Customer Loyalty: How do you retain your customers?

There are various reasons that a person or business remains loyal to a particular brand, however traditional loyalty is often forgotten, over price.

Many independent retailers have gone out of business when a large retail chain supplies goods at discounted prices, without comprising on quality. Consumers are prepared to settle for a little less convenience and customer service, to get a better deal.

In the professional services sector, customers are now willing to move to another Accountant, Solicitor and Bank for a better deal, or indeed a different type of relationship. Being with a Bank or Solicitor for life is no longer the case.

So how do you create customer loyalty in today’s market?   Furthermore, where does loyalty come from?

If we look at loyalty in other areas of our life….we are loyal to the sporting clubs we support, to family, friends and our pets.  We want to support people we know and love.  We are guided by people in business when they recommend something to us.  Sometimes we are loyal to a particular brand of phone, car or supermarket chain.

Loyalty is generally built around exceptional customer service and great relationships. In considering these loyalties, they are generally built around passion, feeling, relationships and getting that little bit extra…something we weren’t expecting or didn’t even ask for.  In essence, we often buy because of an emotion and remain loyal because of a relationship with someone at the company or where something they do exceeds our expectations.

When something doesn’t go quite right at one High Street Bank, they put it right, apologise and compensate immediately, without question.  When you purchase a new vehicle, one particular brand presents their customers with a box of wine and chocolates and always returns your car after a service or repair, fully valeted.  One local accountant sends birthday cards to all of their clients.  How often do we get an email with discounts to our local restaurants just before our birthday or receive something as part of a loyalty program?  It all makes a difference to how we feel.

These little touches create loyalty and are great ways for people to speak about your company in a positive light to others.  The end result is that these companies, just by a few simple actions, make you feel special and we return to make subsequent purchases or remain loyal to the service or product they provide.

These are just a few tips to create loyalty with your customers:

  • Make your customers feel special;
  • Remember details about your customers.  Perhaps a birthday, a wedding or congratulate them on the birth of a child;
  • If a customer refers you to someone else, remember to say thank you…send a small token or thank you card;
  • Exceed expectations.  Be proactive rather than reactive;
  • Share useful information if it’s relevant to your customer too;
  • Keep in contact, even when they have purchased.  Your existing customers are your most valuable assets.

Sandra Garlick works with businesses from pre-start through to exit.  She is a business mentor and public speaker.  She regularly advises on business growth and strategy.

 

What is a business mentor?

When I started out in business I was fortunate enough to have a business mentor.  However, this was only for the first 3 months of trading as I believed that I had all the tools I needed to run a business.  After all, how difficult could it be?

I didn’t understand that mentoring should continue beyond startup.  I wasn’t aware that some of the top business people in the country…in the world, have business mentors.

A business mentor is someone who works with you on a one to one basis as you work on your business.  It’s not coaching, although coaching skills do come into play. A mentor listens to you, guides you, challenges you, puts you in touch with their business contacts, helps you with strategy, business growth, and all those things that crop up in the life span of a business.  Most of all, a business mentor should understand your business, be a sounding board and work with you to achieve your business goals.

When I had cash flow difficulties, my mentor helped me plan and work through it.  At the point where I needed external finance, I had someone to help me find the best finance available. As my team grew, my mentor worked with me to get the best out of my employees.

After working through the whole business cycle, myself, from start up through to exit (several times), I now work with business owners as a mentor. I help businesses with their growth strategy, business planning, marketing strategy, access to finance and people management.

What I didn’t realise at the outset of my business journey was that I needed to work on my business, as much as I need to work in it! Working with a mentor ensures that you take that time away from your business to work on it.

The following points may be of use in considering a mentor to work with you:

How do I find a business mentor to work with? Most business mentors are found through existing contacts, recommendation and word of mouth.

What skills should my mentor have?  Your mentor should have been self-employed at some point and have knowledge of running a small business.  Very often people with a corporate background set themselves up as business mentors.  This is great if you are working with corporate clients and need to understand the workings of a corporate entity.  However, does the mentor have the requisite skills of managing a small business? Ask your mentor to see their CV or what practical business experience they have. You may decide to have multiple mentors who have specific skill sets for each area of your business.

How often should I meet or speak to my mentor? That is largely down to you, your mentor and what support you need. However, it’s important to have an agenda and to come away from each session with action points. Generally, mentoring is a monthly commitment depending upon what issues arise within your business. Some businesses need a more hands on approach and this may be where the relationship deepens into a Non-Exec role. Find out if the sessions are face to face, by telephone, Skype or similar. Face to face is best wherever possible with phone, email and Skype support.

What type of things can a mentor help me with? Business mentors can help you with anything. However, rather than offering general advice or support, it should be specific to your business. Mentors can support you with any aspect of your business growth, work with you and guide you.

How much should it cost? Mentors either charge a fixed daily/session rate or a monthly support fee. Ensure that you are clear about how much it’s going to cost at the outset and what you will be getting for your money. Be aware that expenses are usually charged in addition. Be careful not to tie yourself into lengthy contracts and the mentoring relationship should have quarterly reviews. Typically, mentoring can cost anything between £250-£1,000 per month.

If you would like to find out more about business mentoring please contact me:

Sandra Garlick is a former business and employment law solicitor and is now a business growth consultant, mentor, trainer and public speaker. Sandra works with business owners and senior management teams and has a particular expertise in the legal and sports sectors. 

Follow @SandraGarlick @SGBusConsulting

http://www.sandragarlick.com

A Few More Networking Tips for Success…

Face to face networking is still one of the best forms of engagement to generate, nurture and retain relationships.

networkingIn my earlier posts Networking Tips for Success and More Networking Tips for Success I shared the benefits of networking and some general tips for success. Here are a few more tips to get the most from your networking.

To ensure that you maximise your opportunities at each event, some advance preparation is key. These few simple tips should prepare you for attending your next networking event:

  1. Phone up the organisers and ask for more information about the event, its format and how many people usually attend.
  2. Find out what the dress code is. Is it a relaxed event or is business dress required?
  3. Be certain of what you want to achieve and set yourself some goals.  For example; “I will connect with three new people“.
  4. Prepare your pitch, if appropriate. Some networking events allow you to make a pitch or presentation of 40-60 seconds. Be prepared!
  5. Ensure that you have plenty of business cards or marketing materials with you. There is nothing worse than being asked for your card and not having one to hand.
  6. Look in the mirror before you leave! You would be surprised how many people have a wardrobe malfunction or something stuck in their teeth. You don’t want your new contact to be distracted. You want them to listen to what you are saying.
  7. Check the address of the venue, look up the location, directions and parking arrangements. You would be surprised how many people get this wrong and arrive late and flustered because they were convinced it was somewhere else or couldn’t park easily.

These and many other tips are an extract from 101 Networking Tips by Sandra Garlick, due for publication shortly.

Sandra Garlick, a former Solicitor, is a Business Growth Consultant, Mentor, Trainer and Public Speaker. Sandra frequently speaks on various business growth topics including “Networking for Success“. Sandra will be speaking at the FSB’s B2B Expo about “How to raise your profile by networkingon Tuesday 10th January 2016 at The Belgrade Theatre, Coventry. You can book your free place here.

Follow Sandra on Twitter @SandraGarlick @SGBusConsulting

www.sandragarlick.com

Do you overpromise and underdeliver? Vital things to consider before you agree a sale

Have you ever found yourself getting overexcited at the prospect of securing a new piece of client work or making a sale?

broken-dealIt is so easy to get carried away during those initial discussions and promise the earth with little regard for whether you can actually deliver. Early negotiations are vital in sealing the deal and sometimes, business owners can get a little carried away with the “can do” attitude of wanting to do the very best they can for their client or customer to get the sale.

So, when it comes down to finally putting what has been agreed down on paper (or not as is often the case), there is a sudden realization that you may not be able to deliver what was promised on time, or in some cases not be able to deliver at all!

Here are just a few things to consider:

Do I have the resources to deliver?

This could be raw materials or people, or a combination of both. In fact, for the small business the only resource could be you? If you sell a product, you may make it yourself or you may need to ensure that you have appropriate raw materials in stock. What is the turnaround time to get the raw materials from a supplier? Are you reliant on a team member undertaking the work, do they have capacity or maybe they are currently on annual leave? What other client work do you have to deliver within the timescale proposed?

Do I have the time to deliver in the timescale promised?

So as well as needing the resources, do you actually have the capacity to turn this order around? You must remember that each of your clients or customers believes that they are your most important customer. They are! You need to ensure that they feel that way and manage their expectations from the outset. There is nothing wrong in saying, “Yes I can do that for you but we have a two week wait list” or “We have a 28-day turnaround”. The most important thing here is communication and not promising to deliver something the next day, where you clearly can’t and it will only lead to disappointment.

Remember, if you deliver a service, there are only so many deliverable hours in a working day or you will end up working through the night to meet a deadline.

Do I have the expertise?

When you are starting out in business, it can be tempting to accept every piece of work that comes through the door. Sadly, there are occasions where you are clearly not qualified or simply don’t have the skills or resources to deliver. What then? Do you muddle through and deliver a poor standard of work on the basis that it’s the best you can come up with? Do you outsource and give away your profit margin, or worse, end up paying out more than your profit margin? Worse still, do you fail to deliver completely? Think carefully whether you have the required expertise and skill beforeyou agree to take the work.

Am I communicating?

Things happen. If something does crop up, or prevents you from adhering to your original delivery date, let your client or customer know. If you manage their expectations throughout the process, they are more likely to understand and delay. You may not have the capabilities within your business to have an Amazon style tracking process, but communication via email or a telephone call is the next best thing.

Do I have the agreed terms down on paper?

It is always advisable to have a good set of terms and conditions that apply to your product or service with clear delivery times set out, including payment terms and other key trading provisions. Anything that is agreed between you should be clearly set out. It is where you promise over and beyond these terms that things can get tricky. Be wary of downloading or copying other people’s terms and conditions. These should be drafted and tailored for your business.

Am I going to get paid?

Whilst outside the scope of this article, receiving prompt payment for the work you undertake is crucial for your cash flow. It is essential to charge an appropriate sum for the work you undertake, considering your expertise and the urgency in which it is required. Furthermore, does the customer or client have the ability to pay and will they pay on time? This is so often overlooked. If possible, get a percentage of the payment up front and ensure that you chase overdue payments.

Running through these few simple points before you say “yes” to the sale, can save you time, money and several sleepless nights.

Sandra Garlick is a Business Growth Consultant, Mentor, Public Speaker and Trainer. She works with small business owners on planning and strategy to accelerate growth.

Follow Sandra on Twitter @SandraGarlick

 

 

 

 

Tips for Overcoming Your Fear of Public Speaking

ruby wax 11Standing up for the first time in front of other business owners or an audience can be an extremely daunting prospect.

However, the following tips may help you to overcome that fear. Remember…It’s all about preparation!

Build up your confidence slowly…

Start at a local business network meeting where there is a small group of people you know well. Rehearse in front of your work colleagues or friend. You can slowly increase your confidence and you will soon be speaking to larger audiences with confidence.

Tell a Story…

Rather than doing a sales pitch, tell a story and make yourself memorable for the right reasons. If you share an interesting fact, your personal experiences or a useful piece of information, you are far more likely to be remembered, rather than simply stating who you are and what you do.

Imagine your audience in a different context…

Someone once suggested to me that if you imagine your audience in pyjamas that this will relax you!  However you decide to imagine your audience, pick something that makes you feel comfortable and confident.  Alternatively, have a few people you know in the audience and imagine it’s just a conversation between you.

Engage with your audience…

Smile and most importantly…..don’t forget to breathe. Pause, especially if you lose track of what you are saying.  Ask questions, interact by carrying out polls, ask for volunteers and invite questions from your audience.  When speaking, use your tone of voice, vary your pitch and don’t forget to share personal experiences.  If you have a large audience it’s a good tactic to pick 3 faces (left, right and centre) and focus on them throughout your talk or presentation. That way you appear to be speaking to the whole audience.

Know your topic…

Avoid reading from pages of notes or using excessive content on Powerpoint slides, they should be used as a prompt only.  Try to talk about things you know well and avoid heavy sales pitches. Share your knowledge and expertise, give examples and become a giver and sharer of information.  The sales will soon follow.

Be authentic…

Be yourself. Trying to be someone else or someone you think you ought to be will lead you to stumble.  Just be authentic to who you are and you will come across as genuine.  People buy from people and your honesty and natural authenticity will shine through.

Sandra Garlick is a business consultant and mentor and regularly speaks throughout the UK on various business growth topics.  To enquire about Sandra speaking at your event, please call 024 7621 4440.

You can follow Sandra on Twitter @SandraGarlick

 

More Networking Tips for Success

I recently published a post about Networking Tips for Success where I shared my key 3 benefits of networking.

AAW Coventry Open DaySelecting the right networking events and ensuring that your networking is effective is key to the growth of your business.  You need to attend events where you are going to meet, or be referred to, potential customers.

It’s nice to go out everyday for breakfast, lunch and dinner but as well as affecting your cash flow…and your waistline, it will also affect your availability to carry out your work or simply be a waste of your time out of the office.

Sometimes it difficult to attend a networking event once, or even choose the right one to go to, and be able to make an informed decision whether it is right for you and your business.

The following 7 tips may help you:

  1. Ask someone to recommend an event or networking group to you.  Ideally, one that they have found effective.  Ask if you can go along with them;
  2. If you are attending an event for the first time, speak to the host in advance and ask them more details about the event, the type of people who attend, the format and if they can introduce you to people;
  3. Ensure that you speak to as many people as possible while you are there and find out how they have benefited from attending;
  4. Do some preparation in advance and think about your particular goals for attending the event and what you want to achieve as an outcome.  Be specific…”I would like to meet 3 new business contacts“;
  5. Make some notes as soon as you get back to the office… when it is fresh in your mind.  Ask yourself some questions such as “Did I meet any good contacts?”, “Did I enjoy the event“, “Would I recommend it to someone else?”;
  6. Keep an ongoing record of events you attend and more importantly the cost of attending.  Ensure that you monitor the cost versus benefit.
  7. Have fun and enjoy your networking.

Sandra Garlick, Business Consultant, Adviser & Mentor 

Copyright © Sandra Garlick 2016