One of the greatest challenges facing small businesses isn’t how to attract customers; rather, it’s how to keep them. It’s easy to understand why: everyone is looking for the very best deal they can find, so if a different company can offer a better price, a superior product and more efficient service, they have little reason to spend their money with you.
Unless, of course you provide a reason by making it clear that the product or service you offer carries greater value than anything else on the market.
Do this, and you’re well on the way to entrenching the kind of loyalty that ensures customers return again. Make no mistake: this requires a lot of hard work and a significant investment in time. Converting an indifferent customer to a raving fan is a journey tantamount to climbing a ladder, because it happens step by step.
From suspects to prospects
Essentially, every single potential customer standing on the first rung of the Loyalty Ladder is a suspect. They may have heard of your company and what it has to offer, or they may simply be people who fit into your target market. Either way, educate them about your offering and convince them to try it.
Once you do, they move up a rung to become prospects. Here, your hard work begins: they may have taken the first step by, acting after seeing an ad, but it’s now up to you to open the channels of communication. Work to nudge them up another rung so that they become customers. Even if they don’t spend money after the initial contact, your interaction shouldn’t end here. Collect their details and add them to your database to keep them informed of developments within the business – in time, and with enough coaxing, they may well take that next step.
Advocates are a major asset, of course – but, with a little more investment in your relationship they can be converted to Raving Fan
They are now a customer – now what?
And if they have become customers? Ironically, it’s at this point that most companies believe they can start easing off when, in fact, the need to continue communication is even greater. This is the time when you have to work even harder to build your relationship: until now, this customer has cost you money (e.g. in the form of marketing and advertising), but from this point, they have the potential to generate profit.
Whether or not they do is an outcome of their satisfaction with your product (which, in turn, requires total upfront transparency about your offering) and whether you cultivate the relationship. Remember that communication must work both ways: your customers must have a mechanism to provide feedback, especially if they’re unhappy with the purchase.
Members and advocates – your unpaid employees
The next rung up the ladder: member. This is the point where a customer has returned for a second helping – and, if you get this right, your members may well evolve into advocates, whose enthusiasm for your business sees them passing on referrals and recommendations.
Advocates are a major asset, of course – but, with a little more investment in your relationship they can be converted to Raving Fans. The difference? While an advocate is happy to put in a good word on your behalf every now and then, a Raving Fan doesn’t stop selling for you.
The benefit is twofold: 1. You have an ‘unpaid employee’ who markets your business, 2. You’re assured of continued business from a customer who appreciates the value inherent in your offering, and is likely to continue supporting your business even in the face of cheaper competitors or increasing economic pressures.
Pieter Scholtz is the Co-Master Franchisor in Southern Africa for ActionCOACH, the fastest growing and largest business coaching company globally. Pieter and his partner Harry Welby-Cooke developed ActionCOACH across Southern Africa, which now boasts over 40 franchisees. He is also a certified, leading business and executive coach. He has successfully assisted countless business owners to significantly grow their profits and develop their entrepreneurial skills.