by John Oechsle, president and CEO of Swiftpage
It’s only natural that we have the holidays on our minds this time of year, but I’ll admit the event I’m thinking of most may not be the same one you’re focused on. November is National Entrepreneurship Month and, as someone who works with small business owners on a daily basis and knows how hard it is to grow a business, I can’t overstate how much I appreciate the creativity, innovation and hard work of today’s entrepreneur. For me, November is synonymous with these self-starters who are following their dreams and doing business their own way. There are plenty of ways we can celebrate these entrepreneurial risk takers, and I think the best way I can show my appreciation is to provide a few tips for developing sustainable customer relationships that are critical to long-term small business success.
Starting your own business requires perseverance and determination. You are doing everything you can to increase visibility, and the next step is capturing the hearts and minds of your customers. The best way for you to grow your business into a healthy and sustainable future is by finding and retaining customers. A report provided by Bain & Company showed that increasing customer retention by as little as 5 percent boosted profits from 25 percent to a whopping 95 percent. Here’s what you need to achieve similar success.
Analyze how your customers connect with you
One half of retaining customers is knowing how they interact with your small business. If you’re in the business of service, do you seek out your customers or do they seek out you? It’s important to know that so you can invest in visibility or communications. The great thing about operating a small business is that you are inherently more agile than your larger competitors. This gives you the flexibility you need when providing service wherever and however works best for the customer.
What about product-based businesses? If, for example, you’re an entrepreneur who has developed a software product that you are selling to businesses, are you offering it via cloud? Mobile? Desktop? How many different ways can your product be accessed? Customers will inevitably need to consume or access your product differently over time, especially as technology impacts their daily lives, but you can retain these customers over the long run if you give them the flexibility to access your wares in the way that works best for them.
Know how to connect with customers
The other half of the customer retention equation depends on knowing how to interact with your customers. Operating on a smaller scale means you have a core group of customers, so make sure they know how much you value their business by connecting with them through their preferred method. You should be paying close attention to each one of your clients and storing notes in some form of customer management system. If your customer has recommended a restaurant to you in the past, write it down and treat them to a meal. If they talk about being on their phone 24/7, give them a call or a text. Being the owner of a small business means you get to provide personalized experiences and cater to each of your customers and clients. Your competitor may email them every single day for a month but one well-timed call to your customer can make all the difference if you know when and how to reach them.
Treasure the details
Not to sound too repetitive, but having a select group of customers really does mean you get to invest in each relationship. The details of your customers’ lives will help you customize their experience. Say congratulations if they mention a certain anniversary or wish them luck on an important event or project happening within their business. Connecting with your customers on things that are important to them—even if they don’t directly relate to the business you’re doing with them—can prove to be invaluable for customer retention. Show them that they are not just a name on a page; they are part of the livelihood of your growing business. When you develop your relationships by paying attention to the details, you show your customers how valuable they truly are to you. This will help you forge meaningful, lifelong relationships.
Way to go, entrepreneurs! You’re on the track towards a healthy, thriving future for your business. Thank you for being the creators we need for tomorrow, today. Enjoy National Entrepreneurship Month as you improve your relationships and retain your customers.
H. John Oechsle joined Swiftpage in July 2012 and currently serves as president and chief executive officer. John came to Swiftpage with a 30 year track record of building highly profitable and sustainable revenue growth for emerging companies and established global leaders. John is an advocate for technology and education in Colorado and has been an active contributor to the Colorado Technology Association (CTA). He has been recognized several times for his involvement in the tech industry. In 2006 and in 2009, John was awarded the Technology Executive of the Year, and the Titan of Technology awards by the CTA. John was also awarded the Bob Newman Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Community by the CTA in 2011.