Study successful small businesses and you’ll find they have several features in common. You will discover they are well managed, and have built solid foundations on which to grow and expand. Even more importantly, they all have great relationships with their customers. A successful business knows what its customers want and makes them a priority, changing and adapting to their customers’ needs.
Keeping customers happy may sound an easy and obvious thing to do, but to achieve a loyal customer base to your business you will have to work hard and apply plenty of carefully-targeted research. A satisfied, loyal customer can be the key to the success of your business. They can be much more effective than any advertising you can buy.
Market research is invaluable, so put time and money aside for information gathering before you set up your new business.
Whether you are selling a product or service, there is a good chance somebody else is already doing it. So what’s working for them? How can you make your product or service different? How can you attract attention for your business and persuade customers to engage with it – and try its products or services for the first time? If you’re setting up a local business, knowing your customer is still important, and you have the advantage of being able to get out and meet potential future customers. A local survey can give you a wonderful insight into what your customer really wants – and perhaps, more importantly, what they are not getting from current local businesses.
A happy customer will recommend your services and write good reviews. They will return time after time and help build up consistent monthly sales. So do you really know your customer – and if you don’t, what can you do right now to change that?
Also, know your competition
A competitor’s weakness can be your strength. Capitalising on an area in which other businesses are failing can turn a customer’s head, and encourage them to try out your services. Just knowing the names of your business competitors is not enough. You need to know precisely what they offer and how well they deliver it.
The best way to gather this information is often to engage the services of your competitors yourself. If they supply products or services to the public, talk to them as a potential customer. This will tell you what their customer service is like, how competitive their prices are and also give you an idea of their product or service knowledge. There is a good chance that if you (and any business partners too) make a variety of queries, you will find a weakness that you can use to help your business be different, or discover extra products or services that you can offer.
Find out what advertising methods are working for other businesses in the area, too. Are they running lots of print adverts or leaflet dropping? Maybe they have splashed out on a new website and online advertising? Analyse what’s working before you decide where to commit your resources.
The message is clear: know your competition, know your customers – and reap the rewards.