There are basic principles that successful business rely on and you’ve probably heard a couple of them before:
- The customer is always right.
- Businesses have to evolve.
This certainly isn’t an exhaustive list, but these are the 2 most common principles founders and leaders of companies that have been around for a long time typically share when asked, “What has kept your business successful for so long?”
The customer is always right.
Now, this isn’t referring to John Doe customer who swears his steak is medium when he ordered it medium rare. This is referring to trends that customers dictate in your business. What customers are buying or services they want can change over time. If your business responds to their needs and provides those high demand products or service, your business stays relevant to those needs and hence, to customers.
Providing a laundry list of services and trying to do everything all at once may not be the best approach. Adding a new product or service here and there will be good, but you can also consider levels and different price points for the same product/service. Have you ever bought flowers online for an occasion and been given the option of the “good, better, or best” bouquet?
How do you know what your clients need?
There are a couple ways you can get the inside scoop.
- Listen to what your customers are saying.
- Pay attention to current marketing strategies of your competition.
Yes, it’s important to listen to your customers, but actively listening takes it to a whole other level. Customers want to be heard and sometimes they would rather be heard and felt like somebody cared than to give them the perfect solution to their problem. Are they happy, frustrated, concerned or non-committal when discussing their business needs? Let them know you hear these feelings, let them know what they are sharing is important and it matters to you and tell them at least one way you can help.
Client retention can be overlooked mainly because business owners take for granted that clients understand all the products or services they are getting. If you only focus on obtaining new clients, then you run the risk of losing your current clients, which of course exacerbates the need for new clients. Remember, retaining clients and marketing to them will always be less costly, usually up to 4-times cheaper.
Marketing strategies of your competition may be reaching your current clients, which is why you should be aware of what others are offering. If you are actively listening to your clients and they start talking about something that someone else is offering, be prepared to beat the competition by offering the same service with a little bonus to your current client base. Something like a 10% discount for your loyal customers for trying a new service. What about a referral bonus of some kind if they refer a friend for this same service? You may gain and retain through the same strategy. Client retention should never be underestimated, it’s too easy for clients to find the same product or service elsewhere. The only way your business can stand apart from the competition is to go above and beyond with their client retention. Businesses have to earn a client’s trust and the long-term relationships that result is the true measure of success.
Businesses have to evolve.
Change is never easy, but businesses will inevitably have to adapt to certain things in order to stay relevant as it relates to the customer is always right principle. It may not be in what new product is made available or a new service being provided, but more in the HOW it’s made available or provided. The saying that nothing changes, if nothing changes can be applied here.
You may still have the best product in your industry, but if you are still using the same marketing techniques and you don’t experience current clients buying more from you or no increase with new clients, something’s not working, as it should. Your marketing is not getting results you have to have in order to be successful.
In today’s world, online marketing is a must. Even with services that will always be needed like auto repair, there are too many options for potential customers to explore with a Google search. Businesses need to constantly update and improve their online presence.
Lets go back a few years.
In 2017, there were a record number of business bankruptcies filed and nearly a triple increase in closings, around 7,000. Most of those were the mom and pops, but there were some big name companies as well, Toys R Us for example. Did it have anything to do with their online presence? Many business analyzers wrote about that very thing and most felt like it did.
I read an article recently about a man who had owned a store/deli and had a maintained it for a long time. He reminisced about the people he had served, but in recent years had experienced a decline in business, as people got older, passed away or younger people that were able to buy more variety in bulk shopped at larger chain stores. Now, this type of business probably wouldn’t have established an online presence, but the main takeaway from this is that success for a small business relies on client retention, but those clients won’t be around forever or their preferences will change, so adapting your business and marketing for new clientele is essential. The fact is if businesses want to continually meet client’s needs (the client is always right, remember?) then they have to evolve.
The longevity of a business is the result of lots of hard work and dedication. Observing your client’s needs and responding with what they want and developing new ways to provide it are two principles to business success that must be taken seriously with the same passionate vision in which you started your business. One of the arenas utilized to accomplish these tasks has to be online, there’s no other option today. Business owners have to become educated and get help with establishing a strong, ever evolving online presence.
Calisa Fitzpatrick - Vice President