So you want to run a successful business do you? While it definitely takes a lot of hard work to do that, you might be surprised by how simple the steps are in regards to reaching that goal. Indeed, at the foundation of every expanding business lies the customer. For your company to be the best it can be, it has to be run in a way that focuses on expanding the number of loyal, repeat customers that you have.
Don’t worry. Finding new customers and keeping them happy doesn’t require a huge monetary investment on your part. All it takes is a bit of care, consistency, creativity, and hard work.
Now, onto the specifics. What do successful businesses do to grow a loyal group of customers? Get out your pen and notepad because I’m going to lay it all out for you.
1. They have standards.
Is anybody else here a fan of Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares? Well, whether you are or not, the show teaches us all a simple lesson about running a successful business: setting standards and expectations are a must. When employees know what to expect, and are given clear direction, the company runs more smoothly. And when the company runs more smoothly, the customer takes notice.
Of course, you can always leave room for improvisation, but you want the core values of your business to stay consistent. If you do that, customers will in turn reward you with consistent purchases.
2. They flaunt what they’ve got.
Okay, so perhaps it’s not so obvious as that. However, it is true that successful businesses are able to subtly inform potential customers exactly why they are great, and in turn why they should bring their business to this business. They don’t brag, but they aren’t too modest either. Take Apple or Samsung, for instance. Their smartphone commercials do a great job of revealing exactly how and why their product will improve their customer’s lives. This technique works in nearly every industry. You just need to figure out how to get your positive message out to your customers.
3. They make use of data and analytics.
The use of “analytics” is a growing trend in business, with sports perhaps being the best example. Teams, like the NBA Houston Rockets, analyze hundreds of data points and collected statistics in order to improve their product. This, in turn, acquires more customers/fans. Of course, you don’t have to be a major sports team to make use of the same concepts. Keeping track of customer related data can be an easy and effective way to determine whether your satisfying their needs sufficiently. All it really takes is some basic mathematics and a few hours a day in Excel — so get cracking!
4. They communicate.
Most successful businesses have some method of communicating with their customers, whether it be through little surveys, employee interaction, or something else that’s more outside-of-the-box. It is most important that customers feel like they are heard, and that you are receptive to their ideas. One of the most successful businesses in the world, video-game company Blizzard Entertainment, is famous for this. They make a point of interacting with fans on a daily basis through online message boards, gathering data, conversing with them, and making note of their ideas. Take notice of your customers, and they will return the favor.
5. They stay on the cutting edge.
When you go to most successful restaurants these days, you’ll find that they don’t have wood paneling on the walls and disco balls attached to the ceilings any more. Smart businesses know that they have to keep up with their customer base, not only because their wants and needs are constantly evolving, but also because everyone gets bored of the same old thing after a while. Just look at McDonalds, as an example. Years ago we were just fine with their offerings. However, nowadays their burger lineup seems drab and disappointing compared to some other establishments. Whatever field your business is in, it’s best to stay abreast of what is hip and happening at any given moment, as that will help you retain and gain customers.
6. They add incentives.
As a way to say “thank you,” many successful businesses have something akin to a loyalty program. Take Starbucks for example, where if you buy something on a daily basis, you will eventually have access to a bunch of perks (that include discounts and free drinks). You don’t want to bribe your customers, per se, but it’s always nice to give back a little bit. If you want your customers to be loyal to you, then you need to show some loyalty to them as well. A “thank you” can come in many forms as well — even a simple e-mail thanking a customer for their visit is a nice gesture, especially if you don’t have the resources to be giving out any freebies.
7. They make their product both affordable and valuable.
In this day and age, running a business means catering to one of the fastest growing consumer bases — millennials. To capture that market, you’ll need to ensure that your product is reasonably priced and offers a lot to the customer. Sort of like Netflix, where you get so much for your $7.99 subscription that you almost feel like you’re ripping them off. Whatever your business is about, you’ll have to find that healthy balance where your customer feels like they are getting a lot, while all the while you’re still making a decent living. Not easy, but it’s one of the best ways to rapidly gain customers.
8. They use social media in a clever fashion.
Has anyone else followed Taco Bell’s Twitter account? The hilarious, sometimes self-deprecating nature of its tweets are great. Taco Bell does a perfect job of selling its product to its main customer base. Now, you don’t have to be as good as them, but you should try and acquire some kind of social media presence, especially if you want to touch base with the aforementioned millenials. Not only can social media be used as a way to advertise more cleverly, but you can also use it to communicate with your customers. It’s sort of like killing two birds with one stone!
9. They have a smartphone app.
This section ties in to what I was talking about in regard to incentives above. With so many people tied to a smartphone or tablet these days, it’s crucial to get your business onto the iPhone App Store and Android’s Google Play. Through your app, you can offer loyalty rewards, and connect your customers to your social media accounts and other promotions. It’s the perfect way to tie several key aspects of the customer experience together!
10. They use gimmicks to build hype.
Can you say “McRib” with me? Or how about IHOP’s free pancake day? Or what about World of Warcraft’s yearly April Fools gags? All of these might seem to be superfluous things at first glance, but they all play a role in getting each of those companies extra business. There are certain things you can do to make your company stand out, whether it’s creating a satirical piece relating to the product you sell, or crafting a limited time product that is just crazy enough that people will feel a desperate inner need to go and buy it right then and there. Come on, we’ve all been there with the McRib. Don’t lie and tell me you haven’t.
Of course, you should keep the gimmicks to a minimum. All I am saying is that a few, well-timed, spaced out promotions like the ones laid out above just might give you more of a return on your investment than you initially bargained for.
Are you a business owner? What are some of the things you do to build brand loyalty and grow your customer base? Comment below!
Featured photo credit: Business School/University of Salford Press via flic.kr