Building customer relationships should be every business' top priority, regardless of size. But when you operate a microbusiness, pursuing this objective becomes even more critical. Not only can this set the groundwork for future success, but it may also offer a potential competitive advantage if you can succeed in implementing strategies that result in long-term trust among your customer base.
Consider some ways to make your business stand out to a prospective customer, plus set you apart in a crowded marketplace:
Listen to what your customers tell you. Large companies sometimes fall short in the area of customer communications, one of the reasons being that infrastructure simply gets too big to adequately listen to and respond to customer feedback. A microbusiness is better positioned to follow this key concept. Cultivate a variety of avenues by which customers can share their experience with you – through surveys, online comments, polls, etc. If they have something good to say, great! But it's equally important to absorb critical or negative responses.
By demonstrating that you're listening and then acting on a customer's complaint, you can build a professional relationship based on trust and reliability. That can take you a long way toward cementing a relationship that leads to repeat sales.
Empower your employees. The few employees you have should feel empowered to personally assist customers in any way they can, rather than "bumping" any issues up the chain of command (such as what might occur in a larger company). Consider giving employees the customer service training they need, but also authorizing them to make independent decisions on the spot. When such interactions result in satisfied customers, you've taken a big step forward in building long-term relationships.
Maintain a human touch. Your business likely relies on technology to some degree. But avoid falling into the trap of substituting technology for the all-important human element.
For example, how complicated is your phone menu? If, when prospective customers call your business, they must choose from numerous options, it means they're waiting, rather than taking action. As much as possible, make sure callers connect with a real person to get their questions answered, handle any purchasing issues, and so on. In the digital era, talking to a real person is a key differentiator in building customer relationships.
Invest in CRM software. Technology can be used for good, of course, particularly in the area of customer relationship management (CRM). There are many cloud-based systems that can help you track customer interactions from day one of the relationship, such as product preferences, problems and resolutions, etc.
This database can enable you to issue automatic updates of upcoming sales, new product upgrades, and exclusive discounts to repeat customers. Over time, this steady contact (when such contact is appropriate; not as a means of bombarding customers with irrelevant information) establishes your business in the customer's mind as one that respects their interests and needs.
Boost your social media presence. Social media is another way to level the playing field with competitors. The key is not using your Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram platforms solely for promoting your business. Instead, seek out opportunities to share content that benefits your target audience, including tips and "how-to" content that addresses their needs, challenges, and opportunities for growth. Engage in online conversations in your own unique voice.
Social media is also an area where you can respond to customer feedback. A negative comment about your people or your products is almost inevitable if your brand uses social media. It’s important to handle customer feedback in a way that both satisfies the commenter, if possible, and shows others who may see the exchange that your business is customer focused.
Over time, customers can grow to trust a business that goes beyond a hard sell, offers an additional channel of communication, and stays active on the same social media channels they do.
Large companies certainly have advantages in terms of technology, staffing, marketing, and so on. But when you build trust among your customers, such "advantages" become secondary, and there's every reason to expect your microbusiness to keep growing well into the future.