Sales slow and you can’t quite figure out why? Or maybe you have a steady stream of regular customers but can’t seem to entice them to buy more and buy more often. Or perhaps you’re finding it difficult to break through to new audiences.
Overcoming those roadblocks and reaching the next level in your small business, the one where you have regular customers happily referring new business to you, comes down to fully engaging them from the minute they enter your doorway.
Many small-business owners are unaware of five common obstacles holding them back from engaging their customers in more profitable ways. Here’s what those obstacles are and what you can do about them.
1. Love/hate relationships with social media. While some businesses have fully embraced social media and have been able to drive business through it, others have shied away from it. Since social media isn’t going away, small businesses must find the middle ground between doing nothing and launching a frantic campaign to accumulate as many fans and followers as possible. This way, social media will serve its purpose in broadening your reach and driving customers to you, but not at the risk of discounting the value of face-to-face interactions.
2. Stop-and-start marketing efforts. It’s human nature to go full-throttle on new business efforts when sales are slow. However, erratic efforts will lead to erratic results. While you’ll want to consider an additional campaign to boost sales during slower times, don’t lose sight of the importance of consistent outreach to your customers, whether it’s when they’re at the register or via e-mail, on your Facebook Business Page, or through your newsletters.
3. Not seeking honest feedback. It’s not always easy to hear, but sometimes you need to open your business up to constructive feedback in order to progress or get back on track. You can do this through guaranteed anonymous surveys, incentives and connecting one-on-one with long-standing, trusted customers. You may also want to reach out to those customers who may have had a less-than-positive experience with your business. When customers know you are earnestly trying to improve their experiences with you, they’re more likely to return and help you create stronger customer relationships.
4. Lack of tracking and follow-up. While you don’t want to appear too inquisitive, you can check in a customer, for example, to gauge his feedback on the new lawnmower he bought, or whether he thought the two-for-one spa offer was worthwhile. You can also spend a few more minutes each month taking a closer look at who’s reading your newsletter, forwarding it and clicking on your links. Use this information to carry on conversations with them and gain additional insight into their needs and interests. From there, tailor your messages accordingly.
5. Not engaging. Remember that it’s up to you to initiate engagement with your customers. Help them address their immediate business needs and then ask permission to continue the conversation via e-mail or social media. You’d be surprised how often the “ask” is overlooked, though it’s the simplest and easiest way to build lifetime customer relationships.
Rick Jensen is senior vice president and chief sales and marketing officer of Constant Contact.