Facing a brand new year shouldn’t be daunting. You have 12 months ahead of you to attract a whole slew of new customers. New customers, though, aren’t always lining up at your door. How do you get them?
Customers are people, and what do people want? They want things that make their lives less difficult. Sometimes purchasing a product or service adds a level of difficulty to their lives, and they will always choose the path of least resistance.
The goal is always to make it easy for a customer to become a customer. The way to do that is to remove purchasing fears, remove obstacles, and make it easy to be a customer.
1. Reward customers on a personal level.
When businesses reach out to customers on an individual level, they notice. How do you meet people on that personal level?
Honor their special days. If you have a Google account, you’ll notice that Google.com has a doodle especially for you on your birthday. It’s a surprise, at first, that a huge company made a doodle just for you. While a simple automated gesture, it still has a personal feel. The same can be said for the restaurant that emails out a birthday special. You’re essentially giving potential loyal customers a reward for simply existing.
Use their first name when possible. People become attached to coffee shops where they become known as a “regular.” When you walk into a business and the employee behind the counter calls you by your first name, that’s magic. That makes customers feel like they matter. We trust people who know our name.
Remember customer preferences. Whether you have to use a database, a card file system, or your memory, remember customer preferences. Remember how they like their coffee, what color their living room paint is, what time of year they go on vacation and tend to want lawn care services. Build an incentive or rewards program that plugs these preferences in, or send out email or coupons with these preferences in mind. We trust people who know what we like. Empower your employees to periodically gift a customer (free drink, free appetizer) based on their favorites.
When customers feel like you know and like them as a person with a name and with likes, they will trust you more readily than if you treat them like a stranger–no matter how pleasant and professional you are–every time they walk through your door.
2. Put a human face on your business.
Meeting people is the best way to get people to be loyal, and there are a few ways you can make this personal one-on-one connection to potential customers.
Social Media. Your social media accounts are not mere broadcasting tools. They are also places for conversation with real people, places where you can be seen as a business made up of individuals who respond conversationally.
Blogging. The comment section of your blog is similar to social media. You can have conversations and lend a helping hand to your customers.
Support Desk. The support desk isn’t just about solving problems. It’s also a place to learn more about what your customers need, want, and expect. And, it’s the perfect opportunity to meet your customer at their frustrated worst and turn their day around. You have a greater opportunity, through excellent support experiences, to form positive feelings at this time than during benign, non-support interactions.
Trade Shows. Setting up a booth or arranging for meet-and-greets in your industry is how you put a face to your business name. It’s how you get remembered. Dismissing a business is easier if you’ve never met a real person who worked there.
Face-to-Face. Nothing beats real, actual face-to-face meetings. Meeting, talking to, and helping a customer in your brick-and-mortar business forms a lasting opinion and memory of the experience. If it’s good, and you’re helpful and kind, that potential customer is quickly made a loyal customer.
Let’s take another look at that last one, meeting face-to-face.
There’s a reason that face-to-face meetings are making a comeback in the business world, despite the availability of great conference call technology. It’s because we communicate through much more than words. Psychologists have long known that expressions, gestures, voice tone, and other non-verbal cues have a huge impact on communication. It helps us understand, interpret, and remember.
For the same reason, meeting with our customers in person allows a better connection than other methods. In fact, according to some experts, any time you are working with a new customer or trying to close a sale, an in-person meeting is best.
Whenever you have the opportunity to meet a customer in real life, be sure to take a genuine interest in your customer. They aren’t just potential revenue. That’s a human being in front of you. What can you do to make their day?
3. Offer incentives to bring people in.
Customers are looking for a reason to come back.
We are creatures of habit, and we’d just as soon find a business we liked and could trust and could keep returning to rather than constantly trying out different businesses. It’s a lot of work to shop around, and customers would rather form a habit that didn’t require so much effort.
Wouldn’t you love it if your business became your customers’ habit?
Incentives are ways businesses can encourage a customer to come back, hopefully setting in motion the habit of being loyal to your business. Incentives sound easy enough to create, but keep in mind a few important aspects of creating successful customer incentives:
Deliver what you promise. An incentive is an extra, something the customer was not expecting. If you promise a reward or incentive that you are unable to deliver, you will have created an annoyed customer over something that they hadn’t expected originally. If you promise a free gift, for example, and run out, offer an equal or greater value substitution. Never let a failed delivery of an extra incentive drive a customer away.
Relate the offer to your business. Customers come to your business to meet specific wants and needs. The incentive that you offer should relate to your business so that it fits what customers need and is therefore more attractive. If a car dealership is giving away a free grill with every new car purchase, some customers might appreciate the grill but it wouldn’t do anything to build loyalty to the company. If they gave away a free auto detail service, that would expose the customer to the service and cement their loyalty to seeing that dealership as the go-to place for all things automobile.
Rethink loyalty cards. The use of loyalty cards is so popular, many businesses think they have to have them. The problem is, customers have so many loyalty cards to fumble around with that they don’t see them as much of an incentive any more. If you must have a loyalty card, make the program really worth it. Don’t ask them to buy 20 beverages so they can get one free small beverage. You’re forcing them to wait too long for the reward and they may lose interest. Loyalty cards work best when the reward can be experience sooner rather than later. Customers will work towards the goal of redeeming the reward if it is valuable enough, and attainable.
Make it easy for customers to access the reward. Redeeming a free gift your birthday week is better than only on the actual birthday. Reduce the number of hoops your customer has to jump through. It shows you are generous, and really want to reward them for their patronage.
Incentives can make for happy customers, unless you fail to deliver what you promise or make the incentive difficult and fussy to claim. Then you have an annoyed customer.
4. Back-up your product.
Backing up the product or service you sell means more than just a warranty (although that is part of it). Customers carry around a fear that they are making the wrong decision or that they are getting cheated or could have gotten a better deal somewhere else. There are a few techniques that you can use to show your customer they have nothing to worry about when buying your product or service:
Price matching. Price matching has become popular; it directly answers the fear of a customer who wants to make sure she got the best price possible. By matching any price a customer might find elsewhere, you help alleviate that fear. You might even consider a post-purchase price match, in case they later discover that there was a better price. You want to establish in the customer’s mind that you always have the best price.
Buy-back, trade-in, or disposal program. If you sell a product, such as electronic devices, that becomes outdated after a while, consider offering your customers a buy-back or trade-in. Furniture stores will often collect and dispose of old mattresses with the purchase of a new one. Some customers don’t want to deal with making new purchases because the disposal or problem of what to do with the old item outweighs the desire to get a new one. Help remove that obstacle.
Replacement or warranty. A warranty program that seems more geared towards profit than helpful insurance or replacement is an annoyance. But, particularly with high-ticket items, warranties and promises of replacement help calm fears of investing in something expensive that might break. A good return and replacement policy (within acceptable use terms) goes a long way in telling your customer that you believe in your product or service.
If you can allay that fear, you’ll remove the obstacles most customers have when deciding to choose a business.
5. Reward your employees.
Happy employees go a long way to attracting new customers.
In the scheme of attracting new customers, it’s easy to get caught up in customer incentive programs and forget that it is your employees who are going to have that important direct contact with customers. If your employees aren’t happy, your customers will reflect it.
You have their back. Employees need to know that someone has their back. If a customer becomes ugly, abusive, or makes accusations, employees want to know they won’t be hung out to dry if they are doing their best. Both in word and in practice, let your employees know that if they are doing a good job, you won’t sacrifice them to the wolves. Losing an irate customer is better than creating an unhappy employee.
Create employee incentives. Give your employees a reason to work for you, and work hard. Substantial employee discounts, employee benefits and perks, employee rewards, bonuses, training, promotions, and other incentives help paint a picture that working for you is both exciting and beneficial.
Create a fun and safe atmosphere. Creating a great employee culture is more than a ping pong table. It means you make work fun, rewarding, challenging, and safe. Have a great break room. Offer free snacks. Have an “employee of the week” award with an enviable reward. Put procedures in place to handle negative situations and personalities.
In service oriented businesses, especially, your employees are the key to that customer loyalty enigma. Anything that makes an employee enjoy coming to work and feel safe will create a happy employee, and that will be reflected in how they treat your customers.
6. Know your product.
We know we are to be experts, and as a business owner, you probably are. But having team members who are truly experts on your product or service when customers come calling has high value, too.
No customer enjoys going to a business for help in a purchasing decision only to feel as if the staff there don’t know that much about the product or service.
Always know your product, and be sure that your entire team knows your product. Know it inside and out. Get recurrent training so that you are up-to-date on any industry changes. Spend time with your support personnel so that you know what kinds of problems customers are having; use that information to retool how you sell and market your product.
To attract new customers, you must build a reputation for being aware of the latest and greatest so customers don’t have to worry if they are missing out by not going elsewhere.
7. Form helpful partnerships.
It’s shocking, as a customer, to go to a business and ask their help and opinion and to actually find the business…helpful.Your goal is to help the customer solve their problem, whether it’s at your store or not.
Remember the film “Miracle on 34th Street”? Kris sends a woman to another store to find a fire engine when Macy’s didn’t have them. This became its own marketing ploy, as it built loyalty and trust in customers when they realized that Macy’s wasn’t there to make sure they took their money, but that they really wanted to help them instead.
If you’re leery about directing customers to a competitor, consider a partnership with other local businesses. Find businesses that might have a similar or related market segment. Use partnerships with related businesses to expand your customer base by connecting with the established customers of another business.
For example, perhaps that auto dealership should partner with the local full-service car wash if they don’t offer auto detailing services. When customers come to them for auto detailing, they could refer them to their partner instead of turning them down flat, hoping that the customer doesn’t find another auto dealership to help them out and make future purchases from. In turn, the full-service car wash could refer customers back to the auto dealership if they were looking for new cars.
Build partnerships with the idea that you aren’t there just to sell. Remember this: above all, you are there to help your customer.7 Ways To Attract New Customers and Grow Your Business This Year Julie Neidlinger