Let’s talk about what it means to connect with your customers. Every time someone comes to your store or restaurant, visits your website or Facebook page, and every time they buy from you, they have a customer experience. (This applies to nonprofit organizations and municipalities, too where the customer is a donor, volunteer, client, community resident or vendor.) You have a lot of influence on whether they have a good experience or not. When customers have a good experience you have a great opportunity to encourage them to continue engaging with your business and building a long term relationship.
CX = Customer Experience
There’s a new acronym–CX. Have you seen it? Like we need more acronyms, right? This one stands for ‘Customer Experience’. When you are in business, customers make ALL the choices that determine your success. They choose whether or not to shop at your store or call your service; whether or not to buy from you; whether to recommend you to their friends or not; and they decide if or when they will return for more. The good news is that as a business owner, YOU make all the choices that determine your customers’ experience.
“Customers make ALL the final choices that determine your success.”
The kind of experience your customers have with your business or brand goes a long way in determining whether they will be loyal or connect with your business. Of course we all know that if they have a bad experience they will engage as our biggest anti-fans ever. That’s where those bad reviews on Yelp and Facebook come from–that one person we ignored. Yikes.
The Easiest Way to Lose
I had this dreadful customer experience the other day at a book store far, far away. I get annoyed every time I think about it and, of course, I will not engage with the store ever again (at least that is how I feel today). There were signs ‘buy one get one free’. What a great sale for a reader! I happily shopped for several books and spent a bit of time in the store. At check out, the books did not ring up on sale. The cashier asked for my money. I reminded her the books were on sale. She showed me that they did not ring up on sale. I reminded her the books were on sale…and on it went. Not once did she try to solve the problem, such as call a manager or ask another cashier to help fix it. Not once did she even sound like she cared. My choice as a customer was to pay full price or not. I chose not. Yes, I guess I am THAT customer, but she lost her company a $50 sale and a lot of future business.
So, as you can see, customer experience can lead to keeping or losing customers and customer retention is a very big deal. Harvard Business claims that increasing customer retention by just 5% will increase your sales 25%-95% a year. That is a lot of money to let walk out the door. According to a recent Gallup Poll, customers are 9 times more likely to engage with a brand whose service they rate as ‘courteous, willing and helpful’ than those who are not.
What About Your Customers?
How would your customers rate their experience with your business, your products, your employees? Would they say you are courteous, willing and helpful? People will love your business if you take care of them. It is really simple. Just smile, like you are glad they dropped by, act like you care that they enjoy their time with you and be sure to help them spend their money on whatever it is they want. So many businesses do not make people feel special that it is pretty easy to beat your competitors simply by teaching your employees how to smile and say, “hi” to everyone who comes through the door. Beyond that, perhaps you can work to make sure every employee knows how to help solve customers’ problems or at least look like they are trying.
Sally Shopper is the customer who loves your business. She really likes everything about your business that you like. She is the one who keeps scheduling the oil changes for the entire family at your shop. She comes running every time she hears you have a new jewelry collection. She dines out at your restaurant at least twice a month and always brings a friend to introduce to your great food. But do you really know who she is?
One simple fact of business life is marketing and boy do we know it, especially when it is not working for us. We really need to discover some things about Sally if we are going to get our marketing right. Businesses need to know who their ideal customer is. I know, you want to tell me that everyone is your ideal customer, right? Or anyone with more than $20 in their wallet. It’s just not true.
Only people who are looking for what you have and who have the money to buy it are in your market. Even if you are selling specialty gifts, there is a specific kind of person looking for your products. Are your products good gifts for grandmothers, babies, hunters, people who like to fish, gardeners, bikers, moms, dads or teenagers? Would a middle-aged, Gardener Sally or fifteen year-old, Skater Sally both get excited about the items in your shop?
Imagine your favorite customer. You know, the one who buys from you over and over again. Do you know why they like your store or business? Do you know how they found out about you? Do you know why they keep coming back? You should find out, because it is people like them who will grow your business. It is people exactly like them who should be receiving your marketing messages.
Your customer ‘persona’ is a fictitious character that represents your ideal customer. Sally is the ‘profile’ you target with all your media. You may have more than one customer persona. You may find that there are two main customer personas who consistently spend money in your business. Maybe one is the twenty-something college student and another is the over-50 entrepreneur. If you are a restaurant, who comes to eat? Is it mostly families, business customers or stay-at-home moms? Is it because the portions are large, the service is fast or the food is consistently good?
These are important things to know because you cannot create an effective marketing strategy without knowing who your audience is. Your website, Facebook posts and advertisements in any form of media all need to be targeted to the right audience. What they like, what words grab their attention, as well as what media they use to search for products are all aspects of your marketing strategy. Even if you are a very small lawn maintenance company just passing out flyers, you won’t be handing them out to people in apartments who have no yard. You will be looking for Career Sally with a big yard. She is a woman who has more money than she has time to do yard work.
Exploring the traits and behaviors of your current shoppers is one way of identifying your ideal customer and creating the right persona to target. To find out about them just start asking questions. Create an online survey at SurveyMonkey.com (there is a free option.) Put the survey link on the home page of your website. Make a Facebook post of the survey link and pin it to the top of your page. Hand out cards at your place of business with the survey link on it. Or send them an email with a link to the survey. You can use your free MailChimp.com account, because I am sure by now you are collecting their email addresses to stay in touch, right? Finding out who Sally is will get you on the road to creating a marketing strategy that reaches more ideal customers and this will build your business. For a free worksheet on how to identify your ideal customer, check out our Resources page.
Please note that we are not biased toward women, but simply chose Sally to represent customers because women now hold 51% of the personal wealth in the US, make 85% of all consumer purchases and actually buy 50% of all products that are marketed to men. In your business you may find that Sally spends as much or more than Sam, so you want to be nice to Sally.
Anyone running a business knows it is a lot of hard work. The dream we all had about being our own boss and having more free time, well, it was a nice dream. Having a business means you also have customers and customers can be a challenge.
Just Plain Finicky
Many customers are finicky. Demanding. Hard to please. Now, more than any other time in history, they are better informed and less inclined to be loyal. Back in the day, before Amazon, if you were a local store, you could stock your shelves and all the local folks would buy. People did not go online looking for reviews or better prices. What’s up with that?
Well, it’s a brand new media-driven world. Sigh. At the end of 2014, 1.6 billion people worldwide owned smart phones. By the end of 2015, that number would be over 2 billion. In the United States, 77% of the population owned a smartphone by 2016.
In this very connected world, customers are in their cars, at the cafe, standing in line to buy groceries and they are going on the internet with their phones to check out products. I do it myself. Standing in a hardware store, looking at the latest sprinkler with its plastic-non-metal frame, I go online, type in the model number and the word ‘reviews’ and there it is–everything the buyers said about it. Good or bad, it is all there for me to see and decide if that lifetime warranty means anything or not.
I don’t see myself as finicky, just a smart shopper. Like, is it too much to ask that a sprinkler work for more than one season? My dad has sprinklers from when I was a kid that still work. Me, I have a box of watering devices that sort-of sprinkle. So from my perspective, the first business that sells me an honest-to-goodness, bullet-proof, ‘yard irrigation solution’ will have my business. Now really, does that make me a demanding customer? Maybe.
But now that you see one of the real-life challenges of an ordinary customer, you understand how your products provide solutions to your customers’ needs. This includes everything from a gift item for an eccentric aunt, a baby toy that does NOT make noise for an already stressed mom to an auto service package for the business person who has no time to figure out which auto repair shop is the best.
Bring on the Solutions
All customers are just out looking for a solution to their problem. That’s what your customers are thinking about. The first business that we trust and that fits into budget may find themselves the winner of our wallet. So the goal for those of us in business is to be that go-to solution.
You should also know that when people head to a store they expect to spend money. They are willing to pay for a solution right then. Most of us don’t really want to shop online we want to buy it today. So I leave you to think about how you can find out what problems your customers are having when they come into your business. When you understand your customers’ needs, you can be their immediate solution and you will make more sales. Exciting, right?
Check out our Resources to find more help on running your business.