Monday, February 18, 2013

Avoid these five mistakes and keep your customers happy...

Entrepreneurs will fight tooth and nail in their quests to get ahead. Always on the lookout for the fast track to success, we want the tips and tricks to become the next Mark Cuban or Bill Gates and we want them now.

Unfortunately, it's not that easy.

We have to start somewhere, though. No matter how big or small your entrepreneurial aspirations may be, it all comes back to square one. That is; are customers coming through the door? Whether you're running the corner store or a multi-billion dollar web conglomerate, the wheels don't turn unless your customers are helping put money in your pocket.

Oftentimes we focus on how to acquire more customers, although perhaps we should take some time and consider how businesses manage to lose customers. It's rather common for businesses to go downhill quickly. For example, how often do we see the one of the best restaurants in town with a great location fall to pieces under new management? How often do we see businesses experience a boom just before they go under?

Losing customers is a slippery slope. A strong customer base is one of the most powerful weapons in a small business' arsenal. As soon as that base begins to crumble, your business has to work quickly so that its foundation doesn't crumble as well. Is your business keeping up with its customers? Consider the following ways that many businesses today are losing their followers:

A Failure to Communicate
One of the quickest and easiest ways to lose out on both potential and existing customers is by being clear. From the world "go," customers should know how to reach you, find your store, your Facebook, etc. There's no need to make the process of obtaining such information into a challenge or puzzle; if you do, such customers will just move on to another business that's more visible.

Furthermore, ensure that you're speaking to your audience and being cordial at all times. How you communicate, both online and off, is paramount in regard to customer service. Whether talking to a customer online or standing five feet away from you, be polite and welcoming. If it feels as if customers are shying away from you or your business, the problem is most likely yours, not theirs. Communication is a two-way street; therefore, always consider how you approach others and they approach you whenever you're doing business.

Not Looking the Part
Regardless of your industry or business, keeping up a professional look is key. Once again, this rule applies both online and offline. Your business' website should be modern and presentable, not resembling something that just stepped out of 1996. Additionally, you and your employees need to look like you care. Whether you do this through uniforms or business attire is completely you to.

While some entrepreneurs may roll their eyes at such advice, there's no denying that first appearances count. Looking the part will help let your potential customers know that you're putting forth an effort. Ask yourself what sort of message your business is sending out through it's outward appearance, both online and off.

Not Living Up to Expectations
By failing to live up to the expectations of your customers, you immediately betray their trust. Don't advertise a product or service that you don't provide. Never say your product does this when it really does that. Don't advertise this sale when you're having that sale. There's no need for your business to lie or live in the fine print; your customers will see right through cheap tactics and it'll leave a bad taste in their mouths. Chances are, they won't be back.
Customers both old and new should feel welcomed, not trapped or tricked.

Bad Information
Whether you're trying to reach a new audience or client, you're going to need to know exactly who you're talking to before you carry out a successful strategy. You wouldn't go blindly into a meeting or job interview without researching the new company first, would you? Improper research can lead to awkward situations or even cause your customers to think that you don't care. If you can't take the time to research your customers, why should they consider doing business with you?

Every business must take the time to conduct proper research and testing for every new initiative or project they roll out. Don't make assumptions when it comes to your customers, especially if your business is still wet behind the ears.

Coming On Too Strong
Being overly aggressive is poison to the modern small business. You don't have to play hard to get, but there's no need to drown your customers in sales language, useless information and a do-or-die attitude. Instead, speak their language, be cordial and reasonable. Take to your customers, not at them.

Don't sound rehearsed. Don't sound like a robot. Don't cause your customers to believe that their wallet is the only thing on your mind. Relax. While there's nothing wrong with giving customers a bit of a push when it comes to making decisions, don't push them over the edge. Not everyone is going to want to do business with you. Guess what? That's okay.

The Bottom Line
Your customers are the foundation of your business; treat them well and you'll prosper. Don't let the foundation of your small business crumble due to poor decision making or simple mistakes. Are you rolling out the red carpet for your customers?
About the author: Brent Barnhart is a young yet avid writer with a wide range of interests and specialties. Whether it’s music journalism, technical editing, or literary criticism, there is little ground that Brent hasn’t covered through the written word. He writes with the intention of leaving an impression, following the belief that any piece (as “boring” as it potentially could be) has the ability to capture.

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