A question that often comes from small-business owners is how their businesses can promote repeat customers. I asked six of our SCORE volunteers, each of whom has owned a successful small business, to share the techniques they used. Here are suggestions we have identified that helped these folks sustain and grow their businesses.
1. Regular follow-up with a personal phone call.
2. Develop a monthly newsletter. Include industry news and use tips. Add testimonials from satisfied customers.
3. Acknowledge a special occasion, such as a birthday, an award, an anniversary.
4. Perform an extra, unexpected service.
5. Anticipate a customer need and propose a solution.
6. Determine why the customer stopped ordering. Ask him why, then generate a solution.
7. Address all customers by name. Never address the customer as Dear valued customer in any correspondence.
8. Advise the customer promptly of any problems.
9. Handle all complaints immediately and go beyond expectations when resolving the issue.
10. Let your customer know he will always be treated as your No. 1 account.
11. Offer to have a presence at your customers place of business.
12. Consistently provide a quality product and/or service at a fair price.
13. Consider a special discount for a repeat order or consider loyalty punch cards for a free visit or item.
14. Send a We miss you note with a reminder of past products or services and introduce any new products and services.
15. Send a thank-you note after shipping the order.
16. Acknowledge repeat customers by name, and thank them for their business.
17. Invite customers to follow you on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter and to connect through LinkedIn.
18. Make sure you talk to your customers about them. They are the most important element of your business.
19. Consider a special annual event and invite your customers. Examples of events might include the anniversary of starting your business or a new-product introduction.
20. Schedule a follow-up appointment before the customer leaves. Then send a reminder.
21. Assure that your employees reflect a positive, caring attitude toward customers.
22. Have a call list to notify loyal customers of a new shipment or an upcoming sale.
23. Provide a referral card that will result in a discount or free gift when it comes back to you with the customers name on it.
24. Adapt to new trends quickly and advise customers.
25. Offer special services through subcontractors, such as installers and remodelers.
Be careful with follow-ups. You can overdo it and then you become a nuisance and run the risk of alienating the customer.
C. NORMAN BECKERT: Idaho district director for SCORE, the Service Corps of Retired Executives. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.