By Bill Willard
The Issue: Helping SBOs keep their heads above water during the recession has been a recurring theme on this and other Websites, as well as in newspapers, magazines and other media outlets for and about business owners. Because every little bit helps–and you can never tell where your next great idea will come from and how far it will take you–here are some more.
What I Think: The experience of doing business with you is what keeps customers coming back. Creating a positive experience for customers doesn’t take an overly large marketing budget, but SBOs will have a better chance of getting through the current rough patch by doing some or all of the following—all of which can be adapted to virtually any type of business:
- Communicating with customers to learn what their biggest needs are for your products or services and how your products or services benefit or convenience customers.
- Developing solid customer relationships, demonstrating in as many ways as you can that you value their business, and care about seeing it continue.
- Advertising as aggressively as you can to attract business. Example: A Tampa Bay-area window company runs commercials featuring the owner on cable TV over a three-county area. The owner then visits prospective customers to ballpark the job and close the sale.
- Offering special discounts or other perks to customers as incentives for providing referrals to prospective new customers. Let those customers know the results of their referrals. Example: A local FM radio jock had the windows in his home replaced by that window company, and is now their radio spokesman. During his three hours on the air, he promotes the company and offers “one free window” to listeners who use his name when ordering—which is exactly what Sue and I did earlier this year.
- Educating customers about the importance of doing business with you, and asking customers to share that information with others—again, adapting your message to your products or services. Example: Our dentist had cards printed offering “free X-rays and cleanings for every two new customers” referred by existing patients.
- Maintaining an inviting environment for employees as well as customers. Example: Have a retail business? How does it feel to walk the aisles of your store? Are product placements clean, well ordered and approachable?
- If you have employees, how is their product knowledge? Customers will keep going back to stores whose employees are knowledgeable and can be trusted guides through decision-making.
- Customer service training is essential, and the more technical the product line, the more valuable that training will be. Example: When our new windows were installed, the two young men who did the work knew their jobs and represented their company very well. After the work was done, we filled out a Customer Satisfaction Survey and were called to see if were pleased with our new windows and with the courtesy and professionalism of the installation team.
- Be certain your service reps are not using questionable sales tactics and are dedicated to resolving customer concerns.
- If some of your products are in higher demand than others, be sure you’re maintaining their inventory levels. There’s no point in handing over your customers to the competition!
What Do You Think? No matter what economic conditions may be, improving the customer experience is essential in gaining and keeping your competitive edge. Have you used these recession-proofing ideas, or know of others? Your comments are welcome. Have you registered?
Bill Willard is a freelance writer in Clearwater FL. He has been a high-impact writer and editor for over 30 years. In addition to his byline pieces, Bill’s beat includes ghostwriting and editing for businesses of all types and sizes, professional practitioners and individuals, and is a www.thefreestyleentrepreneur.com Contributing Author. Visit his Website: www.writergazette.com/WillardAssociates.shtml
Or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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