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How to Attract and Retain Customers

The title of today’s post mirrors the topic of discussion I am leading during today’s New York Times Small Business Summit for AMEX OPEN.

It’s certainly a big topic, but I love that attract and retain are used in the same setting because they are certainly linked arm in arm in a business that wants to build any kind of marketing momentum. In fact, you could argue, and I do, they are one in the same.

Far too often marketers spend all of their attention on the chase and the sale and not enough on the retain and remarkable experience. The funny thing is if you get great at the later, the former will take care of itself.

Actually, I’m not a fan of the word retain, it seems a bit like satisfy. The real magic is referral and that comes from something a little more over the top.

Here’s the system I plan to share today.

You attract by building know, like and trust:

  • You must know whom you are ideally suited to attract
  • You must be able to communicate a difference that makes you stand out
  • You must create content that addresses a need of a narrowly defined customer
  • You must advertise and generate word of mouth buzz surrounding your content
  • You must be in so many places and linked to so many sources that you are easily found
  • You must build a team of strategic partners, sponsors and customer champions willing to help prospects find you

You retain customers by focusing on repeat and referral

  • You must study every potential customer contact point and turn it into a remarkable experience
  • You must develop a customer orientation process as part of your lead conversion process
  • You must communicate fully, often and truthfully during transactions and service
  • You must build follow-up routines that include opportunities to share additional education, training and content
  • You must create a process that allows you to measure and communicate the value you product or service has delivered to a customer
  • You must stop what you are doing often and show appreciation fully
  • You must find ways to bring your customers together and facilitate building community for them
  • You must expect to receive a referral from 100% of your customers and help them bring value to others they would like to help

Accomplishing everything on the both lists above is the secret to success for any business, regardless of industry or geography – there’s actually nothing very hard about it, the key is intention.

If you intend to thrill every customer, you will attract and retain.

Celebrate Small Business Saturday

As you may have read here, I’m totally behind an initiative put forward by American Express OPEN and a growing list of small business advocacy groups called Small Business Saturday. It’s a small business focused effort that asks you to think about shopping at your local small business this Saturday. I’ve written a post with Small Business Saturday details here.

As you may also know American Express OPEN is a client of mine, so some folks have asked me why OPEN is putting so much behind this effort. I had a chance to pose a few questions to OPEN President Susan Sobbott. What follows is our interview.

Oh, and Happy Thanksgiving

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Introducing Small Business Saturday

Small Business SaturdayFirst came Black Friday, then came Cyber Monday, and now, on November 27th comes Small Business Saturday, a day to support the local businesses that create jobs, boost the economy and preserve neighborhoods around the country. (News coverage of the announcement)

According to the SBA over the last decade small businesses have accounted for 60-80% of all new jobs.

American Express OPEN and dozens of other advocacy groups are driving the push to make a focus on local small business national shopping phenomenon this season that, hopefully, carries on throughout the year.

Research conducted by the 3/50 project suggests that for every $100 spent in locally-owned, independent stores, $68 returns to the community through taxes, payroll and other expenditures – far greater than national chains.

This holiday of sorts also presents a great excuse to get out into your community to discover those one of kind hidden business treasures where you may very likely meet the owner face to face.

As you may be aware, OPEN is a client of mine, but you also know my passion for the small, local business. This is a movement that I have no problem getting behind completely and hope you will too.

The initiative is multi-faceted. Here are a few of the highlights:

  • Consumers are encouraged to celebrate the businesses they care about through social media sharing tools built into smallbusinesssaturday.com and facebook.com/smallbusinesssaturday;
  • The first 10,000 business owners who sign up will receive $100 in free Facebook advertising;
  • Business owners can download promotional materials and social tools to promote their businesses;
  • For American Express card members, the first 100,000 to pre-register their card and then spend at least $25 on Small Business Saturday at a small, independently-owned small business will receive a $25 statement credit.