Identifying, targeting and securing customers is one of the central planks of any successful start-up. If you fall down on any of those items it’s unlikely that your business will be around for long.
Entrepreneur, consultant and author Tom McKaskill has written a new eBook called Make Millions From Your Business: 101 Tips For Success which contains advice aplenty on how to make customers love your brand.
We’ve selected 10 of the best tips on how to appeal to customers. Make sure you take them on board to help you stay one step ahead of your competitors.
1. Find unmet needs
Far too often entrepreneurs chase the obvious, which simply puts them in the way of competitors.
If they do little to differentiate themselves they are forced to compete on price, reducing margins and putting themselves at risk.
They should be seeking out problems which have not been adequately addressed, trends where demand is moving ahead of supply and niche markets not attractive to large corporations.
Sometimes all it takes is a survey of customers. What more can we do for you? What problems do you have where the solution is inadequate? What features and functions can we add to make your life easier?
It doesn’t take a lot to find unmet needs. They are especially attractive if they add value to existing customers, introduce cross-selling opportunities or provide solutions which open doors faster and reduce timelines.
The good thing about doing something a little differently is that you do not have the same price pressure. You can afford to make a few mistakes and you end up creating additional competitive advantage for yourself.
2. Set the correct customer expectations
While it might feel good to exceed the customer’s expectation it is usually the worst thing you can do. Meeting that expectation on the other hand is the smartest thing you can do. So why should you not exceed it?
The problem is that you end up resetting the expectation and next time you must step up to better the performance.
If you cannot consistently meet the higher level of performance you end up with an unhappy customer.
Customer satisfaction is directly related to expectation. A customer who receives what he expects time and again will be satisfied.
The worst thing that can happen in a customer experience is to have some form of random result, whether it’s good or bad. He doesn’t know what to expect and he may prefer to buy elsewhere.
If you want repeat sales and referrals the best thing you can do is ensure that your marketing communications specify exactly what you do and then ensure that you deliver against that outcome every time.
3. Ask customers for feedback
By buying from your firm customers have given you a vote of confidence and have made an investment in your reputation and future.
They want you to be successful and want to be proud of the fact they chose you as a supplier.
While this may feel trite, many customers feel that way and are more than happy to give you feedback on your products and services to make you more successful. You only need to ask them.
Your customers usually have greater experience of your products and services than you do – after all, you are only the manufacturer or provider.
They are the users and consumers so in many ways they understand what the products should do or what the service should provide.
They can tell you what works and what doesn’t, what can be improved, how the service or products can be adapted or enhanced to provide a better solution and so on.
Many have experience of competitor products and services and are often willing to provide you with competitor information.
Whether you use a survey, telemarketing or gather customers together for a panel session, many will provide you with information which will be invaluable in improving your business.
4. Engage your customers
Customers using your products or services are familiar with what you do and are on your radar, but what about previous customers – what are you doing for them?
We know from experience that it is easier to sell more products and services to existing and previous customers than it is to chase new ones.
If we neglect prior customers we give up huge opportunities to resell or to encourage them to give referrals. We should be finding ways to stay in touch and engage with them to keep us in their sights.
Think of all the ways you can engage customers – newsletters, product updates, product releases, charity events, sponsorships, customer surveys, special offers and so on.
The list is endless if you use some imagination. You want them to remember the good experience they had with your products and services and to quickly recall your name when they have a similar need or someone they know asks for a referral.
Not all customers will buy again but they all have opportunities to refer you to someone with a problem you can solve. You must make sure you are the one they recommend.
5. Use complaints as feedback
It is nice to know what your customers think and it is critical to the health of your business and to its future prospects. Complaints are one of the best feedback systems you have.
They are independent of the business and if treated properly they can tell you what is happening at the coalface of your business.
They let you know if your products are doing what they are meant to do, whether your services are providing value for money and whether your operational systems are doing what they should do. In other words you are getting a free audit.
While it would be nice to have no complaints and to stop problems before they occur you want the earliest possible feedback on whether the business is operating properly. Complaints need to be given serious attention and the complaints process must include authority to take action to investigate and compensate.
A complaint handed well results in a satisfied customer. A complaint you never hear about or which is badly handled results in an angry customer who will undermine your business.