A Guest Post by Anita Brady
Growing and sustaining a small business is not a one-and-done deal when drawing clientele. Ensuring that your doors (whether digital or brick and mortar) continue swinging open with new and returning customers requires persistence. Going the extra mile by advertising through social media outlets, email or phone calls will bring your name to the front of customers’ minds.
I’m not suggesting that you stalk your clients incessantly with advertisements; I’m merely proposing that you keep them in the loop. As a small business analyst and entrepreneur, I’ve learned that luring customers is only the first step. Prompting their return is a different ballgame altogether. After all, no small business is an island; customers are the underpinnings of your success.
Root Your Business in Social Media Outlets
While word-of-mouth remains the dividing line between great and mediocre small businesses, it’s vital to plant the seeds for your business in high-profile venues. As the business world continues migrating to online advertising — particularly through social media venues like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest — you want to make sure you remain on par with other competitors.
Among the laundry list of intuitive, cost-effective advertising schemes for small businesses, the digital realm reigns supreme. Facebook accounted for 845 million active users as of December 2011, with more than 425 million mobile users exposed to on-the-go advertisements touting brands and other merchandise. Among a growing number of social media outlets, Facebook is ripe with opportunities to promote your small business, and likely will give your business a leg up on non-participating companies.
Facebook is Only Base Camp
Your climb to the top doesn’t end with the creation of a Facebook page. Social media venues nowadays are flooded with advertisements. Users are subjected to a vast selection of ways to spend money and sift through endless streams of advertisements. The sooner you plunge into the fray with a sprawling advertising scheme, the sooner you will draw attention to your business — you will not develop a reputation without jousting competitors for online prominence.
For a daily overview of the social media marketing landscape, check out Mashable.com, which weighs in on how to captain an armada of social media venues by learning the ins-and-outs of each marketing outlet. The intuitive website advises business owners on how to navigate the cut-throat world of online advertising.
Business Cards are Still Relevant
For businesses primarily existing in the brick-and-mortar world, doling out eye-catching business cards to customers, as well as other entrepreneurs, will likely prevent your company name from receding into the woodwork.
Networking through trade shows or small business consortiums with an arsenal of business cards is still one of the most effective marketing tools. Face to face contact can be mimicked but not replicated online.
Think about your card design as well — some may benefit from a simple, elegant model, while for others, the flashier (yet tasteful) ones are better.
Make Your Customers Feel Appreciated
Whether you’re simply looking to net more customers or your business is on the precipice of closure, warm gestures of appreciation will keep the doors open.
I’ve seen promising, shrewd business models driven into the ground as a result of cold, impersonal relationships with clientele. Even if you’re pacing roadway medians on weekends as a flower peddler, for instance, a smile goes a long way.
Think about what you have to offer, and how you can best showcase that. Remember that free food and drinks go a long way — host an open house or cocktail hour, where you’ll have the floor to toast your customers and thank them for their role in your business.
One-on-one contact should be prioritized on a daily basis. Be mindful of your vocal inflexion, maintain eye contact, and give off a positive vibe.
Stay in Touch
When was the last time you received a hand-written thank you note? I get one every year (and a birthday card) from my car insurance agent. It’s a small gesture that makes me feel good about shopping locally and supporting the community through an otherwise boring expenditure.
Set up an email list at your register or on your website, and make it worth your customers’ while. Give them generous discounts so that they’ll look forward to your outreach. Even better, collect their birthdays and send them a coupon for a free or discounted product.
If there’s one key component to building customer loyalty, it’s making your clients feel special. Just like mothers stoke the egos of their four-year-olds, summon whatever motivation you can find to constantly tell your customers thank you. When they feel appreciated, they’ll come back, and most importantly, tell their friends.
Anita Brady is the President of 123Print.com. The website offers promotional and office organization supplies like business cards, note cards, memo pads, personalized mugs and other items that combine high quality and customization with an affordable price.