Starting a business isn’t easy, and continuing a successful business is extremely challenging. Staying one step ahead of your competitors can be the most difficult aspect of owning your own business. Business is competition; you’re competing for customers, you’re competing for sales, and you’re competing to stay afloat.
There are 28 million small businesses in America accounting for 54 percent of all U.S. sales, and they are just the small fish. If you want to swim out of the small pond and into the ocean, you have to stand out.
Customers crave an outstanding customer experience, and yet, businesses aren’t required to do anything outstanding! Put away the champagne you were going to pour your customers as they entered your store.
All you need is to master a handful of basic business practices in order to stand out from the noise.
In November, a woman found a rat sewn into her dress, and the story hit international news.
With recalls of products being splashed across our headlines every month and viral images of disgusting food-finds being shared through our social channels, consumers are becoming increasingly wary of what they buy and who they buy from. Employing transparency is of utmost importance when it comes to your business. Being open and honest with your clientele in as many ways as possible is a necessity. Consumers crave trust.
Know your product, and make sure your staff all receive the appropriate training to provide consistent responses to customer queries. Receiving conflicting advice from a company breeds distrust. Additionally, if your employees are confident in their knowledge of your service or product, their confidence should build as a result and transfer through to the consumer.
Consider updating your audience with real time content, and allow them access to as much information about your product or service as possible. If you’ve just received a new product, publicize everything about it. Let your customers know exactly where it came from, what’s in it, creative ways they can use it. Why not arrange online Q&As where you or even your own providers can interact with your consumers? Think of ways you can offer your customers a level of transparency your competitors aren’t reaching.
Remember, everyone makes mistakes. If you do make a business mistake, own up to it, and jump on damage control. Look at what went wrong, openly explain the steps you’ll be implementing to ensure similar mishaps don’t occur, and express your sincere apologies.
2. Listen, Constantly
Listening to your customer is as equally beneficial for you both; you're showing them that you care about their concerns, and they’re telling you what you can do to keep their business. Show your customers that you have undying interest in them, that you genuinely care about improving their customer experience. Interact with your audience daily, and take any negative criticism on board.
Open online channels for your customers to talk, and set up systems to notify you when your company receives a mention (Google Alerts is a free notification service). Open up your contact lines, and show that you want to receive feedback; so don’t use no-reply emails. Call your customers, survey them - people want to be asked their opinion!
Don’t forget that you have potential customers as well as current customers, so listen to national feedback, and ensure that you’re delivering to the wants of future customers. Three-quarters of people, for example, would leave a store without making a purchase if it didn’t offer a card payment facility. A retailer with an annual turnover of $2 million stands to lose $73,000 in potential annual revenue if they don’t have card payment facilities. Consumers are telling you that cash-only is an inconvenience, so don’t inconvenience them.
3. Continually Collate Data
If you have a customer base, you have a goldmine of data that you should be collecting for targeted marketing, it’s as simple as that. You should know your customers’ ages, genders, their postcodes, how they prefer to be contacted, if they prefer red, white or if they don’t drink at all!
Every time someone makes a purchase from you or uses your service, you have the option to pull data about them, and it doesn’t have to be a long, invasive process.
Run competitions that require entrants to enter their contact details and already you know your target market. From there, you can make some cold calls, and get to know the individuals that keep your company running.
If people are placing annual orders for example, retain that information. Consistently refine your knowledge of your audience database, so you can develop your marketing tactics as time goes on.
Strategic marketing is personalized, so you need to know the person behind the purchase.