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Create Repeat Customers for Your Business and Projects
The Snowball Effect
When I founded my small business, Buttonhead - Custom Button Pins, in 2007, I had to fight for every single sale I made. I had no customer base, no name recognition, and no experience. So, every step I took was a struggle. It was an exciting struggle! Still, it was a struggle. I called local business owners. I walked into local shops, just me and my briefcase. I social networked. I made videos for YouTube. I spent hours in forums and chat rooms. I did anything and everything just to make a sale. I worked for days straight just to close my first deal – for $2.00.
For the first two years, I was a marketing machine. I ate, slept, and breathed Buttonhead. As time went on, little by little, I was able to work less and still get the same amount of business. Why? Nearly half of my business started coming from repeat customers! People liked what I had to offer and wanted to come back for more. Many of them started recommending me to their friends and blogging about my work, which turned into even more leads. Suddenly, my business was like a snowball rolling downhill, gaining momentum all on it's own. By year three, I literally sat back and did no marketing, while my business grew by itself.
Creating repeat customers is the single most important thing you can do for your business – or if you're not a business owner, the same idea can be applied to any of your various projects. As people become fans of your work, they naturally want to keep in touch. They want to help spread the word about something they feel enthusiastic about. What could be more beneficial to a small project on a tight budget?
So, what is the best way to create repeat customers or fans?
Every business and every project is unique. You may need to do an in-house assessment to decide what will work best for you. In the meantime, here are a few tips to help get you started:
Treat everyone like a member of the family.
In the age of Wal-mart and automated phone systems, customers have come to expect crappy service. This is your chance to stand out by offering something personal. Talk to your fans. Get to know them. Find out what they think. Ask their advice about what else you could be doing. Trust me, they will want to tell you. Each customer is a human being with thoughts, feelings, and struggles, just like you. Take the time to make a connection, and they will always remember you.
You can never go wrong with free stuff! Hey, we're only human. You don't have to spend a bunch of money on giveaways. Create a cool logo or graphic and have it printed up on custom button pins to hand out. Make your own t-shirts or bags with your branding. Give out free samples of your work. Offer 'buy one get one free' deals. Have a blog giveaway. Host a contest. People love free, fun stuff!
Create Incentive for Repeat Business
Have you ever gone to a sandwich shop and picked up a 'Buy 10 subs and get the 11th free' punch card? Man, that free sandwich sounds good! So, you visit the shop again and again, eating your way toward victory. It's like a mission! This is a great idea for creating repeat customers, and it can be applied to practically any business, project, or product. If the punch card idea doesn't spark your interest, try offering something new each day, week, or month: a newsletter, a product, a contest. Give people a reason to come back to see what you're up to.
Stay In Touch
There are so many ways to keep connected with your fans. The challenge is: Not everyone has the same preferred method of contact. Try to offer as many ways to stay in touch as possible: a mailing list, an e-mail newsletter, Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, Tumblr. Do your best to cover all of your bases, but be careful not to spread yourself thin. When it comes to content creation, it's better to focus on five of the most popular and widely-used methods of 'social networking', rather than have a hundred open channels that you never use.
It's Not All About You
Here's one I had to learn the hard way: Not everything is about you, your business, your product, your project. Many organizations (and I too have been guilty of this) approach customer service and brand awareness from a very stale, broadcaster-like view. Yes, it's important to share your updates, but don't be a spammy, self-centered jerk. Rather than make everything all about you, try reaching out to people. Engage them. Create meaningful interactions. If you get too 'advertisey', people will lose interest. Besides, there are enough advertisements in the world. Good grief! It's time for a new approach, and that new approach is: Be a human being. Gasp!
As I soon enter into year five of my adventure in entrepreneurship, I realize that nurturing my current clients is just as important as seeking out new business. To date, I have used both of these concepts to create a very well-rounded and stable enterprise. I hope these tips have been helpful to you as you build, bond, and grow your business or project. Best wishes to you all!