How to Win Over Your Customers in the New Year

If you are like most small business owners, then chances are your ’08 holiday sales were a bit lackluster. But don’t despair. By introducing a few changes in the way you operate your business, you can brighten your outlook for the new year.

As a follow-up to my previous post on creative marketing techniques, here are a few low-cost strategies to develop customer loyalty.

Tip #1: Promptly respond to customer inquiries.

Make it a priority to get back to your customers. When customers feel that they and their concerns are important to you then they will be more likely to give you their business. Even if you don’t have an immediate answer to an inquiry, you should try to acknowledge receiving a customer’s e-mail or voice message within 24 hours, and inform the person that you are looking into the request or already taking action on it.

Tip #2: Make sure out-going correspondence is clear, concise, and professional.

But… it is not enough to just respond to your customers, you must also pay attention to how you respond to them. Voice messages, emails, and letters should be clear and concise. The time for elaboration is either in person or when speaking to someone directly on the phone. Make sure also that any written correspondence is spell-checked and free from grammatical errors, and that the response is relevant to the inquiry.

Tip #3: Look for where you can give a personal touch.

Handwritten notes, special “birthday coupons”, personally addressed and targeted emails, and no-obligation follow-up phone calls, can make a big impression on your customers’ minds and will measurably improve your customer loyalty.

Tip #4: Reward repeat business.

Give your best customers preferential treatment, such as small coupons or rebates as well as flexible payment options.

Tip #5: Seek ways to involve your customers in your business.

Try to get your customers involved in improving and promoting your business. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to talk to your customers. You can speak to them in person when they come to your business and ask them for suggestions, or you can ask them to fill out a quick questionnaire, or have a suggestion box. Here again follow-up is very important. Even if you do not end up using a customer’s suggestion, you should let him or her know that you considered it. You can also get customers involved in promotion by, for example, having them forward emails to friends in exchange for a discount at your business, or you could run contests for the best logo or T-shirt design.

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