Attracting and retaining customers is critical to small business success. Here are some tips and resources to help your business get more effective at customer acquisition.
Who are your current customers and who do you want your new customers to be? Where are these folks (online and in person) and what do they care about? Doing this type of target market analysis will help you figure out the right starting point for marketing to your ideal customer.
For example, if you own a barber shop, what customers do you see now? Where do they live? How did they find you initially? If most of your customers are from the neighborhood and come in because they walk by, window displays and signage can help share important things like your pricing and store hours. If most of your customers come from word of mouth, send your customers home with a postcard or business card and ask them to tell their friends. If most of your customers find you on Yelp, spend time adding photos, updating your store hours, and responding to customer reviews.
Make your business “findable”
Most customers make spending decisions based on an internet search. Does your business have any web presence (you don’t necessarily need a website. A Yelp or Google places page are very effective for a small business web presence). Without a web presence, you lose the opportunity to compete for customers.
You can claim your business pages and manage them from your phone. If you are an Oakland-based business, contact us and we can help you get started. Check out your local Small Business Development Center for more digital marketing and social media advice.
Partner with other local businesses to share the costs and expand the reach of your marketing. For example, Threadz Culture + Fashion, a local retail shop in East Oakland, creates double-sided postcards. One side advertises Threadz, and the other side advertises another neighborhood business. Both businesses share the cost of producing the cards and both businesses use the cards to advertise. This collaborative approach creates more opportunities for both businesses to reach more customers.
Your current customers are your best recruiters, but you have to ask. A simple “would you share this card with a friend you think would be interested in my services” or “please review us on Yelp to help more people find our business” are easy ways for your customers to be your champions.
Having a new customer form (on your website or a physical form at your business) is a great way to have your customers’ contact information. Ask them on the form if it’s ok to contact them in your preferred method (ie “can we text you when we have new discounts available” or “sign-up for our email list for exclusive coupons”). Communicating directly to your customers reminds them to visit your business, and you can ask them to share news, discounts, and promotions with their family and friends to help you attract new customers.
With so many options available to consumers, creating an exceptional customer experience is important for retaining customers. If you have employees, hiring and training for customer service is one of the most important criteria you can use.
Spend some time each week or month reading your online reviews and responding. A simple “I’m so glad you enjoyed your experience, and we look forward to seeing you again” to a positive review signals to others that you are engaged and care about what your customers have to say. When responding to a negative review, apologize (even if you don’t think you were wrong) and ask them back. Potential customers are more likely to visit your business, even if you have a few bad reviews, if you respond to them well. Try something like “I’m sorry to hear that you had this experience. Please come back again so we can fix it. Feel free to contact us directly if you want to give us more feedback.”
Attracting new customers and retaining your current customers are critical in helping your business thrive sustainably. Focusing on knowing your customers and giving them an exceptional experience is the first step to building a strong following.