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How to build shopper loyalty (it’s cheaper, more effective then earning new customers)

If it’s less expensive to hang on to a current customer, how exactly does one go about building shopper loyalty?

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shopper loyalty

Once you earn a customer, hang on for dear life!

Entrepreneurs and new business owners often fail to appreciate the difficulty of attracting new customers. Entrepreneur magazine refers to this as “field of dreams marketing.” It is assumed that unlocking the shop or advertising a service will result in customers coming through the door or ringing the phone. In reality, however, getting new customers is an expensive and lengthy endeavor.

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This is why experienced businesspeople will do all they can to hang onto a customer once they have one. It is significantly cheaper and more effective to keep an existing customer than get a new one. That does not mean it is easy to keep them though. What are some best practices for building shopper loyalty?

Know what customers want

First, great companies know what their customers want. This does not mean successful entrepreneurs must be telepathic. Nor do they need to give every customer a survey at the cash register (please no more). In retail, most customers are signaling what they expect when they walk into a store. If it is a clothing store, they just might be there for some clothes. If it is a coffee shop, guess what? They want coffee.

Businesses occasionally spend far too much time and money on the assumption customers might want something other than the items already on the shelf. Nobody proves this point better that Google. One of the most successful companies of our time still rolls out their flagship product as a simple search field in the center of a big white space. They know people who go to a search engine just want to search.

Give customers what they want

Second, great companies give their customers what they want. If a customer enters an electronics store to purchase a phone and the clerk spends 20 minutes trying to sell her a tablet, selfie-stick, or camera, then the customer’s satisfaction level will be low. Perhaps she will purchase the phone, but she will not be eager for a return trip. Had the clerk simply sold a great phone, the customer just might have popped back in sometime for that tablet.

Today’s shoppers value their time, are well informed about products, and typically know what they want when they enter a shop. Major American cable companies are learning this the hard way as customers leave them in droves for smaller, nimbler streaming services that will simply give them what they want without pressing them to pay for many channels they have no interest in.

Give customers more than they want

Third, successful businesses give customers more than they want. This is not the same as selling them more than they want to buy. For example, if you walk into the Asian coffee retailer J.Co and order a cup of coffee they will give you a donut too. Surprise! No one complains about a free donut. Even customers who refuse it for health reasons will be impressed that it was offered. That extra benefit, although small, draws people back. Giving away donuts is much cheaper than advertising for new customers and it eventually increases sales.

How to apply this principle will depend on the particular business. A cleaning company can refill the bathroom soaps, a bakery can include a serving knife, and a dress shop can give away a nice garment bag. To be most effective, these should be unadvertised surprises. They are not a benefit the customer is paying for; rather they are examples of going above a beyond. These little extras increase customer loyalty and will improve sales.

Give customers excellent value

Fourth, the best companies give customers an excellent value on what they want. There are few shoppers in this world with truly unlimited budgets. In reality, most people are motivated by good prices. Walmart climbed to the top of the retail world with its motto, “Always the lowest price. Always.” This does not mean a business should strive to be the cheapest option every time. However, it does mean that customers should never be overcharged and pricing schemes should be clear.

Start-up companies are sometimes tempted to overprice goods and services because they are desperately trying to build good income streams. This is a temptation that must be avoided. Customers who feel they are getting what they want at a reasonable price will likely return for more. If they do, it will not take long for new businesses to grow a healthy income.

The Golden Rule is really golden

Knowing what a customer wants, giving it to them (with a little extra), and at a good price will draw them back again and again. Implementing these ideas is not rocket science. New business people can find inspiration by imagining themselves on the other side of the counter. What would they want if they were doing the shopping?

“Do unto others as you would want them to do unto you” is a great rule for building customer loyalty. The results can be truly golden.

#ShopperLoyalty

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Stephen St. John is a writer and speaker with a background in business, education, and non-profit ministry. He earned his Bachelor's Degree in Organizational Management and Master's Degree in Theological and Ministerial Studies. Alongside his wife and seven kids, Stephen has lived and worked in North America, Africa, and Asia.

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Business News

How to handle an acquisition like a boss

(BUSINESS NEWS) One way to grow your company is to be acquired. Here are some tips on how to not blow an acquisition.

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Acquisition

One way that a small business can become a big business is by being acquired. Maybe your business plan has always been to sell, or maybe it has never occurred to you.

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But if you find yourself being wooed by a potential suitor interested in buying your business, John Warrillow at Forbes.com has some advice to make sure you don’t blow it.

No harm, no foul

He says that, whether or not you are ready to sell your business, there is no harm in meeting with a potential buyer. Even if you don’t think you’d like to sell at the moment, the meeting could be useful for gaining “competitive intelligence” that could help you negotiate later.
For the most part there’s not much too lose and much to gain from meeting with a potential buyer, but Warrillow does warn against a few rookie mistakes.

First of all, he says, like a teen hoping for a second date, it’s important not to appear too “eager.”

Even if you’re desperate to hand over the business, play it cool, and insist that your company is not for sale, but that you are willing to meet for “a strategic discussion.”

Strategery

During said discussion, “let them do 95 percent of the talking.” Warrillow suggests writing out and rehearsing a list of questions so that you can control the conversation and get more information out of your suitor than they get out of you.

Part of holding your cards close to your chest includes refusing to name a price.

No matter how much they insist, hold true to your claim that the business is not for sale, and don’t give them even an estimate of the price range you’re looking for. Wait for them to name a number first, in a formal expression of interest.

Once you’ve received the expression of interest, hire an intermediary broker to help you with the deal. And whatever you do, don’t sign a Letter of Intent that prevents you from shopping around for other competitive offers.

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Business News

So you were asked an illegal question in an interview, now what?

(BUSINESS NEWS) Interviews are nerve racking enough without having to wonder if your potential employer is playing by the rules. Be aware of these tips in case you find they aren’t.

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Under pressure

Interviews are universally nerve-wracking. You’ve got the resume, the references, the outfit – but you never know what your interviewer(s) are going to throw at you.

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You expect questions relating to your skills and your ability to do the job, but sometimes a question comes out of left field and you’ve got to scramble for a coherent answer.

Interview questions

“If you were a pizza delivery man, how would you benefit from scissors,” asks Apple. And Gallup wants to know, “What was the last gift you gave someone?”

Well, when I ordered a pizza last night, I tipped the delivery person with scissors . . .

Unfortunately, some questions that seem just wacky, or harmless and friendly, are not just inappropriate to ask in an interview, but are actually illegal.

Illegal questions are generally those that request information irrelevant to the job description. Here are the most common categories of illegal questions, shared across all states:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Sex/Gender/Orientation
  • Military discharge
  • Religion
  • National origin
  • Birthplace
  • Age
  • Disability/Health status
  • Marital/family status

Watch out for tricks

Any of this personal information could be used, intentionally or not, to discriminate against them. A direct inquiry regarding any of these topics is obviously off-limits, but sometimes the question might come from a tricky angle.

“When did you graduate college?” = “How old are you?”

With this information, employers could decide you’re too young or old for the role, no matter how qualified you may be.

“Orizaga is an interesting surname – is it Spanish?” = “Are you Spanish?” A biased interviewer could use this information to determine that you are or aren’t a “good fit.” Similarly, “Is English your native language?” = “Are you from an English-speaking country or not?”

“Is that your maiden name?” = “Are you married?” And so on.

These questions are often asked innocently, by untrained interviewers looking to make conversation. Nonetheless, you don’t have to answer them, and your best bet is to tactfully avoid the question without demanding your constitutional rights in the middle of the interview.

Handle the heat

Tone is everything, but if you respond to an illegal question with something along the lines of, “Is that relevant to this role?” in a calm, mild voice, most interviewers will take the hint and move on.

If the situation allows for it, you can keep your answer nice and vague without avoiding the question.

For example, if you’re asked about your college graduation date, you could say, “It’s been a while, but I still view college as one of the best experiences of my life.”

Asking isn’t the most illegal part

It’s important to note that asking an illegal question is not equivalent to committing a crime. The information must be used in a discriminatory manner, as determined by a court.

If you believe that an act of discrimination has been committed, you should contact a labor attorney, or file a charge with your local Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) office. Then order yourself a pizza and ask the delivery person about their scissors.

#Interview

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Business News

The 7 communication hurdles stifling your company’s efficiency

(BUSINESS NEWS) Whether communication is too little or too much, or delivered poorly, every company has room for improvement.

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company communication

One of the biggest sources of inefficiency in your company is going to be communication. It underlies almost every productive action within your business, whether it’s conveying instructions to a subordinate or disclosing your results to a client or investor; accordingly, even a small inefficiency in your lines of communication can result in a major loss of time/money.

Fortunately, knowing the key hurdles to effective communication—and learning to overcome them—can help you smooth out these problem areas and build a more efficient business.

How Communication Affects Your Efficiency

Ultimately, your business’s efficiency is impacted in three key ways:

  1. Message accuracy. If you convey the wrong information, or the right information in a confusing way, it can lead to errors and misunderstandings.
  2. Time consumption. Every message you send and receive is going to cost time from both the sender and recipient. If that time is excessive, it could result in waste.
  3. Cost. You also need to consider what you’re paying for your communication solutions, and whether each solution is worth it.

The Biggest Hurdles

These effects tend to manifest in response to these seven major hurdles:

1. Obsolete or unreliable tech. If you’re trying to save money by relying on old devices, or platforms that haven’t been upgraded in years, it could have a substantial negative impact on how you communicate. You might experience delays when making phone calls, missed messages in your chat logs, or a serious lack of mobility. Thankfully, making upgrades can make most of these problems go away. For example, investing in newer devices can dramatically improve your connection speeds and mobility, and switching VOIP providers can be a relatively easy transition to prevent delays and hiccups from interfering with your phone calls.

2. A lack of clear communication standards. How are your managers expected to relay instructions to subordinates? How are your subordinates expected to communicate progress to managers? How are your meeting recap emails supposed to be structured? If you aren’t sure of these answers, it’s a sign that you don’t have clear communication standards within your business. Formally documenting these expectations can keep communication clear and consistent for all your employees, in virtually all areas.

3. Inefficient modes of communication. If your employees aren’t using communication mediums correctly, it can also lead to problems. For example, if they frequently call meetings that could have been communicated in the span of a single email, it could waste hours of company time. If they use email instead of having a conversation over the phone, it could lead to confusion and unanswered questions. Each type of communication requires a different approach.

4. Departmental silos. Another major problem is departmental silos, which can make communication more difficult or nonexistent between two groups of people within the company. These silos tend to develop when different departments have different standards and expectations for communication, and when those departments rarely intermingle. You can correct this by integrating your departments more frequently, and getting everyone on the same standards for communication.

5. Unstructured meetings. Meetings are a major source of time waste in companies, since they involve many people at the same time, and often recur on a consistent basis. All your meetings should have a designated leader to keep the meeting on track, a specific intention or goal, and a time restriction to keep things tight and concise.

6. Poor listening. Listening is a vital skill for effective communication — and we aren’t doing enough of it. Too often in business environments, participants in a meeting or conversation are more focused on talking than listening, but listening is more effective for understanding and collaboration. To develop better listening skills, avoid distractions (like checking your smartphone during a conversation), allow time for the other person to speak, and use active listening tactics, like rephrasing what you’re hearing.

7. Overload. Too much communication can be a bad thing. If your employees are sending emails back and forth constantly, or if you’re paying for so many communication apps that you can’t keep track of them, it’s only going to result in confusion. In many ways, fewer, more concise messages are superior modes of communication than message bombardment—and you’ll pay less if you have fewer apps to worry about.

If you can overcome these seven significant communication hurdles, you can make your business far more efficient. While some of these changes may take a few weeks to settle in, others may grant you a positive change immediately — so inspect your company’s internal and external communication, and work hard to make things as streamlined as possible.

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