What is the difference between making a sale and building a business? Making a sale is just that. You exchange money for the purchase of a good or a service. Building a business is what you do to encourage that customer to return to make future purchases. There are businesses that do a good job of what you may call “catch and release”. The customer is there, makes a purchase, and then leaves – maybe to never return again.
What are some ways you can be sure your customer returns? Practicing excellent customer service is one way. People do business with people who appreciate them and make them feel good. Help your customer find what he or she wants, even if that means directing them to another business. Always thank the customer for stopping in, even when a purchase isn’t made. When you make your business a pleasant place to be, you will have returning customers.
Take a good look at the appearance of your business. At one business at which I was one time employed, we had someone come in and look around and offer a first impression. One thing I remember is that the counter under the register was open so you could see into it. That is where we kept odds and ends like staplers, tape, extra pens, notebooks, etc. It really had turned into a junkie looking space. The person who was looking around suggested we simply make a pretty little curtain to hang over the space. It was an easy fix and helped make the first impression of the business better as new customers came in.
Invite customers into your business for special events. This past holiday season, a floral and gift shop in a rural community held classes on how to make your own wreath. Events like that can be very popular and successful when working to bring in new customers. It is also a great way to allow the customers to socialize and have a good time while at your business.
Help your customers understand the best way to use the products or services you sell. An example of this would be to provide recipes to someone who purchases a gourmet food product from your business; perhaps in an email so you have some follow-up with the customer after the purchase. You might also post videos on how to assemble items you sell.
Collect contact information from your customers and then use it. Make phone calls to let your customer know about upcoming promotions – even if it means you just leave a message. And when you do talk to the customer in person, solicit feedback about previous purchases or the shopping experience in general. Send emails that provide more information about products. Attach a coupon to the email for a discount if the customer prints it and brings it in before an expiration date.
Encourage and reward referrals. Help your customers become your partner in your community. Offer rewards for new customers that your loyal customer refers to you. Ask your customer for permission to post testimonials or pictures.
If you do all these things, you will be well on your way to building a loyal customer base. Retaining customers is less expensive and simpler than finding new ones, yet business owners will often spend more time and money trying to attract new customers, instead of nurturing the relationship between them and the current customer.
Remember, building a business only begins with a sale.