you are a Tesco Clubcard member, you can accumulate points for every time you shop with them. Once you reach a certain threshold, such as 200 points, you are rewarded with a discount voucher that you can use for your next purchase.
A tiered system is also very attractive to those that want to appear loyal to your business in public. This is for people who see your business as an integral part of their lifestyles. Create a premium customer account option with your business. Have customers sign up to this and pay a subscription or sign up to a contract that gives them this status. The account or profile they have with you will charge them a fee every year or month and they get things for free that a normal customer wouldn’t. For example, they can get early access to a service or buy the top shelf version of a product on a pre-order system. You can also give them access to pilot schemes, whereby they experience the newest things you have to offer and that may be in a beta stage. This trial period is free but you can free feedback.
Out of touch
We live in an evolving world between customers and businesses. The days where you had to wait for a business to open early in the morning, and get there before it shuts down are long gone. Any business that still thinks that working hours are between 9 and 5 only is living in the wrong century. Even if you’re a small business you should never be out of touch with your customers. Communicating with them through social media simply is not enough these days. A virtual phone number allows your customers to contact you with their problems and questions in a professional manner. For SMEs, it stops the owner from using their personal phone number as their business phone number. This is highly unprofessional and if you ever plan on doing business with other businesses, you must start using a different phone number for your business. It separates you from the entity you have created, therefore it’s a standalone company that is not a person i.e. you.
The virtual phone number acts as your receptionist. You get a professional welcome message recorded in a studio, which is totally customisable to how you want it. You can choose a landline number that pertains to a region or country if you wish. This makes you a staple in the real world and projects an image that you are based in the real world and don’t exist purely online. The fantastic thing about this kind of service is that, you can conjoin multiple landline phone numbers such as different regions and have all calls go to just one number. This means anyone from around the country can contact you using their region code. Again, this gives off the image that you’re a national company, rather than a small business in one town or city. It costs as little as 30p per day for this service, so it’s also extremely cost effective.
Answer questions weekly
The overwhelming amount of customers wish they could just tell you what they find frustrating about your business, once in their life. Don’t take this as overly opinionated people just looking for a reason to blow off some steam. Customers of all kinds, new, veterans and somewhere in between, have questions they would like to ask you.
On your blog, have a weekly Q&A session, whereby you take the comments from your social media accounts, your previous blog posts, the comments left on the videos of your YouTube account and compile them into one blog post. You put the question and the name of the person or account that asked it in bold, and then you write the answer to it directly below. It’s a basic task but you cannot imagine how helpful and entertaining it is for customers to read. No longer will your customers be left in the dark. The more a curiosity is allowed to foster, the more that person who has that curiosity, feels left in the dark. This is how the disconnection begins, as consumers feel that your business is simply putting it’s head down and trucking along without taking their concerns seriously. They cannot feel this way if you have a weekly segment on your business blog, where a few questions are answered. To what degree you answer them is up to you, as sometimes you want to leave things such as updates as a surprise.
SMEs are in a brilliant position nowadays to make sure they retain as many customers as possible. Techniques to do so are no longer bank-busting, and thankfully you have services that are designed to help you achieve your goals in this regard. The emotional connection linking generations past and present is by far one of the most powerful exploits at your feet. Create a system where loyalty pays off, and you give consumers a reason to be loyal to your business as real-world advantages exist in being so.