5 Ways to Turn Visitors into Regulars

Pop quiz: Would you rather spend your marketing dollars squeezing blood from the proverbial stone, or capitalizing on customers who have already made the trip?

Trick question. Obviously, if every customer who passed through your doors could be easily turned into a regular, then time spent currying new visits would be time largely wasted. But while not every visitor will become a devotee, leaving a lasting impression, both digital and face-to-face, is an excellent way to make the most of casual attendees.

Make a Personal Connection

There are many reasons why visitors turn into regulars—from good food, to good service, to welcoming decor. Something about the presentation of your business must resonate with your customer in order to create a connection.

The problem with these factors is that each one is subject to personal preference. Your minimalist decor may be a peaceful paradise to one customer, while offending the more flamboyant sensibilities of another. Your garlic heavy lasagna may trigger the allergies of an otherwise enthusiastic patron.

Fortunately, whether you’re a small business or a franchise of a larger chain, personal connection is a universal currency. The lasagna with too much garlic? Inform an allergic patron of the key ingredient and be recognized as a business that cares about its customers. Rest assured, no level of attentiveness will go overlooked when the same family is making their Friday night dinner selection.

Leave an Impression

Personal connection is, at its core, a part of a larger concept that turns visitors into regulars—a lasting impression.

Let’s begin with an example. Do you remember how your Rainforest Café cheeseburger tasted? Probably. But while families and friends enjoy their savory meals, they’re also treated to a spectacular indoor rainforest thunderstorm that has tourists flocking to the restaurant’s many locations across the United States.

You could easily argue that some establishments use a lobby fountain to distract from their service, but to a well-run, well-attended hotel, salon, or restaurant, experience comes with the price of admission.

Guide Their Post-Visit Attention

Our collective attention spans are dropping. According to a Pew Research study, 87% of educators agree that the digital age is creating an “easily distracted generation with short attention spans.”

So what does this mean for your business? Maintaining presence in customers’ minds is more crucial, and difficult, than ever.

Don’t let a satisfied patron’s mind wander after a positive experience. Guide her post-visit experience with a call to action.

This can come in many forms—the URL of your Facebook page on cups, your Twitter handle on the bottom of a salon mirror, or even just a website on a business card. Clearly display and encourage use of an address or method your customers can use to interact with your business, and let your social media posts fill the tables on the weekend.

Marry Your Offline and Online Experience

For fledgling businesses, social media can seem like a golden goose. The problem with this thinking is that it misunderstands the true value of followers.

Twitter followers and Facebook fans have been called “vanity metrics.” This is because social media followers possess the curious capacity for passive brand participation. They may follow, like, or even read your posts, but this activity means little in terms of bringing visitors and dollars into your establishment.

The remedy for this problem is a union of offline and online activity. In layman’s terms, visits to your physical location should have online benefits, and vice versa. Put coupon codes for free delivery on your drink cups. Post video riddles and give a discount to those who decode the puzzle. Whatever the specifics, take advantage of both offline and online presence to the benefit of both.

Consider a Loyalty Program

Finally, the most obvious way to reward repeat visitors is with a loyalty program. Offer free registration with an email address, provide a punch card or swipeable plastic card to verify visits, and provide unique rewards for continued patronage.

The key is to offer rewards that actually matter, as opposed to token discounts that show little actual appreciation. If you run a salon, offer a free hair-coloring after so many visits. If you own a restaurant, eat the cost of a steak in order to make the previous visits worthwhile. Whatever you choose, do your best to build investment, guide action, and strengthen your brand reputation, and watch your occasional visitors turn into regulars.

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