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10 Tricks Successful Businesses Use To Keep Customers Loyal

10 Tricks Successful Businesses Use To Keep Customers Loyal

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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

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Published on March 20, 2019

How to Write a Powerful Mission Statement for Your Business

How to Write a Powerful Mission Statement for Your Business

Have you ever felt lost in the minutia of your job?

As a business owner, I can relate to getting bogged down in the day to day operations of my business. Things like inventory, payroll, scheduling, purchasing and employee management take up the bulk of my day.

While these things are important and need to get done, focusing too much on the details can make you lose sight of the big picture. This is why having a good mission statement comes in handy.

What is a Mission Statement?

Put simply, a mission statement is an internal document that provides a clear purpose for the organization. It provides a common reference point for everyone in the organization to start from.

In other words, after reading your company’s mission statement, managers and employees should be able to answer the question “What are company’s main objectives?” For example, Southwest Airlines mission statement reads:[1]

“Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.”

In this single statement, Southwest conveys the company’s goals of providing the highest level of customer service as well as providing a good working environment for their employees.

Mission Statement VS. Vision Statement

While the mission and vision statements are related, there are subtle but distinct differences the you should be aware of.

First of all, a mission statement is designed primarily as an internal company document. It provides clarity and direction for managers and employees.

While there’s nothing wrong with sharing your company’s mission statement with the outside world, its intended audience is within the company.

While a mission statement provides a general framework for the organization, the vision statement is usually a more inspirational statement designed to motivate employees and inspire customers. Going back to Southwest Airlines, their vision statement reads:[2]

“To become the world’s most loved, most flown, and most profitable airline.”

This statement inspires good feeling from the customer while motivating the employees to achieve that vision.

What Does a Good Mission Statement Look Like?

When coming up with a mission statement, it’s important to take your time and do it right. Too often, people (especially entrepreneurs) just write down the first thing that comes to mind and they end up with worthless or (worse yet) a generic mission statement that is utterly useless.

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Remember, a mission statement should provide a common framework for everyone in your organization.

When writing a mission statement, you should always try to incorporate the following;

  • What we do?
  • How we do it?
  • Whom do we do it for?
  • What value are we bringing?

Now, you can see how tempting it is to just come up with something generic that ticks off those four boxes. Something like “We provide the best widgets available online for the consumer.”

After all, that did check off all the boxes:

What we do? Provide widgets.

How we do it? Online.

Who do we do it for? The consumer.

What value we bring? The best widgets.

The problem with this mission statement is that it could apply to any number of companies producing the same widget. There is nothing to distinguish your company or its widgets from any of your competitors widgets.

Compare that mission statement to this one:

“We provide the highest quality widgets directly to the consumer at an affordable price backed up with a 100% satisfaction guarantee. If our clients aren’t 100% satisfied, we’ll make it right.”

What’s the difference?

Both mission statements answer all the same questions of what, how, whom and value. But in the second statement, they are differentiating their company from all other competitors by answering the question “what makes us unique”.

Another way to read that is, “Why you should buy from us.” In this example, it’s because our widgets are of the highest quality and we stand behind them 100%.

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You might have noticed the statement didn’t say that we sell widgets at the lowest possible price. That’s because we are emphasizing quality and satisfaction over price.

A different company’s mission statement may emphasize selling widgets at the lowest possible price with little to no mention of a guarantee.

Hallmarks of a Good Mission Statement

1. Keep It Brief

Your mission statement should be no longer than three sentences. This is not your company’s magnum opus.

You should be able to distill the what, how, who and why questions into a succinct message.

2. Have a Purpose

A company’s missions statement should include the reason it even exists.

Make clear exactly what the company does with statements like “We strive to provide our customers with …….”

3. Include a “How”

Take this as an opportunity to differentiate your company from its competitors.

How do you provide a product or service that’s different or better than how your competitor provides it?

4. Talk About the Value You Bring to the Table

This is where you can really set yourself apart from the competition. This is the “why” customers should buy from you.

Do you offer the lowest prices? Fastest delivery? Exceptional customer service? Whatever it is that sets you apart and gives your particular products, services or company an advantage talk about it in the mission statement.

5. Make Sure It’s Plausible

It’s okay to shoot for the stars just to settle for the moon, but not in a mission statement.

Being overly ambitious will only set you and your employees up for failure, hurt morale and make you lose credibility. You will also scare away potential investors if they think that you are not being realistic in your mission statement.

6. Make It Unique and Distinctive

Imagine if someone who knew nothing about your business walked in and saw how it was operating, then they read your mission statement. Would they be able to recognize that mission statement was attached to that business? If not re-work it.

7. Think Long Term

A mission statement should be narrow enough so that it provides a common framework for the existing business, but open enough to allow for longer term goals. It should be able to grow as the business grows.

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8. Get Feedback

This is very important, especially from managers and employees.

Getting their input can clarify how they currently see the company and their role within the organization. It’s also a good way to get people “on-board,” as studies show that people are more likely to go along with an idea if they feel included in the decision making process beforehand.

9. Review Often and Revise as Necessary

You should review the missions statement often for two reasons.

First, as a reminder of what the essence of the company is. It’s easy to forget when you are in the day to day grind of the business.

And two, to make sure that the mission statement is still relevant. Things change, and not everything can be anticipated at the time a mission statement was written.

For example, if a mission statement was written before the advent of the internet, a company that use to sell things door to door now probably has a website that people order from. You should always update the mission statement to reflect these changes.

The Value of Mission Statements: Why Go Through All of These in the First Place?

It may seem like a lot of work just for a few sentences that describe a company, but the value of a well written mission statement should not be discounted.

First of all, if you are an entrepreneur, crystallizing the what, how, whom and value questions will keep you focused on the core business and its values.

If you are a manager or other employee, knowing the company’s basic tenants will help inform your interactions with both customers and colleagues alike.

Strategic Planning

A relevant mission statement acts as a framework for strategic planning. It provides guidance and parameters for making strategic decisions for the future of the company.

Measuring Performance

By having the company’s mission in a concrete form, it also allows for an objective measurement of how well the organization is meeting its stated goals at any one time.

Management can identify strengths and weaknesses in the organization based on the criteria set forth in the mission statement and make decisions accordingly.

Solidifying the Company’s Goals and Values for Employees

Part of a well run organization is nurturing happy and productive employees.

As humans, we all have an innate need for both purpose and to be part of something larger than ourselves. Providing employees with a clearly defined mission statement helps to define their role in the larger organization. Thus, fulfilling both of these needs.

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Now I’m not saying that a mission statement can overcome low pay and poor working conditions, but with everything else being equal, it can contribute to a happier and more productive workforce.

To Hold Management Accountable

By creating a mission statement, a company is publicly stating its highest values and goals for the world to see. By doing so, you are inviting both the public and your employees to to scrutinize how well the company lives up to its ideals.

So if you state that you only provide the highest quality products, and then offer something less, it’s fair for both the public and the employees to question, and even call for a change in management.

If management doesn’t take the mission statement seriously, no one else will either; and the legitimate authority that management rely’s on will be diminished.

To Serve as an Example

This is the opposite side of the coin from the previous statement. If the highest levels of management are seen taking the mission statement seriously and actively managing within the framework of the statement, that attitude filters down throughout the organization.

After all, a good employee knows what’s important to their boss and will take the steps necessary to curry favor with them.

Finally, use the company’s mission statement as a way to define roles within the company. You can do this by giving each division in the company a copy of the mission statement and challenge the head of each division to create a mission statement for their respective departments.

Their individual mission statements should focus on how each department fits in and ultimately contributes to the success of the company’s overall mission statement. This serves as both a clarifying and a team building exercise for all parts of the organization.

Final Thoughts

Developing a mission statement is too often just an after-thought, especially for entrepreneurs. We tend to prioritize things that we perceive will give us the biggest “bang for our buck.”

Somehow, taking the time and effort to sit down and think seriously about the what, whom, how and value of our business seems like a waste of time. After all, we got in the business to make money and become successful, isn’t that all we need to know?

That mindset will probably get you started okay, but if you find yourself having any success at all, you’ll find that there really is such a thing as growing pains.

By putting in the time and effort to create a mission statement, you are laying the groundwork that will give you a path to follow in your growth. And isn’t building long term success what we are really after?

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Featured photo credit: Fab Lentz via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Southwest Airlines: About Page
[2] Fit Small Business: 10 Vision Statement Examples To Spark Your Imagination

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