A struggling customer base can not only hurt your numbers, but it can affect your confidence as a small business owner.
Regardless of your current circumstances, getting back on track is easier than you think. As you set your sights on higher customer engagement, use these basic steps to carve a new path:
Go Back to Your Intention
What was your original intention in starting your business? As an entrepreneur, it’s all too easy to get caught up in the day-to-day running of your company and miss the big picture. If you’re struggling with your number of customers, go back to your motivation for opening your doors, or what Marla Tabaka calls, “The vision beyond the vision.” If your guiding vision for your business has changed since its founding, explore in what ways you can help it to adapt. This kind of inquiry may mean rewriting your business plan, or shuffling your workflow.
Dig Into the Books
Accounting is not just a practice to conduct on a monthly or a quarterly basis. By digging into your records regularly, you may be able to identify overlooked opportunities for growth. Startup accountant Shane Gibson of Skyward Accounting helps his clients boost their revenue with some simple insights:
I have another client who realized that his primary business activity, which took a lot of effort, only made up 20% of his revenue. Another faction of the business, which took very little energy made up 80% of the revenue. We were able to shift his priorities and increase his revenue while decreasing the effort he needed to expend.
Explore which products or services bring in the highest percentage of revenue and focus your energies in marketing those products. This approach ensures that you bring in customers who support your company’s revenue stream.
Gauge Quality Control
If you're struggling to retain customers, evaluate the quality and consistency of your consumer experience. An ideal small business model values quality over every other factor, regardless of circumstance.
As Inc. magazine states, “ Unless a business views quality as its single, non-negotiable goal, workers will inevitably feel the need to make tradeoffs and quality will slip.” Develop a strong employee training program and a clear method to record any customer service issues or errors.
Value Your Current Customer Base
Roll out the red carpet for your current customer base, no matter how limited they are in their numbers. Long-term customers buy more, take less of your time, and are less sensitive to price changes than new customers — and they bring in the best referrals. After all, people are four times more likely to make a purchase if they were referred by a friend. Go above and beyond every day to support your current customers’ needs.
Embrace Social Media
Social media channels are powerful outlets to build your community. Three out of five small-to-medium sized businesses report finding more customers through social media — and eight out of ten use this strategy on a regular basis. If you're already using social media, evaluate the strength of your messaging. Here are a few tips to boost your impact.
Stay on Brand
Write down some adjectives that reflect how you would like your company to be seen in the public sphere — like helpful, considerate, buoyant, energized — and make sure your visual aesthetic and written posts reflect those brand descriptors. Pick one person in your company to write social media copy to ensure that the same voice carries throughout.
Respond to Criticism and Praise
Seventy-one percent of customers who have a positive service experience on Twitter are likely to recommend that company. Make sure to respond to all consumer complaints (and compliments) kindly and within a reasonable time frame.
Give your company a human face by sharing positive stories about your community and your customers — it’s the best way to build a network of supportive social media followers. Include photos and videos to your stories as a way to boost social sharing and name recognition.
Companies looking for a wider customer base would benefit from a promotional deal. You could create a giveaway to share in your storefront or through social media. If you are less concerned about revenue and more concerned about the number of customers engaging with your brand, utilize Groupon or Living Social to offer a great deal.
Make sure that your company will still be able to stay afloat with decreased profits from each sale and a bombardment of new customers. Once you get people through your doors, give the best service possible and try to upsell products beyond the promotion as a way to fortify your revenue stream.
Create a Loyalty Program
Discounts pull in new customers, and loyalty programs help you to keep them. Create a simple system that's easy for employees and customers to use. Researchers Joseph Nunes and Xavier Dre`ze found that giving customers a ten-stamp card with two free courtesy stamps almost doubled engagement compared to an eight-stamp card with one free stamp. 34% of customers who received two free stamps completed the program. When you integrate a customer loyalty program, follow this format for optimal results.
When you’re struggling to meet your goals, it’s easy to cave to the stress of running your own business. By taking extra time to meet your own needs, you put yourself in the best position to make formidable changes. The most positive customer relationships are built with balanced, content employees — and that includes you. So, keep calm and sell on!
How have you weathered a business slump? Share with us!