Attracting potential customers is a marketing challenge, converting those potential customers into buyers is a sales challenge, and having those customers return is a challenge facing any service provider.

    Here at DOZ we’ve published plenty on attracting customers and there are any number of sites that will teach you how to convert an audience member into a customer. Today we’re providing some practical tips on how to help guarantee that every customer becomes a repeat customer.

    Nothing below is theoretical: these are proven, practical steps by which you can convert your one-time customers into fans and even brand ambassadors. It might require a small investment of money, it might require a change in thinking, but it will pay off, and fast.

    The Small Gift

    Checking in to a hotel is great when the hotel crew make it simple and stress-free but It’s even better when you get a warm chocolate-chip cookie to nibble on while you hand over your credit card and sign on the dotted line.

    DoubleTree hotels are famous for their chocolate-chip cookies that are delivered by some of the first hotel staff you encounter on arriving in one of their hotels. It’s a small gesture but after a long trip to the hotel and maybe a flight delay or two, it’s a welcome one.

    The first time I stayed in a DoubleTree hotel I checked in at 1am after a 8 hour flight, a 1 hour wait at immigration, and a three hour drive. The cookie was a very pleasant surprise and a tasty treat before my head hit the pillow. This small gesture was still significant enough to help transform me into a DoubleTree fan. I stayed in their hotels all up and down the east coast of the USA and I keep an eye on their corporate website to find out when they’ll be opening in France.

    And all because of a stay that started with a free cookie.

    Whatever the cookie cost to bake – I’m guessing not a lot in the grand scheme of things – it was small gift that made a difference and converted a customer into an ambassador. In your own business you can probably make a similarly small but friendly gesture to your customers and win fans for life. It doesn’t have to be big, it just needs to be memorable.

    Never Stop Serving

    When do you quit offering customer service: (A) when the customer walks out after the sale, (B) when the government mandated warranty period expires, or (C) when your extended warranty expires releasing you from all obligations?

    The correct answer is (D) none of the above.

    Instead of thinking of a sale or a warranty period as the end of an engagement with a customer, think of that sale as the beginning of a relationship with the customer. Offer them service above and beyond what they have to expect legally or what they choose to pay extra for.

    Did they choose your tax return shop to seek out a refund? Make sure they have a reason to choose you again next year – and don’t ignore them the entire year before they do! Send them tips on how to keep their finances in line, remind them what receipts to keep to make their taxes next year a breeze, and point them in the direction of a financial advisor who can help them invest the refund you secure for them.

    In short, don’t see the customer relationship as a one shot deal and limit your service to a single encounter. Instead, reach out, keep in touch, help, and deliver even after the sale is almost forgotten – and give them a reason to choose you again next time.

    Care for the Secondary Customer

    Caring for your customers is something everyone tries to do.

    Caring for the secondary customers is something that can set you apart from the crowd.

    Secondary customers are the non-purchasing customers whose experience with your business can affect the decisions of the primary customer. They include, for example, the spouse or partner of the primary customer or the children of the primary customer. If a customer’s spouse or child is having a horrible time in your store or if they have an unfortunate experience on your website, this is going to negatively impact the chance you’ll win their business again.

    But take care of these secondary customers and you’ll see repeat business explode.

    Walk into an Apple retail store and there are no signs telling children not to touch the very expensive iPads and iPhones displayed within their easy reach. Indeed, Apple stores have dedicated spaces where four year olds can pick up an iPad and play a game or watch a film while their parents shop. Putting a €600 object in the hands of a child demonstrates enormous trust on Apple’s part, but also makes sure that kids will remember their Apple experience the next time Mom or Dad are looking for a phone or a computer.

    Restaurants that really care about children and keeping them occupied while their parents enjoy a meal quickly become local institutions. Book shops that allow all members of the family to browse while keeping the others in sight win points in family ledgers.

    Whether you’re selling computers, steak dinners, or paperbacks, caring for the people who won’t spend a cent will encourage those carrying the credit card to come back again and again.

    But I’m a Small Business…

    OK, so not everyone is an Apple or a DoubleTree hotel. If your small business counts revenue in the thousands instead of the millions or billions, does this mean that you can’t apply the same lessons in your business?

    Not at all.

    Remember that for the hundreds of millions of dollars in revenues that DoubleTree pulls in, it’s a chocolate-chip cookie that costs less than a dollar that has customers like me gushing. You might not be able to put an iPad in the hands of every kid who walks into your store, but you can probably put a pad of paper and some crayons on a table in a corner to encourage families to take their time shopping with you.

    You don’t need to spend a fortune to show customers that they are important to you – you just have to show them that you care and you’ll have them begging for more.

    We’re celebrating Valentine’s Day this week at DOZ. We’re feeling the love for our team, for our experts, for our clients, and we’re bringing you a week’s worth of posts on everything from making your clients swoon, your customers sigh, the exploding Valentine’s Day industry, and a little insight into the romantic types that call the DOZ offices home. You can feel the love with us on Twitter, on Facebook, or in the comments section below.


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