Are you noticing your small business’s foot traffic beginning to dwindle? Are you losing customers who used to be regulars? We know 15 reasons why this may be happening. Let’s just get right to it.
1. Your customer service is less than perfect.
Think of this as the Disney principle: Treat your customers like gold, and they’ll come back forever. Neglect their needs, and you’ll be stuck watching your customer retention plummet. Every aspect of your customer-care process needs to be operating at its peak: from answering questions and taking phone calls to shipping product and scheduling services. Friendly, efficient and transparent are the adjectives to remember; create a list of best practices, and train your employees extensively. It’s the best way to win back your customers.
2. Your brand image is inconsistent.
The most successful brands are like people; they have identifiable personalities, goals and characteristic traits. If your company suffers from multiple faces, customers will never be sure who you really are, and they may never trust that any of those faces are actually you. Keep your credibility together by defining a brand identity and sticking to it. There’s always room for growth down the line, but creating a new persona for each audience does little but confuse everyone.
3. Your marketing efforts seem like an afterthought.
We all know the mantra: Build it, and they will come. While this certainly true under particular circumstances, it’s often misguided when it comes to marketing. Small businesses need to make sure that potential customers know who they are and what they do. After all, you may have confidence in your product or service, but new clients won’t. If your marketing feels thrown together — your signage is low quality, for instance, or your ads are misspelled — people will pick up on that lack of cohesion and often jump ship for a brand that provides a more trustworthy point of view.
4. You don’t engage with your customers.
This one can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, you don’t want to beat customers over the head with constant contact. On the other, however, if you don’t actively encourage an ongoing relationship, you’re setting up a barrier to those customers returning. The best way to avoid to this plight — and, for that matter, to win back lost customers — is to create a brand identity that speaks to your audience on their level. Make the tone of your marketing friendly, accessible and conversational; it not only positions you as the expert, but it also gives you the aura of a reliable friend.
5. You don’t know who your customer is.
Of course, before you can engage with your customers, you have to understand who they are. Every marketing professional has stumbled into this problem dozens of times: You’re happily targeting a particular audience only to discover that your actual audience is miles removed from your plans. While you definitely want to leave room for the aspirational customers, it’s important to know precisely who’s buying your products and services; it’s the only to give them what they need. Consider launching a focus group, or set up a post-purchase online survey. You’ll be surprised how much you can learn with just a few carefully worded questions.
6. Your brand doesn’t tell a story.
Brand storytelling is a somewhat nebulous concept. It means different things for nearly every company, and it doesn’t follow quite the same rules as writing a book or shooting a film. For our purposes, brand storytelling is all about creating immersive, dynamic moments through a series of unifying themes. Slapping your logo on anything that will stand still is only part of the battle; successful brands weave a narrative about who they are, what they do and why they do it. Google Chrome, for instance, created a stunning moment by featuring relatable characters using the product to achieve familiar goals. The ASPCA has melted hearts for years with its Sarah McLachlan-led television spots. Tell a story that resonates with people, and you’ll be rewarded with years of repeat business.
7. You haven’t made good on a promise.
Whether directly or indirectly, every company makes a series of promises to its customers. Maybe your storytelling promises that you’ll be the brand that delivers peace of mind. Maybe your website guarantees 100 percent satisfaction. However you’ve achieved it, you’ve asked customers for their trust — and if you break that trust, you run the risk of losing them forever. Make a list of all the promises specific to your brand, and use that list as the guiding light for everything you do.
8. You’re not online… anywhere.
Every company wants to be where the customers are, and more often than not, that place is online. Not every brand has a reason to use Pinterest and Instagram, but a navigable website and basic social presence will do wonders for your reputation. If customers can’t find you online, they often assume that you simply don’t exist.
9. Your email program is spam central.
Email campaigns and newsletters are among the best ways to engage customers, but be careful with the pacing. If you’re sending lackluster emails several times a day, even the most loyal customers will reach the end of their ropes. Send only high-quality content once or twice a week; there’s a fine line between spreading the word and becoming that obnoxious uncle who forwards every inspirational chain letter that lands in his inbox.
10. Your website is difficult to navigate.
Customers who know and love your brand might overlook this problem, but new clients won’t stand for a website that makes no sense. Skip the fancy graphics and animated images in favor of a clean, user-friendly experience. You don’t even need a professional web developer to help you get there; plenty of easy-to-incorporate templates exist for blogging platforms, and programs like Adobe Muse let you build a site from scratch without having to code a single line.
11. You’re overly promotional.
Marketing isn’t only about overt selling. The most successful companies spend as much time creating an emotional connection with customers as they do directly asking those customers to purchase something. If all of your interactions are focused on a buy-this-now mentality, many new clients will simply walk away. Pressure tactics are always more harmful than helpful.
12. You haven’t walked in your customers’ shoes.
Before a marketing consultant begins working on a new campaign, he or she will often spend quite a bit of time talking to potential customers in an effort to understand how the product aligns with their daily lives. This is how brands like Dove and Pampers consistently forge connections with their audience: by understanding what customers like and how they spend their days. If you haven’t taken the time to look through your clients’ eyes, you can’t speak to them on a one-to-one level. Never underestimate the power of authenticity.
13. Your wait times are inconsistent.
Though it’s impossible to avoid bumps in the road, consistent lead times are crucial to your success. This applies to everything from customer service to shipping and scheduling; if you can’t create a basic set of expectations where long waiting periods are clearly outside the norm, customers will undoubtedly choose a brand who can. Here, it’s not even about speed. It’s about reliability.
14. You’re not enthusiastic.
Everyone’s tackled a project that feels less than thrilling, but if you’re routinely bored by your marketing efforts, your customers will be too. Try to inject an element of fun into everything you do; whether it’s incredibly friendly customer service, witty website copy or surprise-and-delight promotions, enthusiastic brand positioning works wonders for your perceived confidence.
15. You haven’t given them a reason to return.
We’ve saved the biggest hurdle for last. In order to reap the benefits of customer retention, you have to give those customers a reason to return. The possibilities here are almost endless; some brands encourage repeat visits with special offers while others opt for semi-annual sales or special events. One of the most reliable tactics, however, is setting up a loyalty program. These members-only clubs reward clients by offering a series of exclusive perks. The most common example is the classic buy-ten-get-one-free card, but don’t be afraid to get creative. Give your loyalty program a little extra wow factor with sophisticated membership cards, exclusive events and insider-only sales. You might just find yourself with a few new customers who are intrigued by the offerings.