When working with local businesses and businesses in other communities, we often get the question “how do we get more customers?”.  The “more customers” conversation usually comes from businesses that have a declining customer base, so the question should really be “how do we keep our existing customers, and increase their purchase frequency?” before we start talking about adding “new” to the mix.  Once frequency and loyalty is built, the “new” customers will come, but all customer growth starts with a solid foundation.
 
One of the first important questions any business should ask is: “Why would customers shop with me?”  Beyond price, what needs are you satisfying?  How do you fit in the mind of the consumer?  What are the things that you can do that aren’t easily replicated by your competition?  What sets you apart?
 
Second, ask yourself if the things that differentiate your business actually matter in the minds of the consumer.  By talking to your consumer base, you can quickly determine if they care about the things that make you special, or if they even understand what you think makes you special.  If you say “I have the largest selection of children’s toys in Emporia”, that statement may be important to someone doing Christmas shopping.  If you say, “Our shop Christmas tree has the most lights on it of any store in Emporia”, that’s probably something that the general public cares less about.
 
Third, you must develop strategies to bring customers back into the business more often.  Having simple “bring back statements” that are part of your employee training are important.  A restaurant can say, “if you think today’s special is good, let me tell you what is on the menu tomorrow!” to a consumer, and the addition of a “last memory” of a business that encourages a repeat visit can expedite repeat spending.  Additional “bring back” statements may be in the form of flyers that detail upcoming events, or coupons for additional visits.  Many small retailers throughout the nation have found success in giving people “day after Christmas” coupons as a way to reinforce return visits immediately after the Christmas Holiday.
 
Some do’s and don’ts for follow ups:
 
1.  Do collect information from your customers, like their name, address, email, phone number, birthday and anniversary.
 
2. Don’t let that information gather dust in a desk drawer.  Devise a system that actually uses it, perhaps sending emails, calling, sending them congratulations on special holidays, and developing unique “customers only” events to reward people that have signed up on mailing lists.
 
3.  Do train your staff on upcoming events, activities and services that they can communicate with customers.
 
4.  Don’t let “thanks for coming in” be the only thing customers hear when they walk out of your business.
 
5.  Do offer specials after Christmas to customers that shopped before Christmas.  Encourage volume sales before the end of the year!
 
6.  Don’t expect customers to simply know what you’ve got going on.  They are busy and have many other things to think about.
 
7.  Do encourage people to find you on social media, “like” your page and interact with your business via social media.
 
8.  Don’t treat social media like a print advertisement.  Talk about customers (positively), have some fun and share your excitement with pictures, videos and testimonial posts that reinforce  your brand.
 
9.  Do recognize employees that go above and beyond in communicating with customers in a way that encourages repeat customers.  Hold contests, give recognition, find little perks for the people important to your business.
 
10.  Don’t let the speed and stress of the holidays turn your business into an assembly line.  Treating your customers like they are special makes customers feel like your business is special