Building Loyal Customers – One Friend at a Time

 In Be The Leader, Create Community

When I recently observed a customer walking away empty handed, and one of my sales team thanking her for her time, I asked what had happened  – why no sale when the woman came in for a very specific product that we provided.  The answer was one I have heard many times before when a sale isn’t closed:  “Oh, don’t worry; I know that she will be back.”  

That begs the question, “How do you know she will be back?”

In fact, how do any of us know that our customers, even those who did make a purchase, will be back?  How would your bottom line change if you knew that every time your door closes you can count on that customer coming back tomorrow, next week, and next month?

Every business is striving to build a loyal base of customers who see their products and service experience as something they would come back for again and again.  Once we win their loyalty, we can count on them not only for repeat purchases but to help us build our business through the friends that they refer back to us.  With your client’s good word of mouth, your business will grow exponentially!

Building a strong relationship with a customer is like making a new friend.  You first identify what you have in common (they like ice cream, you sell ice cream), then you show interest in them (how can I make you happy?), and continue to nature the relationship by building a bond over time (if you value the relationship don’t be afraid to show it!).


Start by figuring out what you have in common…

It is important to be clear about what you offer – and not just the product but the feeling of your business.  Are you a spa that offers “heavenly bliss” (ahh, I can visualize relaxing already) or a gelato shop offering “hand-crafted, authentic and creative floral flavors”? (I have got to try it!).  Your message needs to tell the potential shopper what to expect.  I used to love to call my Aveda Spa and hear them answer “It’s a beautiful day at Aveda” – I wanted a beautiful day too – so we had a match!  Shopper and Buyer – on the same wave length!

But communicating what you offer is more than words – it has to be part of the DNA of the experience a client has with you. Do a quick test when you walk in a shop – stop in the doorway and just feel the vibe.  It really does start here.  Does the atmosphere feel welcoming and positive?  Or is it exciting and high energy?  Clients are looking not just for products, but places that feel the way they see themselves.  If you are on the same wavelength with your potential clientele, you are off to a good start!

Take steps to keep the relationship growing….

When browsing a shop I am usually asked “is there something you are looking for” and often my answer is “Inspiration.”  I think that is good feedback.  Even if a consumer has a specific need, you can impress them by fulfilling a desire for something new; by entertaining them with an experience; or by introducing them to a product that will make their life better (even if they didn’t know they needed it yet).

Most of us have a place we go to “check out what is new”- even if buying is not the immediate goal.  Be interesting to your clients!  Be inspiring!  Be engaging! Be irresistible!

And let’s not forget the human element in all of this.  You know you have to match the product – the customer- and the vibe, so don’t forget about the team you put out there to serve your clients.  Their presence should enhance the atmosphere – they need to fit right in!  Selecting employees that have a naturally inquisitive nature is a good start. Find people who are interested in other people, curious about products, and who will want to share their discovery.   Their energy will make all the difference! When you find them they will become your biggest asset – they are the individual who will quickly build an inventory of repeat clients, know their names, their tastes, and interests.  When they are engaging, your customers will come back just to see them and share a moment that feels more like having fun with a friend than the daunting task of shopping.

And while it may be a “down the road” project to get a robust CRM up and running,  embrace setting up client profiles any way you can – capture names, email addresses, birthdays and purchases.  And then use these tools to continue to build your relationship!

Keep the lines of communication open…

All relationships need tending.  We live busy lives, so staying in touch is important.  A gentle reminder to come back and visit is usually well received.  Train your sales team to call personally, text or send a personal, individual note when appropriate – “the workout pants you wanted have arrived”;” we just took markdowns on the tableware you were eyeing”; or simply “ we miss seeing you – please drop by our wine and cheese night this week!” Let the client know you value them and that they add to your business with their presence!


Don’t forget special occasions!

July is “Birthday month” for me!  Last year I received 4 of my annual retail birthday “gifts” – 3 of my favorite retailers have discounts or little presents waiting for me and one has sent me my annual charm celebrating the Chinese New Year symbol for 2013.  How fun!

I anticipate these every year, and while it is not as special as Birthday wishes from family and friends, it does bond me to these retailers, not just this month but throughout the year.  Amazing how far a little acknowledgment really goes!

So what do you think?  Are you sure the customers you served today are coming back again?  With a little care and maintenance, you can increase your connection, improve the experience delivered by your business, and build a network of new friends, who happen to support your business with their loyalty and referrals.  And all it takes is making one new friend every time the door opens.

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