If there's one thing I've learned in my 25-plus years as a business advisor and owner of Endicia, it's that there's nothing more important than building lasting relationships with your customers. Not only do you have to win their hearts, but also you also often have to show them, repeatedly, that you're worth their trust and attention.
Fortunately, when it comes to winning over customers, small-business owners are often at an advantage. That's because, unlike larger brands, they may have greater opportunities to personalize interactions. To help ensure that you're making the most of your relationships, here are five tips to help attract customers today and keep them tomorrow:
1. Look Your Best
Making a good first impression often starts with putting extra effort into your brand image. If you own a physical store, make sure it's clean and welcoming—it doesn't hurt to add a bit of personality into your decor either. Here at Endicia, we've painted the office walls our signature orange color to give our space a little spunk.
—Amine Khechfé co-founder, Endicia
If you operate online, the look and feel of your site is often just as important as its functionality, especially in the age of omnichannel retail, which means that each piece of the consumer's experience—from browsing a product on their smartphone to shopping for a product in-store—should ideally be consistent and complementary. When optimizing your website, be sure to use crisp visuals to showcase products and implement a web-responsive design so customers can browse on their mobile devices as well.
2. Listen to Your Customers
If you really want to retain your customers as well as grow your business, it helps to pay attention to what customers are saying.
Customer surveys can serve as a great way of understanding what's working about your business, and what's not. Another powerful tactic is to take your listening face-to-face.
Every year, my company invites several customers to participate in an intimate customer council to discuss what they'd like to see improved. We typically ask our customers to provide feedback on our products and services. From there, we use this input to improve our current product and service offerings and help guide the development of new products and services. These events allow our customers to have a say in the running of our business. It also builds trust with customers by putting a “face" on our brand.
Of course, it's often not enough to just listen—you have to take that customer feedback and enact changes. But trust me—when you do, customers may notice and may be much more inclined to stick around.
3. Give Little Surprises
Remember, it's often the little things that count.
Customers may appreciate it when you go out of your way for them, whether by customizing a product or throwing in something extra without being asked.
When my company was starting out, my co-founder Harry would send customers boxes of fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies. This was our way of thanking them while making sure we'd be remembered.
Of course, your little surprises don't have to be extravagant. Something simple, like including a free sample for repeat customers, or waiving the cost of product shipping, may go a long way.
4. Be Genuine
Let's be real—your customers can often spot insincerity a mile away. This is especially true on social media, where it's easy for businesses to inundate customers with product posts and marketing jargon. Don't fall victim to this trap.
It’s often helpful to be sure you're being authentic in all your social interactions. Instead of flooding your audience with product information and advertisements, consider creating a mix of content that also highlights your company culture. Post a funny picture from your company picnic or a candid shot of the people on your team. Give your followers a glimpse of what goes on behind the scenes on a typical day in the office.
Another way to connect with your audience is to ask them for their feedback. This is one way you might show your followers that you genuinely care about their input and suggestions for improvement. Finally, create content that sounds the way you'd speak. Conversational, punchy language can often work best for social channels, especially since you've only got a couple seconds to capture someone's attention before they move on to the next post on their feed.
5. Keep Up the Communication
At the end of the day, to really maintain a strong and healthy customer relationship, communication typically needs to extend beyond the initial transaction.
Consider sending holiday cards to customers or regular updates on where your business is headed and what it's up to. Again, being genuine is often the key to making communication work. The goal is to show customers you value them—not to pressure them until they spend more money.
For more tips on finding new customers, download our exclusive guide from Guy Kawasaki, The Art of Getting Customers.
A version of this article was originally published on August 14, 2015.