Attracting customers is the most vital challenge that a business has to tackle – but keeping them on board is just as important on the road to success.
For SMEs, customer retention should play a fundamental role within your small business marketing mix, as you craft your presence and look to disrupt the market.
An excellent product or service is, of course, the best starting point, but it’s what you develop around your offering that will make or break you.
Loyal customers bring with them a whole host of benefits, from great feedback to referrals and word-of-mouth marketing.
They are invaluable to an organisation when it comes to growth and reputation.
So if you’re looking to kick-starting your SME, giving thought to customer appreciation should be a vital part of your strategy.
Appreciation is undoubtedly effective.
It’s human nature to feel good when you are appreciated. So think about the positive effect that appreciation could have on your customers when they begin to associate it with your business.
Luckily, customer appreciation doesn’t have to mean frequent or grand gestures that will break the bank.
Take a look at some of the smaller moves that can make a big difference.
#1 – A Personal Touch
From a thank you note to a welcome email, a personal touch will go a long way in connecting with your customer.
When sincere, relevant and personal – as fashion tech company Hex have shown – thank you notes can round off an interaction perfectly.
They can even result in extended interaction via social media, shedding a publicly positive light on your customer relations.
The most important factor in a personal outreach is authenticity.
There’s no use simply thanking nameless customers for being there – address them personally, thank them for their individual purchase and sign off with your own name, not that of the company.
Words to Sweat By CEO, Dana Lardner agrees: “I regularly include handwritten notes in the packages I send to customers so they know I not only value their business but also to let them see there’s a person who’s accountable for what’s being sent to them.”
Dana is one of many who are tuning back into and enjoying the forgotten power of handwritten notes.
#2 – A Customer Loyalty Scheme
One of the most widely-adopted customer appreciation methods is the branded loyalty scheme.
From huge corporate giants to your local coffee shop, a system whereby customers are rewarded for investing is a winning formula.
You don’t have to produce your own Clubcard to set this in action; it can be scaled according to your situation.
For an SME, it’s the detail that makes this pointer work for you.
Keep the rewards appropriate to your offering and ensure there’s value in it for the customer.
There are even a host of loyalty apps for small businesses that can easily facilitate rewards programmes suited to you and your customers.
#3 – Sweet Treats
It may be the oldest trick in the book, but it’s still around because it works.
For food-orientated industries, it goes without saying that tasters will heighten interest.
But even for those with little or no connection to edible goods, there’s a well-known expression surrounding the connection between the stomach and the heart that will tell you how favourable sweet treats can be.
The power of giving is massively undervalued. But don’t take our word for it.
One restaurant managed to increase the tip amount from their diners by 23% with one simple trick.
The restaurant had the waiter bring out the cheque along with a few mints. A short time afterward, the waiter returned with more mints.
The results? Incredible.
This clearly demonstrated the restaurant cared about its customers.
And this isn’t just about tips, it’s about customer loyalty.
Simple tricks like this one can dramatically improve your customer retention.
#4 – Associated Gifts
If food isn’t a viable option, then more brand-relevant merchandise might be the way to go.
Increased visibility and brand awareness are benefits of promotional materials, no matter how big or small the gifted product is.
The most important factor is how relevant it is to what you’re all about.
From USB flash drives to power bars and drink sleeves, promotional products can harness power, but they don’t have to be
They should ultimately relate to your purpose and ideally solve an issue for your customer.
Even the smallest of gifts will require some investment, but if you’re looking for a greatly visible option then it could well be worth its weight.
#5 – Further Knowledge
Effective gifting doesn’t always have to be tangible goods.
You can add value to your customer’s experience by offering more – in terms of knowledge and education about the product or service they are buying.
For beauty retail company Birchbox, content marketing has always been a big part of their offering, using tips, tricks and information to keep customers engaged, and loyal.
Establishing yourself as an industry thought-leader and sharing that knowledge with your customers will put you at the forefront of their minds. More often than not leading to repeat custom.
#6 – VIP Treatment
Every customer wants to feel they are important to you. While you may not have the resources to roll out the red carpet for everyone, you can certainly take your chances when the opportunity presents itself.
Exceptional customer service can be offered in many shapes and sizes, from acting upon feedback to compensating generously.
It’s through these ‘above and beyond’ moments that you can attract the most valuable reviews and referrals. Ones that may turn into brilliantly widespread, feel-good PR wins – like these.
#7 – Milestone Marking
Something that can always work in your favour is a sense of occasion. From special deals for your customer’s birthday to giveaways when you reach your own target.
Marking milestones allow you to create fuss with a purpose. Customers will value that you have acknowledged them personally or that they have contributed to your position, leading them to think about their relationship with you in a positive way.
#8 – Special Events
Much like milestone marking, hosting special events is a great way to give something back to your loyal customers. Businesses are often quick to attract new customers with discounts and offers, so it’s only right to reward those who are already listening with something exclusive too.
Whether a learning workshop or charitable evening, special customer events have the power to make your loyal customers feel special whilst creating a buzz to attract newbies.
Two birds, one stone.
#9 – Social Media Interaction
One of the easiest ways to show customer appreciation is simply by interacting on your social media channels. Acknowledging queries, resolving issues and thanking customers for good reviews will remind them that their thoughts are important to you – good or bad.
As well as keeping a connection with your customers, social media allows you to be seen by more potential customers, the more you use it.
We’ve talked before about the marketing solutions that cost zero investment, and social media tops that list, so there’s no excuse for not utilising this one.
The Last Word
Customer appreciation is all about getting your customers on side, turning their passing interest into active engagement.
According to Nielson, 84% of worldwide customers say they either completely or somewhat trust trust recommendations from family, colleagues, and friends about products or services.
So if you are pleasing your existing customers, you are providing the perfect formula for generating yet more interest, as they look to spread the word.
An investment of time is essential, but your customer appreciation strategy doesn’t have to be backed by a big budget. Personalisation is key and a desire to make them feel special will shine through when you begin to put the effort in.
A few additions to your offering might see your positive feedback shoot through the roof, which is invaluable when you’re just starting out.
As an SME looking to make an impact, your loyal customers could well be your secret weapon.
So treat them well, thank them appropriately and watch your business grow from the effects.
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