Show Customers You Care

Competition is tough in small business. Customers come and go and the need to pour money, effort and time into marketing is always there. Always. But in your quest for new customers, don’t overlook one of the most important keys to small business success: turning new customers into repeat customers and fans. Anything you can do to build loyalty and repeat business is usually welcomed. That said, I present here 8 potential ways to show customers your appreciation, hopefully without too much effort.

Offer a “tips on us” discount. This is only relevant if your business or service is one that regularly brings in tips for your employees like a restaurant, barber shop or salon, or coffee shop, etc. What you’re really doing is giving the customer a 15% discount as that is a reasonable tip in the service industry and you can state it as such, but you tell them to just leave off the tip and you’ll cover it. 

2 question survey. Do a short feedback survey at the time of payment. You can do this verbally or somehow electronically, but take advantage of the feedback and post results on the door or as near the checkout area so your customers can see them – and of course post them on social media. Don’t forget to change around the questions and topics every one to two weeks.

Give away a small free item at service time or at payment time – whichever is relevant to the business. Make it an unadvertised addition and tailor it to the patron if you can. If you are a cleaners and someone is coming in with only shirts, then offer them a free shirt cleaning because a discount on suit dry cleaning won’t do them any good on this current trip.

Implement a punch card type reward. Everyone likes to get the fifth car wash or soda or entree free. I don’t do many coupons that aren’t pizza related, but those punch cards are golden.

Run a weather related discount. If the temp exceeds 75 today everyone gets 20% off. Or your discount this month is whatever 100 minus yesterday’s high temp was. A jewelry store ran a similar sale when I was buying my future wife’s engagement ring many years ago. It worked on me!

“You have to think outside the box to get ahead or stay ahead or maybe just to stay in the game.” Tweet this

Offer free delivery to orders over $100 or a relevant amount if it works for your type of service or industry. Free shipping rocks. What about free local delivery? If what you provide in your small business or service, can it be delivered? Not pizza – that’s an obvious one. But if you’re a small office supply provider and you don’t currently offer delivery, try it for orders over a certain amount. See how it boosts your business.

RELATED: Repeat Business Tips and Advice

Walk patrons out to their car at night after dark. My wife was at an Olive Garden with some girlfriends last night and didn’t make it home till 11:30 pm even though she was tired and wanted to leave earlier. But she wisely didn’t want to traverse the parking lot alone so she waited till a group of her friends were leaving, too. Had a security guard been available and offered she would have gotten the sleep she was looking forward to.

Give away pizza with certain size orders. Seriously. Everyone loves pizza. Well, nearly everyone. But there are 13 of us in my family – my wife and I and our 11 kids – and we all love pizza. Do a tie in with a local pizza place and give away one of their pizzas with all orders over a certain amount. I once was asked to sign up for a tech webinar with the promise of a Domino’s Pizza being provided for sitting in. I was skeptical, but as I sat down for the beginning of the webinar in the comfort of my home office in front of my MacBook, a Domino’s delivery guy was knocking on my door. It was just Domino’s, but for some reason it was one of the best pizzas I had experienced in a while. Try it

Lose a Customer

Landing a new customer is hard—and it’s expensive. Sprint pays $315 to acquire a customer and many of the big financial firms pay close to $200. Hopefully your costs won’t be that high but once you get the customer, the last thing you want to do is lose them. That’s why you have to watch for the signs of an impending breakup and take steps to mend the relationship early.

ComplainingSometimes you hear that a complaining customer is actually a good thing because they’re engaged in your company. While that might be true in academic circles, business owners know that people have better things to do than call you when things aren’t working. They get annoyed if they have to spend part of their day trying to get something working.If you find that one of your customers is calling more frequently and the problems seem to be relatively small, that could be a sign that they’re unhappy with your business. As with any complaint, fix it fast and give them over-the-top service. Don’t make them wait, and for your larger customers, be personally involved in the resolution process.RELATED: Turn Customer Complaints into AssetsNo ResponseA complaining customer is bad but a customer that says nothing is even worse. Maybe you sent an e-mail, texted, or called but got no response. That’s a really bad sign and one that should be rectified right away. If calls and e-mails aren’t working, making a trip to the business or job site is the next step. A customer who is ignoring you is likely in negotiations with somebody else.Of course, you shouldn’t let things get to the point of no response. For larger accounts, communicate with them often and for the smaller customers, find reasons to create touchpoints as well.The Comparison GameHow often do you hear something like, “The other provider does this but you don’t.” Clearly, your customer is looking at other companies to service them. If that’s the case, it’s time to go back to the sales process and listen to what they want, renegotiate your deal, and make them happy again.Be warned—this is not a time for defensiveness. Put yourself in the place of your customer. Somebody is probably charging them with finding the best service for the lowest price. Be a partner in that process.
Unsubscribes from E-mail ListsMarketing e-mails quickly get annoying when a person’s inbox ends up overrun with them but it’s definitely worth looking into if a client unsubscribes from your e-mail communication. First, make sure you’re using a program that allows the person to give a reason why they’re unsubscribing. If they don’t provide a reason, make a call and find out if everything is ok.RELATED: What You Can Learn from Your Email Opt-OutsQuotes the ContractAs soon as your customer starts sounding more like an attorney and less like a customer, there’s a problem. If they’re looking at the contract and quoting line items, they’re clearly unhappy. Instead of getting into a discussion about what the contract does or doesn’t say, ask them more personal questions. Are they unhappy? What is the lack in service that is causing them to look at what they’re entitled to?Once you find the truth, assure them, and remind your employees that you’re a business that surpasses the terms of the contract. They will always get more than the contract states and if there’s a problem, they should bring it up right away rather than figuring out what they’re entitled to.Organizational ChangesIf your customer’s company is bought by another company or your main contact leaves, there’s no reason to believe that you will lose the account but you should be proactive about introducing yourself and taking the new decision makers through your sales process that stresses your value over your price.If you wait for them to contact you, it might be too late. Situations like this should also remind you of the importance of keeping strong relationships with your customers. If you don’t know of a change at a company you do business with, by the time you find out, it could be too late.You’ve Quit Investing in ThemThey say that you should keeping “dating” your spouse even when you’re married. That’s certainly true in business too. You worked hard to get them—and it was expensive, but it costs 6 to 7 times more to acquire than to retain. That means that the money you spend to keep a customer is far less, so make the investment. Take them out to lunch, invite them to an event, send them marketing materials, and continually follow up

Create a Press Kit

As a small business owner, hiring an advertising agency to create a press kit that promotes your blossoming company may be outside your budget. But that doesn’t mean you should do without a press kit. With a little bit of effort you can create a media kit that can be used both as a marketing tool to give key customers and also as an information tool that makes it easier for bloggers and journalist to find key facts about your company and products when they’re writing about you.

What should be included in your press kit?

Although there are several standard pieces of information that go into press kits, there are no hard rules about what to include. In fact, you may want to put together different versions of your press kit for different purposes or audiences.

If you’re a software developer who has developed a new app to help landscapers manage their business better, you might have one press kit to use to promote the app. If you want to make a name for your company by having your CEO speak at app developer conferences, you might use a press kit with some different materials to focus on attention on her prowess as a speaker as well as a software developer. If you’re seeking funding, you may want a slightly different version of the press kit for potential investors.

The key is to include whatever marketing and background information that will be of interest to the audience to which you plan to distribute the press kit. Additionally, while the goal is to provide a comprehensive overview of your company, you do not want to drown the recipient with information overload.

Here is a run-down of the most common elements in press kits.

Company Fact Sheet

The fact sheet is your starting point. Its purpose is to provide the press and others with a single place to quickly find important facts about your business, nature of products and services, leadership and contact information.

There are several different formats you can use for a company fact sheet (to get some examples search Google or Bing for “Corporate Fact Sheet” and look at some of the fact sheets from real companies.) Whatever format you choose, try to keep the fact sheet down to a page or two written on your company stationery. A contact person’s name, email address and phone number should be prominent on the top of the sheet, too.

Start the fact sheet off with a very brief description (just a couple of lines) of your company and its focus.

Other information to consider including are facts such as when the business was founded, key markets, key products, locations (if you have more than one), the names of top officers or managing partners, industry memberships and awards, funding sources, revenue and growth statistics, and community service projects. Remember, this should be brief, and you only need to include the information that your intended audience for the press kit will find relevant.

Founder and Executive Biographies

Each bio you include in the media kit should contain background information about the individual as it relates to the business. The individual’s name, photo, professional background and experience and past successes should all be included. You should also include any appropriate stories about why the individual founded the business or became involved in the industry.

Industry Information

Show journalists and potential customers that you value their time by doing some of the research legwork for them. This increases your credibility and can target you as a go-to resource for future projects. Include relevant industry information and statistics, including any white papers that you have developed. Within this document, express how your company contributes to strengthening the industry and include information about your target audience.

Frequently Asked Questions

This all-purpose document is a major time saver for you and anyone interested in learning more about your company. Provide thoughtful, complete answers to the questions you receive most often, particularly focusing on who, what, when, where, how and why. These responses should be longer than a sentence but not ramble on. Be as detailed but succinct as possible.

Press Release

Press kits are frequently distributed to provide background information when a company issues a press release. When that’s how you are using a press kit, the press release should be placed in front of all other materials. You can also include copies of previous press releases to provide a historical perspective on your company’s accomplishments. Additionally, compile a sheet listing any press coverage (with links, if available) you have previously received.

Depending on your business, a brief outline of upcoming events and promotions is key information for the media to have.

High-quality Photos

Photos with released copyrights are one of the most difficult things for journalists to get their hands on. Providing high-resolution photos for general media use greatly increases the chances of your company being featured in an article. The basic press photos should include headshots of key executives, images of products and clips of logos. Action shots, if available, are highly desired. If applicable, you can also create screenshots of your app or online service, high-definition video clips or short audio snippets about the company. You can add these pieces to your website under the Media section or distribute them to the media on a CD.

Customer Testimonials

Journalists are always looking for personal stories and quotes to support their articles. A press package that includes first-person testimonials from customers about how your company’s products or services affected their lives will capture a writer’s attention. These pieces are also powerful incentives for potential investors and future clients.

Collateral Advertising Materials

Add any brochures, flyers, public service announcements, newspaper ads or postcards that you have developed to promote your company. If you have many such documents, choose the most important ones to include. The purpose of your press kit is to inform, not overwhelm recipients.

Where and How to Distribute Your Press Kit

You will probably want to make your press kit available in both digital and print formats. Uploading basic press materials on your website enables the media to quickly find accurate information about your company, increasing your chances of being featured in an article. It also gives investors and customers the information they need to choose your company over others. You may also want to put your press materials on a thumb drive to distribute as needed at trade shows or other events. Finally, you may want to have some printed copies of your press kit available, too.

Don’t mass distribute your press kits. Doing so will be a waste of time and money and will be an annoyance to people who get them and don’t want them.

If publications or individual journalists ask you for a press kit, ask whether they’d prefer to have one physically mailed to them, have a link to download it from your website, or have it sent as an email attachment. For email, have the individual documents compiled into a single PDF. Never send any kind of material as an attachment unless it’s been specifically requested.

If you will be distributing printed copies of a press kit, consider ordering quality pocket folders imprinted with your company name on the cover. In addition to the inside pockets, they should have a slot to hold your business card.

It can be somewhat time consuming to assemble all the materials you need for a press kit, so don’t wait until the last minute to try to put it together. You’ll need time not only to create the documents, but also time to proofread them, convert them to PDF format, upload the documents to your website, have them copied onto thumb drives, or to have them printed.

But don’t let the time to create a press kit stop you from pulling together the materials. The materials you use in the press kit come in handy for years to come. Keep the original documents on your hard disk (and be sure to have a backup copy!) and update them as needed. That way you’ll always be able to say “Yes” when a reporter or a potential customer or anyone else asks if you have a bio, background information, or other key facts you can send along about your company