All successful small businesses seem to have an edge. They have found a way to distinguish themselves, to rise above the commercial fray, to put the "wow" into their business.
In our often manic, hyperconnected world, it's no longer enough to offer a quality product or service. You need to surprise and delight customers, not simply satisfy them. By creating these benefits, you'll create a memorable buying experience, strengthen your competitive advantage and boost customer loyalty.
Consider the following ideas to put the "wow" into your offerings:
- Surprise and delight.
People love special treatment. Look for ways your business can go that extra mile by doing something really special for your customers. It doesn't have to cost a lot of money or involve expensive gifts. Here are some examples:
- A hair salon invited its clients to return anytime within a few days of their visit for free touch-up work.
- An automobile dealership achieved record minivan sales by simply letting prospective buyers take the vehicles home for the weekend.
- An accounting firm offered audit insurance as part of its bookkeeping package, promising to deal with the IRS on behalf of any clients flagged for an audit.
- Sweat the small stuff.
It's often the little details your customers remember about your business: How your staff treated them, the cleanliness of your washrooms, the number of parking spots or the navigational ease of your website. Little details are easy to manage and often inexpensive but can have a huge impact. Here are some great examples:
- A high-end hotel charges guests $300 a night, but guests keep coming back because they love the complimentary bathrobes, free newspapers at their door and gourmet coffee.
- Every weekday evening, a dentist personally calls patients who underwent a potentially painful treatment that day to see how they are feeling. He reports a very low patient attrition rate.
- Let people take you for a test drive.
Make it easy for your prospective customers to sample your products. Hand out free samples, offer product demonstrations, conduct seminars to educate customers on how to use your products or let them take one home to try it out, like the auto dealership in No. 1. It's called give-to-get marketing. It lets customers test-drive your products before committing, and it works.
- Remove the risk and stand by your product.
Some business owners can be overly concerned about product returns, exchanges and refunds. Instead, try to make it as easy as possible for your customers to deal with your business. The simplest way to encourage a potential customer to make a purchase is to remove all risk associated with purchase. A no-refund policy places all risk on the customer and gives them pause before buying.
Look beyond the transaction value of an individual purchase and calculate the lifetime value of that customer. A satisfied customer who spends $100 today may spend thousands in the future. Never give them reason to worry about product satisfaction!
- Remember who your best customers are.
It's easy to create customer profiles with a simple spreadsheet or database. That way you can get to know customers' shopping preferences, create customer purchase histories, send a card for a special occasion or simply call and thank them for their business. Always be sure to obtain permission to collect their information before contacting them, however. Customer privacy is paramount in every business.
When all else fails, consider your best data source: Your current customers. Issue a survey, make some phone calls or invite a few customers over to brainstorm ideas over cake and coffee. Most will be flattered you want their input, and you'll likely get great suggestions to put some "wow" in your business.
Support is available from your local Small Business
& Technology Development Center to help you with marketing, sales and business growth issues.
This story was featured in the October 2012 newsletter
Contributed by Kelly Burkart through a partnership with US Bank.