Solid investments are hard to come by theses days. With so much at risk all around us, wouldn’t it be nice if the next “sure thing” would just give you a call or walk in the door? Or maybe it just walked out the door and all you got from it was a one-time sale. Consider this: There is no easier and safer investment than the customers you already have. A well-treated customer is not just another few coins in the piggy bank, they are potentially free viral marketing to the people you never knew existed, exponentially increasing sales for years to come, and even your go-to source for free market research. Sounds a little better than writing checks to Bob’s Million-Dollar Consulting Firm for the rest of your life, right? It really is that simple though. If your client feels good about their experience with you, they will most likely get their friends and colleagues on-board and be happy to tell you what you can do to make them even happier and spend even more. The only catch is that you have to figure out how to organize your customer base in such a way that makes them worth more than just a single sale. Lets look at a few of the basic steps that will begin to help you optimize your clientele.
1. Know Who They Are
This is the first and most critical element. Your customer likely knows the names of your competitors and how to get in touch with them, so you need to play the same game. Developing and cultivating an effective database of the customers who are already coming to you is much easier than advertising everywhere and hoping someone will notice it and care enough to respond. Your database allows you to go straight to the people who you know are already interested in what you do. The trick is, people are protective of their information and will not just pass it out to anyone who wants to sell them something. This is where creativity comes into play.
The customer wants to know, “How will giving you my information benefit me?” So give them an incentive, like a discount or contest entry. Maybe even create a club or membership program for customers to join, and in the process become part of your database. This will make the customer feel like they are on the inside of what you do. People are more likely to return to a business where they are a member than go to the competition. No matter what strategy you use, make sure that the client feels like it is simple, natural, and beneficial to give you their information.
One of the newest ways to connect with your customer base is via social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. It is extremely likely that many of your customers are already on these sites, so create an account and join them. Give an incentive for them to become your “fan” or to follow you, and then stay connected with them by sharing interesting information or updates. In addition to creating a personal feel for you business, maintaining an active social media presence will allow you to stay in touch with your clients and be seen by the people who value their opinion.
(For more on using social media, check out Harnessing the Internet: Social Media 101)
2. Know What They Do
This is the step in the process that optimizes the sales potential of your clients and helps you improve the overall quality of your business. People have reasons for every purchase they make, which can be extremely valuable information. Here’s the key: Similar people tend to think in similar ways, which lead to similar desires, which lead to similar purchase decisions. Lets back up and break that down. You have your customer database, so now is the time to put it to work. Let’s say Jimmy and Johnny both bought whole wheat pizza crust and organic tomato sauce from your grocery store, but Jimmy also bought some fancy goat cheese. Johnny is much more likely to also buy the fancy goat cheese than Billy who bought potato chips and dip. So instead of advertising goat cheese to all your customers, point Johnny toward it and maybe even offer an incentive to try it, but get Billy going down the soda aisle. Look for trends in who is buying what and make your customers aware of the products that will likely interest them. Don’t settle for just what the person initially wanted when you can lead them, verbally or intuitively, to other things they didn’t even realize they were missing.
The database can also be used to discover what your customers want that you are not offering. People like to feel like their input matters, so ask your customers for their opinions in a direct way instead of hoping someone will drop a note in the comment box. Ask your clientele what other products or services they would like you to offer, or what would make their interaction with you more pleasant. Who knows, you may discover that the clown-on-stilts you have waving people from the street corner to your store is actually driving them away (or maybe the opposite).
Social media is extremely valuable in knowing what your customers are doing. They may never tell you that they think your sales people are jerks, but they won’t hesitate to get in their car and post a tweet (that’s Twitter language for message) to their 137 followers telling them exactly how they feel. Be on the receiving end of comments like this instead of wondering what happened to the person. Even consider doing a little homework and researching what your customers are interested in via what they post on their individual profiles and check out what other products and services they are fans of or follow. Take advantage of the honest information and opinions that your customers make readily available online.
3. Show Them You Care
Two words: thank you. These words could mean the difference between one sale and two or even one sale and 500 sales. If you had the option of two different coffee shops and one barista acted like a zombie while they prepared your order while the other conveyed to you that they were genuinely grateful that you allowed them to make your latte that day, where are you going to get your caffeine fix the next day? And just as important, if not more, where are you going to bring your clients for meetings or tell all your friends to go?
While verbal is an easy and very important medium for the expression of gratitude, it often doesn’t last very long in the person’s mind and can be overlooked. Consider using a variety of strategies to show your customers and contacts that you care. Taking a step back to step #2, actually implementing what you glean from customers’ input is a simple and effective way to show them that they matter to you and that you want to better serve them. People love to know that what they say carries weight and that their input is valuable.
If you want to show your customers that you are grateful they do business with you in a way that will actually stick, you have to get creative. Receiving a gesture of gratitude that is unique and purposeful will make an impact, whereas a thank you note or email will be well received, but potentially short-lived. If you want to leave a lasting impression, send a message or gift that shows you put thought into it and actually care. For example, during the holiday season or any other meaningful time, consider sending your clients or key customers and contacts a food gift of some sort. This is something that is unique and will actually be enjoyed by the people you send it to. A gesture like any of the wide range of food gifts available is a relatively small investment that will have a big impact with your customer base.
Making the most of your current customers and optimizing the way you interact with them is a simple way to build your business and increase the effectiveness of your marketing efforts. Turn your customers into loyal customers and reap the benefits of word-of-mouth advertising and strong customer lifetime value. Treat your database with care: use it to make your customers feel valued and connected rather than bombarded with irrelevant information. Positioning the customer base as one of your greatest assets is a sure bet to grow and improve the quality of your business.