Marketing can be expensive, especially for small businesses already running on tight budgets. Luckily, you can raise public awareness through cheaper methods — such as getting your customers to market your brand through word of mouth. Of course, those customers must truly believe in your company and what you’re selling. These people are your brand ambassadors. They’re so in love with your product or service, they tell everyone they know about their experience. And that’s the key: You must build relationships with them.
It’s a daunting task. While you can’t personally create a one-on-one interaction with every customer, you can develop strategies that apply across your customer base. Simple personalization techniques, for example, can begin to foster those connections with individual customers — without taking up large amounts of time. Consistent methods will help you make the most of your limited resources. Here are six ways to get started.
1. Keep communication lines open.
You must communicate frequently with your customers. Stay in front of them. You don’t want customers to forget about you. And you should make sure they know about the new things your business is doing. When customers regularly see information about your business, you will stay at the front of their minds.
Act like a real person. (You are one, after all.) Don’t go into a robotic business-owner mode and speak from a script. Be conversational. Learn and use their names if possible for an added personal touch. Teach your employees to do the same. The customer-support representatives at my business, Patriot Software, have been taught to get to know our customers.
When your customers reach out to you, respond quickly. It doesn’t matter if customers contact you in person, on social media, by phone, through email or some other method. You must be prompt and show them you are listening. Even if you don’t have a full answer yet, acknowledge your customer. You can say something like, “I need to look that up. Can I get back to you later?”
2. Offer rewards.
Reward your loyal customers. Recognizing them will make them think even more highly of you.
These premiums can take many forms. You can offer coupons, discount pricing or special sales. You might host exclusive events such as open houses or early-bird offerings. You also might send a newsletter that highlights your products/services and related topics.
3. Go the extra mile.
Putting forth extra effort will make a stellar impression with clients. It needn’t be extravagant — even small, personal gestures cause a ripple effect.
Place a handwritten note in a shipment or personally walk a customer all the way through an issue. You might even send frequent, helpful updates about your products or services.
Customers remember businesses whose people go the extra mile for them. They’re more likely to create repeat sales for your company and share their positive experiences with others, leading to referrals.
4. Listen to their complaints.
At times, you might have unhappy customers. When it happens, listen to their complaints. Show you care about your customers’ feelings and desires. Talking with your customers gives you a chance to make it right and prevent or minimize negative reviews. While these conversations allow you the chance to defend yourself when necessary, you should view them as growth opportunities for improvement. Making your business a better value means more people are more likely to mention it to friends, coworkers and family members.
5. Be likeable.
Shared interests provide a solid foundation for building relationships with customers. Learn what your customers and your business have in common. Remember, your customers initially were attracted to your brand for reason. Once you know what your customers enjoy, you can begin building brand recognition around those shared interests.
6. Give superior customer service — always.
You should treat all your customers the same: with superior service. Don’t give one customer the best service possible and another inferior service. It should make no difference if a customer doesn’t treat you well. You still must provide excellent service. You never know who will become your brand ambassador.