How to Turn Casual Customers into Raving FansOne piece of advice I'm hearing again and again is the importance of taking good care of your "core customers." The customers who have been working with you for years, who send you referrals, and who return again and again to buy from you.
Loyal customers are vitally important during difficult economic times like we're currently experiencing because they're less expensive to sell to: you don't have to spend weeks sometimes months building credibility because they're already sold.
But what if your business is relatively new and you just don't have many customers who are coming back yet? Or what if you just lost several of your business customers and you need to cultivate new relationships?
Can you do something to accelerate the process of turning casual customers into raving fans who sing your praises?
Enter the art of creating a fully satisfying customer experience.
A "satisfying customer experience" means that the many ways that your customers interact with and use your products are designed to satisfy in a meaningful way.
This goes far beyond solving the customer's basic problem.
And this is where the magic can happen.
Customer experience is all about "how" a problem is being solved. And this "how" can be broken down into different types of experience including:
* Physical senses: sight, sound, taste, smell, and touch
* Emotions that come up (happy, curious, interested, annoyed, amused)
* Heart-based connection (feeling like the other people have empathy for your situation)
* Intellectual connection (how you go about solving problems; how you learn; vocabulary you use)
The more of these dimensions that are touched in an appropriate way, the more satisfying your customer's experience will be.
I can't think of a better product that we can all relate to than food so I'll talk about my experience at Spinelli's Market, a local deli/grocery store to which I love going--especially for their awesome sandwiches.
Although Spinelli's sells some mainstream brands of snacks and soft drinks, the best parts of the store are the aisles of imported Italian foods, pastas, sauces, and olive oil and the deli counter where they sell salads and cut to order deli meats.
The awesome sandwiches are made at the deli counter in the back of the store.
You give your sandwich order along with your choice of sides (pickle, a deli salad or fresh fruit or chips) to one of the guys working behind the counter and they make your sandwich while you wait.
I usually use the time to browse through the stores aisles and pick something to drink.
When your sandwich is ready, the counter guy will call your name. You then take your sandwich wrapped in white butcher paper along with whatever else you're buying to the front to pay.
Sometimes I eat my sandwich in the store at one of the little metal tables in the front and sometimes I take my sandwich home.
Those sandwiches always make an impression. Every time I've brought a family member or a friend or a business associate to Spinelli's for sandwiches, they will ask from that time forward "when are we going to that great sandwich place again?"
Spinelli's sandwiches are a great example of a supremely satisfying experience. Here's why:
* The ingredients of the sandwiches are always fresh
* The Spinelli family is very mindful of where they source the ingredients. They support local farms and dairies and when possible, buy from family owned businesses.
* You feel like someone took the time to really think about what to put in a particular sandwich. All the flavors meld together in unique and wonderful ways.
* Everyone working at the store is friendly and you feel like they're truly glad to be working at such a cool place.
* When you're done eating it's not just your stomach that feels full.
My heart feels full too because I've eaten something prepared with thought and care and because buying lunch from a local business is contributes to the health of the community I live in.
Now take a moment and compare this experience with visiting a big franchise place like Subway or Taco Bell.
So what about your business, what can you do to create a more fulfilling, satisfying experience with your prospects and customers?
Here are four steps I recommend to get you started.
=== Step #1 Remember Why You Started a Business to Begin with
Before jumping into the specifics, I think it's important to take a moment to remember why you started your own business. Was it because:
* you saw a better way to do something than what other companies were offering at the time?
* something you're passionate about that you wanted other people to experience?
* something important to you that you wanted to actively support through your business?
And make sure your heart is fully engaged too. When your heart is fully engaged you enable customers to engage with their hearts as well.
=== Step #2 Ask Yourself, "How is the Reason Behind my Business Showing Up in My Products and Services?"
If you started your business because you care deeply or have a passion or have a true innovation, I imagine it's showing up in the products and services you offer. Even without deliberate effort.
Take a look at what you currently sell and in what ways is the care and love for your business showing up in your products and services.
For example, the Spinelli family supports the Slow Food movement, a grass roots movement which encourages people to eat locally grown and produced whole foods.
In addition to sandwiches, the Spinelli family produces and markets a line of Italian sauces and sells made-from-scratch entrees that busy customers can heat and eat at home.
=== Step #3 Ask Yourself, "Are There Ways Customers Can Experience More of What We Care About?"
My guess is that if you sell something special, your customers know.
But if you aren't talking about what goes into creating your products and services, they may not know how to articulate this difference to other people.
If this is the case, you and your customers are missing an opportunity for word of mouth marketing.
For example, one of my clients creates girls dresses using patterns and fabrics from the 1950's and 1960's. I love her work because the dresses are cute without being frilly or fussy.
But there are lots of cute kids clothing lines out there. I felt her products were something special
I suggested to her, as part of her marketing, to share the story behind how she found the pattern and why it appealed to her.
Her stories are funny and entertaining and they help store owners who carry her lines and the customers who buy the outfits feel involved in something special and unique.
=== Step #4 Choose One Small Change to Make so Customers Feel More Engaged and Satisfied
By far, the easiest change you can make is to tell your story to customers so they understand why you have the business you have and sell the products and services you sell.
Sharing your story helps people feel more engaged and satisfied for several reasons:
(1.) They have a way to articulate to others a reason for trying your products and services. Referring others helps your customers look good to others and you want to make it as easy as possible for them to do so.
(2.) It allows customers to feel like a part of something larger. When you share your story those who share your experience or point of view find a kindred spirit to be with.
(3.) Stories are easy to understand and remember because they touch us not only intellectually but emotionally. Human beings seem "pre-wired" to absorb and integrate information that comes in narrative form.
To create more raving fans it's important to understand what makes your products and services uniquely satisfying to current customers.
This satisfying experience goes beyond simply solving a problem... a satisfying experience engages the senses and emotions as your customers use your products and services.
Four steps I recommend for creating a more satisfying experience are:
1. Think back to why you started your business to begin with
2. Ask whether that reason is reflected in the products and services you sell
3. Find ways in which your clients can experience what makes your products and services special
4. Find an opportunity to tell a story and more fully engage your Customers