There’s a reason mom and pop stores continue to thrive despite the presence of larger, commercialized business entities. Many people are under the impression that big businesses with multiple retail outlets will ultimately lead to the extinction of mom and pop shops, but these little corner stores often have something chain stores often can’t provide: a personal touch.
Developing better personal connections with your clients is often the best way to get them to buy from you and spread the good word about your business, even if you operate a store that’s purely online-based. Adrian Miller, a sales trainer in Port Washington, NY says: “People buy from people they like and can relate to.” To make your customers like and relate to you, you have to take the initiative and get to know them better.
The personal touch every mom and pop store has may be just what your online business needs to attract more customers. Steve Chou, owner of Bumblebee Linens, credits the number of their online store’s repeat customers to their “fanatical customer service”. With very few orders coming in when they first started, Bumblebee Linens’ team focused on providing the best customer service they could. “Getting to know our customers intimately caused our word of mouth to spread exponentially,” Chou said. “And we learned that happy customers will happily spread the word about your business to friends while remaining loyal customers for life.”
Running an online business provides very little opportunity for personal interaction with your customers, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to connect with them beyond the typical online forms and auto-responses. These three simple things can help you get started.
People running small shops often remember their regular customers’ quirks. A café owner might remember a frequent customer who prefers to take tea without honey, and a bookshop proprietor might take special note of a regular’s favorite authors. Remembering little things about your customers can affect your business in a big way. Technology has made it much easier to track details about your clients such as location, gender, age, and preferred purchases, but it takes more than that to know your clients on a more personal level. Pay attention what your customers share and say on your social media channels, or even in phone conversations. People always appreciate it when you really listen to them and use what you remember about them to tailor a better shopping experience just for them.
You can’t convince customers to connect with you on a personal level without opening yourself up to that connection. The beauty of traditional mom and pop establishments is that they tell you a lot about the owners themselves. Owners of small shops often play on their own preferences or hobbies when coming up with their establishments’ decorations and ambiance. In a way, these shops share more about their owners’ personalities than a single store in a retail chain would. This is what gives each of these stores their unique flavors.
Thanks to social media, online businesses are no longer impersonal entities that customers only interact with when they have questions or complaints. You have to give your business its own personality, too. Create social media profiles that share your brand’s story and offer a better look at the people behind the brand. Don’t limit your social media posts to news and announcements. Share photos and articles related to your industry, or anything else you find interesting and you feel will pique your customers’ interest as well. The idea is to let your customers get to know you as well as you want to get to know them.
The staff or owners running a small shop won’t always be the first to start a conversation; sometimes it’s the other way around. Shop owners often find themselves engaging in interesting discussions with customers who approach them themselves. Knowing how to respond to and have good conversations with customers who approach them is one of the most important skills small business owners have.
Responding to social media posts is one of the best ways to converse with customers online. Many customers will gladly @ mention you on Twitter or post on your Facebook Wall if they’re happy with a particular product or service you provided, or if they just want to share something relevant with you. Keep a constant eye on your social media accounts and respond to these posts as soon as you can. Remember to personalize your responses and avoid using template “thank you” messages to help customers realize just how important they are to you. If you need any assistance in managing your social media accounts, our social marketing team is always ready to lend a helping hand.
Getting to know your customers online isn’t always easy, but that’s what makes it so important. Your clients will see the effort you put into keeping them happy, and they will definitely appreciate it. It’s quite like dating – you have to struggle through the courtship phase before you earn your customers’ love.