Stop marketing so hard, and start retaining what you have

Anyone who has run a small business knows how important it is to get customers in the door.

That’s why many major marketing campaigns are designed specifically to grab the attention of potential customers — discounts usually are reserved for new signups, and educational campaigns focus on introducing a business to its target market.

Without a doubt, these are important things to do. Ultimately, though, they’ll be as ineffective as doing nothing at all, if the business ignores customers once they’re in the door. If you don’t know how to retain customers, they’ll leave.

With that in mind, here are a few customer service tips to help ensure your existing customers are just as happy about your business as your new ones.

First name basis. Remember the theme song from the TV show Cheers? “Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came.” In the small-business world, it can be important for customers to feel special, like they are a part of the business. Speaking to each other on a first name basis helps people feel connected and some pretty major brands have found ways to do this.

Starbucks asks for your name with each order; members of Safeway’s loyalty program are thanked by name at the end of each purchase. Can you think of a local business that addresses you by name? It’s a nice touch, right?

Show appreciation. Now that you’ve gotten to know your customers, why not do something fun for them? Special events only for customers, such as open houses or preview events, can show them they are special and vital to your business success (and, let’s face it, they are). When you’re considering a business change (new product line, updated hours, new services, etc.), ask existing customers for their opinion. It’ll help them understand how critical they are to your success.

Stay in contact. It sounds simple, but it’s easy to overlook. Marketing to existing customers via email, social media, customer relations and promotions is one way to show that you value them. Plus, it has the added benefit of keeping your business on customers’ minds. Periodic newsletters can let customers know about new products and services; a monthly informational e-blast can show them how you’re adjusting in the market to meet their needs.

Continuing education. This applies especially to service industries, but it’s true across the board: it’s important to stay up-to-date on trends, tools and best practices. Continuing education enables companies and business pros to stay on top of customer needs and provide them with the help they’re seeking now and in the future. Maintaining top-notch skills and experience is not what people traditionally think of when trying to deliver great customer service, but it’s important.

Running a small business is a lot of work, but it can be easier when you remember to value your current customers. If you need help coming up with or implementing customer service ideas, just reach out.

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