Category Archives: Marketing

Stay in touch with your customers

On the tenth day of Christmas my true love sent to me Radar

Tip #10

Stay in touch

Providing you’ve gathered contact details it’s easy to stay in touch via email to let customers know what else is happening in your world and ensure that you stay on their radar until such time they’re ready to buy again.

The more you can personalise this to your individual customer preferences the better.

For help with this see 10 top tips for getting started with email marketing

 


Give customers a reason to return

exclusive offers for existing customers

On the second day of Christmas my true love sent to me…

 

Tip #2

Give customers a reason to return.

Show your appreciation and give something of value for encourage your customers back in the New Year.

Make your loyal customers feel special by putting together bonuses, deals or events which are exclusive to them.

Even if it’s not for them personally; if it’s something they can share or pass to a friend, it’s the gesture that counts.

Set up privileged access to special products, upgraded services, valuable information, previews, invitations to private events, or exclusive deals. Something that’s of value to them, and not available to new customers.

The more exclusive the better.


Going mobile

Does your Business need a Mobile Website or a Mobile App?

It’s only been since Christmas, when Santa bought me a posh new iPad that I’ve started to appreciate the importance of going mobile.

But mobile is no longer new or the exception; it’s fast becoming the norm. And considering so many of our customers are on the move when they are either searching or booking for recreational activities it makes sense to understand what they can do for you.

So I asked my colleague Bulent Osman, Managing Director at The App Garden Ltd if he’d share his thoughts and recommendations on apps and why they are relevant for today’s hospitality, leisure or tourism businesses.

So today’s post is courtesy of Bulent…..

 

“As most businesses consider how best to take advantage of the mobile revolution, the first question to answer is: do you need a mobile app or mobile website?

Having a ‘responsive’ mobile website (‘responsive’ meaning fully optimised for different mobile screen sizes) allows anyone who finds your business on a mobile device, to navigate and read your website effectively. We’ve all been frustrated with our smartphones when we have to zoom in, move left and right, up and down, just to read text or click a link. With over 67% of the UK’s population now preferring to use smartphones to browse the Internet, businesses cannot ignore the need to have their websites optimised for mobile. Not having a ‘responsive’ website will mean you will probably lose out on business.

Mobile apps open up a world of new services and communication opportunities with your customer. You can do one-touch calling, GPS directions to your location, send push notifications to provide offers, send event reminders or invite customers to join your mailing list. Having your own beautifully designed, functionally rich mobile app could provide access to live reservations systems, loyalty schemes and to making sales via mobile commerce. Mobile apps are designed to deepen customer loyalty, increase revenue and improve brand image.

So, the answer to this question should now be apparent, you need both! The challenge is to find a provider that can build you both within a reasonable budget, short timescales and a positive attitude to building a long-term partnership.

Having answered this question, the next question is how quickly can you ‘go mobile’? You need to move quickly to take advantage of the global mobile revolution before your competitors do!”

For advice on how to ‘Go Mobile’, contact Bulent Osman, Managing Director of The App Garden on 0203 418 0291 or email info@theappgarden.co.uk.


What do you want to be famous for?

What would you think of a menu that only had one dish on it ? Or a venue that only offered one option.   Well that’s exactly what happens at Bubbledogs who serve the unlikely combination of grower champagne and gourmet hotdogs.

So why would anyone in their right mind provide such a limited offering. Well lots of reasons……   

Firstly you’re only going to attract customers who like and want champagne and/or hot dogs!

But from a marketing perspective it makes it so much easier to stand out. You get known for one thing, and one thing that you do really well. And suddenly you’ve cut down on all that competition. Now you’re no longer competing with any restaurant or wine bar, only being compared to other champagne bars. And how many of them serve hot dogs? None. So your USP is obvious.

And by only focusing on one offering you have a chance to get it right…. Source the finest ingredients; practice it day in day out to perfection.  You become the go to place for whatever it is you specialise in.

Look at it this way: If you had a problem with your heart your doctor would refer you to a heart specialist. If you wanted a top of the range mountain bike you’d go to a specialist mountain bike shop rather than Amazon or Halfords.  If you need some advice on employment law you wouldn’t just go to any solicitor, you’d go to one who specialises in employment law.

I know this idea makes some people nervous.  “Well, what about all the people who don’t want champagne or hotdogs? That means I’ll lose all their business!”  Yes, that’s right, you will. But do you want these people anyway? We all know how draining it is to have customers who don’t appreciate what you offer. Keep them away and focus on those who do want what you offer.

Being all things to all men doesn’t work. It dilutes what you do. And it means you end up with such a diverse range of customers that it becomes impossible to appeal to every one of them. If your customers are incompatible with one another you run the risk of losing them all.

In the example of Bubbledogs what they’re famous for is the product. And there are any number of products you may become famous for: your cream teas, your extensive wine list, a specific tour, ride, exhibit or activity, an unusual treatment, the best golf course in the county, the place to go to see giraffes, learn how to grow grasses or buy gorgeous gifts.

The list is endless.

But it doesn’t have to be the product itself. It could be centred on yours (and your customers’) interests: local history, gardening (which for anyone who knows me, gets my attention every time!), classic cars, fashion, or photography. All these provide an opportunity to share your interest and passions, as well as providing a theme, which can be built on.

What you become famous for might be the emotions you create: the fun factor, amazing memories, adrenaline and excitement, calm and relaxation.

It might be centred on what else people do when they visit you. Are you used as a base for wild and windy coastal walks, sailing or surfing, motor racing, quad biking, horse racing.

And once you’re famous for one thing you’ll not only attract the attention of your perfect customers, it becomes considerably easier to attract the attention of potential joint venture partners who already have access to the customers you’d love to get known to (and vice versa)  and choose where to promote yourself.

Once you have identified what it is that you have that others don’t, make sure you share this at every opportunity. Tell and show your customers how you incorporate these into your business. Show your customers in as much detail as possible what you do that is different, so they can see all this before they choose you. It could be why they choose you.

Oh, I’ve heard of them. Isn’t that the place that does …….”

It’s very easy to be enthusiastic and passionate about something that interests you, and this enthusiasm will translate into business if managed smartly. It means you are more likely to attract the type of customers with whom you can build up a good rapport and a better prospect of repeat business.

Unless you have a USP or some point of differentiation, you’re in danger of ending up with price being the only point of differentiation. And hands up, who wants to be competing on price alone?


Who’s talking about you behind your back?

‘There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.’

Oscar Wilde

So what do you do to get your customers (or your team, suppliers or joint venture partners) talking about you?

There’s nothing like a glowing review, testimonial or referral to endorse your business. Pick up any research on advertising effectiveness and you’ll see word-of-mouth at the top of the list.  But they won’t say good things about you unless you meet and exceed their expectations.

 

Give people a reason to talk about you

Everyone has an expectation these days for good service. So if you want to get people talking about you and ultimately give you great reviews or referrals, constantly look for ways to go the extra mile to impress your customer and make it really difficult for them not to talk about you.

Do something exceptional. Identify the things that are of perceived high value to your customers but minimal effort or cost to you so you can give added value. Do something to give people a real reason to talk about you. It’s the exceptional and unexpected that gets you noticed, remembered and most importantly brings you repeat or referral business.

It’s certainly the personal touches that can make an average encounter into a truly memorable one.

What is there that makes your offer unique, that they might want to take home or share with others? Show your appreciation of their business and well as providing a memento that reinforces your relationship.

Your personal touches might not be pre planned, but as a result of being attentive to your customers’ needs. Train your staff to listen and be observant to what customers say or are looking for.

Customers love personal recommendations. And they love honesty. If they’re not sure what they want, find out about their needs, tastes, preferences, and tailor your recommendations. Share the ‘insider’s’ view, your personal favourites, what other customers tell you about their experiences or choices. Give your own tips, advice, and suggestions to help them make an informed decision, not the one that will make you the most money!

What is the very last thing that happens at the end of their visit or stay? How genuine is the farewell? How sincere the offer of help if they have problems? Identify the little finishing touches that you can give customers at the end of their visit to leave them with that wow factor.

Don’t be tempted to just copy what your competitors are doing. If you know what’s important to your customers you can start to tailor what you do to meet these needs.

And as you can’t be there all the time, give your team authority to do something spontaneous if they see an opportunity to enhance the customers’ experience.

Whatever your business, reflect on what your customers remember most about their experience with you? What happens in the last few moments of their visit will undoubtedly influence their lasting impression. Leave your customers with that little touch of magic that will stay with them for weeks, months or even years to come. So when someone asks them of THE place to go for that special occasion, fun day out, or indulgent treat it’s you that comes instantly to mind.

 

Create a social media buzz

Once you’re confident that people are saying the right things about you, get some of it in writing, so instead of just telling their friends they tell the world!

I personally still love an old-fashioned guest or visitors book for people to write their comments. But of course these only get seen by you and your other customers so encourage them to get the message further afield. If you’ve had a glowing comment in your visitors’ book, start off by asking if they’d be happy if you use that as a testimonial on your website. (And it adds even more credibility if you can get a photo of them or even a video!)

Then encourage them to get the word out there on social media. TripAdvisor is the obvious place to start, but encourage them to get talking about you on other social media networks which are most suited to your target audience, be that Facebook, twitter, etc. Again even better if they add photos tagged with the name of your business or other key words.

But please make it easy for them. Give them the link to your page rather than leaving them to hunt it down for themselves, because the chances are they won’t.

 

Get referrals

Referrals go one step further and are a great way to build your customer base – if a person comes to you as a result of a referral, you don’t need to go out and find them. The person who made the referral has already experienced what you offer and will do the selling for you.

And, even better, referrals build loyalty with the people who recommend you – they will want to be seen to stand by their referral by continuing to come to you themselves.

But referrals, just like reviews, won’t always happen unless you ask for them.

The obvious people to ask for referrals are your existing customers. Focus on those customers who are your ‘perfect customers’ as the people they refer will be a better match to your preferred type of customer (people generally know and mix with other people like themselves).

Think about other people who know you well enough to recommend you. This might include colleagues, suppliers, your own team and others in your network. This will be easier the better they know you and when they fully understand the extent of everything you offer.

 

Make it easy

If you don’t ask you don’t get.  So ask customers (and others in your network) directly who else they know who may be interested in your promotions or forthcoming events.  The sooner you do this after they have stayed or visited the better. This is the time they are likely to be most positive about what you delivered.

The way you ask for referrals is key. If you ask:

“Do you know anyone who might be interested in receiving details of our promotions?”

you are likely to get  Noor at best  I’ll think about it.”

But if you ask a specific question, for example:

Who else do you know who is celebrating [their birthday, wedding anniversary, retirement …] in the next few months and may be interested in our [all-inclusive weekend breaks, wine promotion…]?”

“What other groups are you connected with who love..[ walking, cycling, floristry, local history….., etc]  and would be interested in our ….[exclusive programs, off season tours….]?”

 

Creating a simple referral form that you include with the bill or at the end of their visit can encourage existing customers to make referrals. Make this prominent, and offer incentives for them to give you names.

Maintain relationships with your customers, even if the likelihood of more business with them personally is limited. They are more likely to refer you to friends, colleagues or others if they have had recent communication from you.

Even if a customer only visits you once, remember, they have a network of friends and colleagues who may also be your ideal customers. The lifetime value of one customer can be their connections to other customers, too.

 

Reward reviews and referrals

If someone gives you a glowing review take the trouble to say thank you. Set up alerts and notifications so you can track what and when people are talking about you.  It demonstrates to others that you appreciate the feedback and don’t just take it for granted.

And if someone gives you a referral as an absolute minimum ensure that you thank them in person. Don’t wait to see if this actually leads to business, as what you are looking to reward is the referral process. The more referrals you have the greater the likelihood of gaining new customers.

Consider what other tangible incentives you might give that are of high value to the person making the referral, but at a low cost to you. Just ensure that the cost of the incentive does not outweigh the value of the referral. The nature of this incentive will obviously depend on where the referral came from, and what they’ll appreciate. Incentives don’t need to be cash; but they might include such things as a gift, an upgrade or bonus with their next visit, an invitation to an event, or an offer unique to your business.

 

Follow up

Once someone has gone to the trouble of giving you a referral the very least you can do is follow it up. Immediately.

Once you have a referral system in place, keep track of where and how you’re getting successful referrals. This will enable you to find out what works and what doesn’t, so you can refine the process.

 

Summary

So remember:

  • What are you doing to deliver exceptional customer service to encourage great reviews and referrals?
  • How do you make it easy for your customers to get the word out there to your perfect customers?
  • What systems do you have in place or need to set up to generate referrals?
  • How will you recognise and reward those who give you reviews and referrals?

Have you written all your thank you letters yet?

As many parents know at this time of year you often have to nag relentlessly to get your children to write their Christmas thank you letters.

But have you been setting the right example? Have you written to everyone who’s given up their time and money to do business with you either over Christmas or over the past year?

I have to confess I’m not a great one for sending Christmas cards to business contacts. Let’s face it, your Christmas card probably gets lost in a sea of other cards leading up to Christmas.

But sending something after Christmas; after the turkey’s being eaten, the tree’s come down and the cards have been binned, sending something of value to your customers is more likely to get to your customers attention and have longevity.

And I’m not talking here about bombarding people purely with a multitude of offers and promotions showing how desperate you are for business during the quieter months of the year. This doesn’t mean to say you can’t tell them about what’s coming up but do it in such a way that makes them feel appreciated.

Say thank you

Send something that shows you appreciate their custom. As a minimum this might be a simple as a broadcast e-mail to everybody on your mailing list, or homing in on those who have booked Christmas or seasonal events with you. Particularly think about those people who have been guests of your existing customers, maybe as part of a party and who have visited you for the first time.

But maybe you want to do a little bit more for your special customers; those that have been your perfect customers and you’d like to see a lot more of (and the chances are they’ll know lots of other people just like themselves, who they might be inclined to tell about you), the organisers of events, anyone who has made referrals that’s brought you extra business over the year, for giving you a glowing testimonial or review, or simply because they put their trust and faith in you to deliver something extraordinary for a special occasion.

A simple personalised thank you note will not only show your appreciation, but it will give them something to remember you by – especially if it is handwritten and tailored to them. There’s nothing quite like something sent by good old-fashioned snail mail with a handwritten signature (and not on stuffy, formal business stationery) to get someone’s attention.  Even better, if the whole message is handwritten on a hand-picked greetings card. Try to find a card that reflects something about that particular customer.

Some think in this web based age this is out dated; how would your customers react to receiving something in the post, rather than clogging up their email inbox?

Ask for feedback

A follow up thank you is also a great opportunity to get feedback too. Ask them about their experience and whether they’d do business with you again. Did it meet or exceed their expectations? Ask for specifics such as what they enjoyed most and any ideas, comments or suggestions they have to make the experience even better. If they’ve had a good experience prompt them to post feedback on review sites appropriate for your business such as TripAdvisor.  Make it easy for them by providing a link to the review site too. And don’t forget to thank them again when they give you feedback. Even if it’s not all glowing and what you want to hear, wouldn’t you rather know about it so you can put it right?

Rewarding loyalty

You might choose to show your appreciation with something more tangible such as a small gift, an exclusive offer for themselves or a friend, or maybe even relevant and useful information or tips that’s relevant to your business and customers’ interests.

The law or reciprocity means that if you give something to your loyal customers you are setting the stage for them to do something for you in return. Whether this is repeat business, a referral or maybe a testimonial, any one of these will add benefit to your business.  So the more you can do to show your appreciation the greater the chance of staying on their radar and of them remaining loyal to you.

Mark key milestones in your relationship: thank them when they’ve been with you for a year, and on each subsequent anniversary, when they’ve concluded a big event, when you’ve worked with them on a big project or programme or when they’ve just upgraded to a particular level of service.

When enough is enough

One of the things I get asked about most with e-mail marketing is how often can you contact customers without annoying them. Well you certainly don’t want to be branded as a spammer.

I read this comment on TripAdvisor for a hotel only yesterday

“A nice hotel, friendly staff, breakfast ok, ……..  BUT: since I spent 2 days there I get mails and mails and mails about everything and nothing. I asked them twice to delete my data but nothing happened and they lavish me with newsletters.”

Not really the sort of thing that you want to get.

So three lessons here:

  1. Give your customers something of value; something that they really want to read or receive (and if you don’t know what this might be, try asking them)
  2. If you’re going to be sending a series of messages (supposed to a one-off thank you or confirmation) always seek permission and include a way to opt out if they choose
  3. Have a full proof system in place to ensure people are taken off your mailing list the moment they ask you to

Remember, a customer is special and the aim is to build a loyal relationship.

And of course thank yous don’t just happen at Christmas, but whenever a customer has had a choice, but chose to do business with you.


I saw this and thought of you

Don’t you just love it when you open up a gift, and it’s perfect for you?

Whether for Christmas, birthday or simply because someone says ”I saw this and thought of you, and I knew I just had to get it for you!” It feels really good that somebody’s gone to the trouble of finding something that they knew that you’d love.

You’re perhaps surprised that they paid attention to something you’ve mentioned in passing or you feel humbled that they’ve gone to so much trouble to find the exact match of something you’ve always wanted, or feel touched that they know you so well that they’ve managed to find a gift that you didn’t even know you needed!

Wouldn’t it be great if we could get our customers to feel that way about what we give them?

When you’re choosing gifts for others are you the type of person who spots something earlier in the year and thinks “Oh, that would be perfect for ___”  and buys it there and then, (and probably by now has everything wrapped and ready), or do you tend to leave everything to the last minute?

Whichever category you are in the chances are you have that person in mind when you buy their present in the hope you’ll get some of the emotions described above..

You’ll perhaps imagine their reaction to your gift, is it something that they’ll like, or picture them using it or wearing it depending on what it is. You might also think about what it says about your relationship; is it too extravagant, is it too small, will it offend in anyway, is it sending the wrong message?

This might not be conscious considerations but the chances are some of these will cross our minds whilst making a choice.

The same principles should apply when making decisions about what we offer our customers.

Twice in the last week I’ve been having discussions with clients about their target market and how important it is to be absolutely crystal clear on who their offer is intended for, in exactly the same way as we would determine who we’re buying a gift for.

If we don’t have a particular type of customer in mind it’s nigh on impossible to really meet anyone’s expectations.

It’s too tempting to try to appeal to everyone and end up pleasing no one. It doesn’t mean to say that you won’t have a range of different types of customers, but it does mean you might have different offers, different messages and use different media for each of those target markets. Just as you would give different presents for each of your friends or family.

So let’s look at a couple of examples. 

Let’s say for example you are a visitor attraction.

You might have some activities which are geared towards the family market, whilst having others that are more suited to testosterone filled adrenaline junkies. So the chances are these will be very different and very distinct activities for your two different markets. Therefore initially the way in which you describe those two contrasting activities would be very different, and the messages that you want to convey will also be totally different.

Whereas the family you may want to emphasise safety, doing things together, education or creativity, for the grown-up fun you want to stress the challenge, excitement, competitiveness, thrill, and so on. The chances are that your audience are going to be ‘hanging out’ in totally different places as well, so the medium you use to get your message out to them will be quite different.

The same might apply for a therapist or salon.

This time the treatments you offer might be very similar, but the packages and the way you structure these might be quite different for, let’s say, a pamper party, with the emphasis on fun and indulgence, compared to an in company de-stress day where the focus might be more on employee benefits or reducing absenteeism.

Let’s look at the example of a hotel where this time you might have the same guest, but they may stay in your hotel in very different circumstances.

On the one hand a guess might be booking with you for company business where the emphasis might be an away-day to focus to work on a key project, or to entertain a key client. Compare this to the same guest staying or dining with you for leisure with family and friends, where their expectations and requirements are more likely to be geared towards relaxation are getting away from the pressures of work. So quite, quite different.

So each of these situations, just like choosing a gift, by having a very clear picture of your target market in mind helps you create the right offer, the right message to attract your customer’s attention, and enables you to decide on the right medium to get your message in front of your customer.

And in the same way it’s really hard to choose a gift for somebody that we don’t know really well, it’s really hard to get the right offer and the right message and the right medium if we don’t know our customers.

So be as specific as possible and go into as much detail as possible about each of your customers and have them absolutely forefront of your mind in any of your marketing communications.


Batteries not included

How to get your customers spending more and thanking you for it

One of the ways to grow your sales is to increase the spend of each of your customers each time they visit or buy from you. They’ve already bought from you so they now know you, hopefully like what you have offered them, and by now they’ll be able to trust you. So you already have a relationship.

The challenge is we (and our team) often feel reluctant to “upsell”. We don’t want to be pushy or be seen to be manipulating customers into buying something they don’t want.

But just think about it for a moment….

How would you feel on Christmas morning when your child (or grandchild) excitedly opens their new toy and wants to play with it right now. They turn to you and say “But Daddy, it’s not working”. You then see those words “Batteries not included”?

Imagine the disappointment.

Or you buy them that electric guitar they’ve craved for so long, and all they want to do all through the holidays is practise on it…….. And at the point you are about to pull the plug on it (quite literally) a friends says “But didn’t you get them a set of headphones too?”

If only someone had suggested this sooner!

Rather than feeling uncomfortable about someone trying to sell you something you didn’t want or need you’d probably be frustrated or even annoyed if they hadn’t suggested the additional items such as the batteries or the headphones.

Equally when somebody is coming to us to have a good time, by letting them know about other products or services that might complement what they’re already having or doing, you can really help to enhance the whole experience. (As well as helping your bottom line!)

Wikipedia describes upselling as ‘a sales technique whereby a salesperson induces the customer to purchase more expensive items, upgrades, or other add-ons in an attempt to make a more profitable sale’. I’m not sure I like this description as it implies it’s very one sided in favour of the business, with little benefit to the customer at all.

Although upselling usually involves marketing more profitable services or products, it can also be simply exposing the customer to other options he or she may not have considered previously. Upselling implies selling something that is more profitable or otherwise preferable for the seller instead of the original sale’.

But is it just about increasing the customer spend, or is it also about giving the customer a better all round experience, giving them something they might have forgotten to order, or never even thought of?

So instead thinking “upsell” think in terms of “adding value”.

 

What to promote

So in order to do this effectively the first thing is to determine which are the products or services you wish to promote.  It obviously makes sense to be promoting high profit items, but there can be a danger in using this as the only criteria.

Unless what you are promoting is perceived as value to the customer, it’s unlikely the sale will be achieved, and does little to build your customer’s loyalty or trust.  It’s also important to distinguish between high selling price and profitability and appropriateness to meet the customers’ needs.  For example upselling to a more expensive bottle of wine when it does not appeal to the customers tastes, or upselling an annual admission ticket to someone who doesn’t live locally and is unlikely to make use of it.  You end up with an unhappy and disgruntled customer. So a very short term gain on your part, and hardly likely to lead to a naturally loyal customer.

 

Spot the opportunities

Look at all the situations that lend themselves as an opportunity to add value – not just in everyone’s own department – but across all areas.

Know your audience and review the buying patterns of your most profitable customers; what types of things do they frequently buy together?

Put yourself in their shoes; what might be a logical accompaniment for the main thing they are buying (in the same way that batteries are a logical purchase if you’re buying a toy that runs on batteries).

  • At salons – If clients are looking to get glam for a special occasion, would they like to get their nails done whilst having their hair done, or take home a special lotion to complete their beauty regime
  • For hotels – options on accommodation – room upgrades, special packages, champagne in rooms, recommending quiet times for spa or fitness centre
  • In the restaurant – bottled water, suggestions for starters, accompaniments, side orders, deserts, desert wine, specialist coffees, after dinner drinks
  • Attractions and museums – upgrading to annual tickets, access to exclusive areas, invitations to special events, cross promoting concessions’ facilities such as the café.
  • At the bar or cafe – branded beers, snack items, pastries with their coffee
  • Follow ups – Does your service warrant an ongoing programme of sessions for best results, e.g. therapies, sports lessons, beauty treatments

I’m sure you’ll have many more specifics for your own operation.

Think ahead and try to anticipate things your customers might appreciate.

For example if someone is coming to you to buy a gift or to treat someone for a special occasion think ahead to what else they might be looking for such as gift wrapping, or card, champagne, flowers, celebration cake, etc

If what you provide involves the great outdoors and braving the elements what else might your customers need or want so that their experiences aren’t marred by bad weather? Having appropriate wet weather gear, hip flasks, and umbrellas are just a couple of things you might think of making available.

(There may be plenty of additional opportunities to team up with other businesses who share your customers, but let’s save that for another day…)

 

Tell your customers

Don’t rely on telepathy for your customers to know what’s on offer! Have other products on show and give plenty of information on other services. And let customers know the benefits.

Ensure you and your team are able to talk confidently about each of the products and services available. You can’t sell something you don’t understand (think Curry’s on a Saturday afternoon, when you ask a newbie 16 year old sales assistant about the features of the TV you’re looking to buy……)

Allow your team to experience all the products and services first hand – this will not only make them more memorable, there will be more willingness to promote if they are confident to talk about it, and it will certainly be easier to evoke emotional appeal through vivid descriptions of feel, taste, smell, if they’ve experienced them themselves.

It’s also about timing.  If you’re offering something that needs time to enjoy or savour, there’s no point telling them about it just as they are about to leave.

However, it’s always going to be easier to sell something of lower value at the end of the ‘sale’. Take for example when you buy a new suit, and you then get offered a shirt to go with it. The price of the shirt by comparison is small, so it’s an easy sale. Done the other way round has a very different result.

Judge your customers and when is the ‘right time’. For example in a restaurant selling desserts – ask too soon and people say they are still too full, and go straight on to coffee, ask too late and they have gone off the idea, and want to head off home. So it’s sometimes a fine line.

 

Train your team

Demonstrate to your team the importance of offering additional items to add value for your customers. Allow them to practise:  for example how to ask open questions to identify customers’ needs and how to respond and make suggestions.

It’s all very well knowing what to say, but you know how sometimes when you come to say something the words just don’t trip off the tongue as you might hope!  Let your team practise in a safe environment, based on different scenarios. And most importantly give them authority to look for opportunities and make suggestions and personal recommendations.

It all adds up to giving value, and making sure your customers don’t leave without their batteries….

 

Join me on my free webinar on Monday 3rd December “7 keys to staying on your customers’ radar to get the easy business that’s right under your nose”     Click here to register

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5 Keys to Customer Loyalty

Why is loyalty important

There are only 3 ways to get more sales – get new customers, get customers to spend more, and get customers to come back more often.  Most businesses focus all their marketing efforts on the first option of getting more customers and miss the easier option of getting more sales from existing customers. It’s certainly a lot harder  (and more expensive) to gain a new customer than it does in getting repeat business from your existing ones.

So whatever your business be it a bar, hotel, B&B or restaurant, any business needs to place as strong an emphasis on keeping existing customers as it does on gaining new ones.

What you are doing to convert this extra business into loyal customers who will return time and again?

Loyal customers who know, like and trust you are also far more likely to refer you to others. So even if a repeat visit isn’t on the cards they may still generate more business for you indirectly.

Here are five key factors in establishing customer loyalty. None of these are new or revolutionary, but there may be one or two areas where you may want to make some minor changes to be making the best of the opportunities.

 

Understand and Love your customers

I won’t dwell on this point as I covered this in a recent post, but bear in mind no one will want to do business with you if there’s no rapport between you. The more at ease you are and the more you have in common with your customers the better you’ll feel and the better the experience they have too.

Show you understand your customers’ needs. The more you get to know your customers the easier it is to anticipate their needs, and deliver what they want on a consistent basis to keep them satisfied. Keep up-to-date with what your customers want from you by listening to them. Get to know your customers and be visible in your bar, restaurant or hotel, making personal contact with your customers to build rapport and trust. They are then far more likely to tell you what they want and what would encourage them to return.

Avoid being so bound by your own rules that you can’t be flexible. If they’d like something from the restaurant menu in the bar, or a dish from the a la carte to replace something on the table d’hôtel is it such an issue? If a guest wants a lie in and would like breakfast at 11.30, is this really that big a problem if it means they enjoy their stay and tell their friends? If they’d like to take their desert home in a goody bag because they are too full to enjoy it, then let them.

 

Giving Outstanding Service

Get the basics right. Ensure your customers’ second, third, or 30th visit is as good as their first. Have systems in place to ensure you’re able to deliver the same level of service on a consistent basis. Take the customer journey regularly, and see everything from a customer’s perspective. Be sure to under promise and over deliver. With regular customers this means continuous improvement, as they will have set expectations, which we need to strive to exceed on every visit. Simple things delivered well will always be better than trying to be over sophisticated and delivering it badly.

Wow your customer Do something different that help you to stand out from your competition. Home in on the things that are of high value to your customers but low cost to you so you can give added value. Give people a reason to talk about you. Always look for an opportunity to go that extra mile to wow your customer to make it really difficult for them to ever contemplate not coming back to you. Always leave them with that open invitation and tempt them to return.

Last impressions. What will your customers remember most about their visit to your bar, hotel or restaurant? What happens in the last few moments of their visit that will undoubtedly influence their lasting impression? Show you appreciate their custom; a sincere thank you in person goes a long way. Give them a little memento to take home with them as a lasting reminder: a box of homemade petit fours, jam or pickles or gift bag of your exclusive toiletries for your leisure guests, or quality logoed accessories for your corporate market. Obviously this needs to be in line with your margins, but even something as small as a print out of the ingredients of their favourite cocktail or the recipe of a dish they asked about, or printing out directions for their onward journey.

 

Spot Your opportunities

Listen to customers so you can spot opportunities for additional sales. Not just for your own business, but for other local, sister or complimentary businesses too. A visit to a neighbouring attraction, place of interest or even another hospitality business might still generate spin off business for you (and vice versa).

Ensure everyone fully understands your products and services so they can spot opportunities. This doesn’t mean ramming unwanted offerings down people’s throats, but picking up on an interest or need and helping to find the right solution or offering suggestions that the guest or visitor may not have thought of themselves or been aware of – a win-win.

Train and empower your team to be flexible so they can tailor offers to best suit the customers’ needs and make appropriate recommendations.

You team also need to know the level of service that your customers expect, and have the appropriate training, tools and systems in place in order for them to deliver this. Brief your team so that they too can recognise and remember your loyal customers and empower them to deliver what your customers want and expect. In the unfortunate event that your customers have cause to complain, give your staff the training, confidence and authority to deal with complaints promptly. Your recovery of the situation can in itself earn you brownie points.

 

Acknowledge Loyalty

I read recently it’s estimated that over two thirds of customers will fail to return if they feel unappreciated. This is the number one reason businesses lose customers.

Ask for feedback. Never take your regular customers for granted; ask for their feedback and resolve any shortfalls quickly. Problems or challenges are often your opportunity to shine and leave a positive lasting impression if dealt with positively. Now’s a chance to exceed expectations. Face to face feedback will always win over a comments form or questionnaire.  Ask them what they like and what disappoints them if anything, so you can learn from this and continually improve.  Customers will be flattered if you ask for their opinions. So also ask for their feedback on how things can be improved and their recommendations and new ideas. Then keep them up to date with the changes they’ve made to demonstrate that you have been listening. What a great excuse to invite them back again to show them the changes you’ve implemented?

Show your appreciation of their custom with a simple thank you message. Naturally you’ll do this in person. But for B&Bs or hotels you might follow up with a simple personalised thank you note a few days later to show your appreciation. Anything that will give them something to remember you by, especially if it is handwritten and tailored to them. Some think that in this web based age that this is out dated; how would your customers react to receiving something in the post, rather than clogging up their email inbox?

Remember them. Not only addressing your customers by name (although don’t under estimate the impact when someone remembers your name especially when you aren’t expecting it – and getting the spelling right when you’re writing it down). It’s also about remembering their preferences. Do they have any particular likes and dislikes, what is their favourite table or room, do they have any particular requirements such as a late check in or special diet. How do they like their drinks mixed? Do we know their birthday or any special anniversaries? Remembering such details will always be appreciated. And although you may know this regular customer, do your staff know them too. Record their personal details and any special requirements so whoever is on duty the welcome your customer receives is consistent.

Reward their loyalty with exclusive deals that have genuine benefits. How does it make you feel when you see promotions offering special deals for new customers that aren’t available to you as an existing customer? Make your loyal customers feel special by putting together packages or deals which are exclusive to them. This again demonstrates your appreciation of their custom, as well as potentially prompting additional bookings. As a loyal customer, the last thing you want to hear about is an offer that’s only available to ‘new’ customers.

Know your competition. Keep an eye on your competitors, what they are charging, new services they offer, improvements, marketing promotions, etc. Make sure your services are the best value for the money. You do not necessarily have to lower your prices when your competitors do, but make sure your customers know that you are worth the extra money. Stay competitive. I’m not just talking about other hospitality businesses; your customers will compare you with anyone else who delivers a service. So as long as you deliver a five-star service you’re going to compare favourably with all your ‘competition’.

 

Build Long term relationships

Keep in touch. Out of sight is out of mind so even if your customers are only likely to visit you once a year, keep in touch with them for the whole year so that when they are considering a night out, a celebration or weekend away you are very firmly in their mind.

Let them know what other things of interest you have going on, you never just know, it could just tip the balance in favour of them coming to see you as an extra visit. What are the things that they didn’t’ get a chance to experience on their last visit: something new, something seasonal, something they didn’t have time for – not just at your bar, restaurant or hotel but locally.

Continue to build credibility by letting your loyal customers know what you’ve done, awards, accolades, events, services they didn’t even know about.

Remain on their radar by your presence on social media. Do your homework first and find out the best options to suit your customers. If you’ve make a great impression initially this keeps this going, and makes the referral process much more likely too.

Remember: Out of site is out of mind; stay on their radar! Even if they don’t want to book anything with you next week, next month or even next year, if they remember who you are as and when they’re ready you’ll be the first place they think of and they’ll know where to find you

 

 

 


What’s on your customers’ WINE list**?

Knowing more about your ideal customers, what they want and what you can offer to meet these wants means that:

  • You can make sure you target all your benefits at your customers
  • All your marketing messages address problems you know your customers would like to have solved
  • Your prices are right for your target customers as they perceive they are getting good value for money
  • Your service is of (or above) the standard your customers expect
  • You can offer packages and incentives that relate to your customers’ attitudes and interests
  • You can set your USP (unique selling proposition) to appeal directly to your target market – either creating an affinity with them or demonstrating that you know exactly what they want
  • You can position your ‘brand’ correctly, so that it appeals to your customers. I use the term brand loosely to cover your whole image, and what you represent to your customers, the way your staff interact with customers, and the way you communicate.

You need to have an image of your ideal customers in mind every time you start any activity for your business. It helps to create a mental picture of your customer and visualise him or her on the receiving end of your services, products or offer or responding to any of your marketing.

Whichever category it is, be very clear about who your customers are. The more specific your niche the easier it is to appeal to what they want and to attract their attention.

 

Understand your customers’ WINE list **

Years ago I was introduced to the concept of the customers’ WINE list ** copyright Thameside International. You will never be able to serve or market effectively to your customers unless you really understand their WINE list**. WINE stands for:

  Wants

  Interests

  Needs

  Expectations

Look at everything from your customers’ perspective. The more you know and understand the easier it will be to meet their expectations, give them exactly what they want to win new business as well as create repeat and referral business.

There’s a difference between what people need and what they want. The best way to illustrate this is to think of what happens when you go shopping. What you might actually need is a pair of comfortable hard wearing shoes that you can wear every day for work. However what you want is something that is stylish, and maybe a little unusual, and you end up buying something that is anything but the sensible shoes you set out to buy! Or how often have you come home from a supermarket shopping trip with far more than you intended buy? We might only need something for dinner, but it’s very easy to get tempted by some other things which when we see them we want them, and are often prepared to pay a premium. Think how often you come home with chocolate biscuits, a nice bottle of wine or flowers, none of which you intended to buy. Or you succumb to a special offer on something you wouldn’t normally buy because the offer is so good it tempts you to give it a try.

Don’t assume that you know what they want; your customers’ wants, interests, needs and expectations may be very different from your own.

Determine what your customers want and are looking for when they come to you. What are their likes and dislikes, and other factors that may subconsciously determine their decision? Things such as comfort, the setting, feeling that they have something in common with other guests or staff.

Identify your customers’ highest priorities. What are the things they are particularly looking for and might therefore be prepared to pay a premium? What criteria do they use to assess these? For example, if value for money is important, what factors do they consider when determining value for money? The better you understand these the easier it will be for you to get their attention?

Understanding what’s of interest to your target audience is a great way to not only get their attention but also to build rapport.  Even if they are not looking out specifically for something that appeals to their interests, if you can offer it, you’ll get them hooked. E.g. if you’re an outdoor attraction and people come to you to expel energy and get some exercise (what they want), if you’re able to talk about or show them something that’s of interest (e.g. wildlife or something educational for the children) that’s an added bonus. Understanding people’s interests may help identify areas where they are willing to spend a little extra.

Needs might not be specified or consciously considered but might be a pre requisite, such as be location or facilities. So with a hotel for example someone might only need a roof over their head, a bed, shower and a meal, within a specific budget, but they want an experience, to relax, feel pampered, to have beautiful surroundings, entertainment, etc.

Expectations are seldom stated as there’s almost an assumption that these will be delivered, and might only be highlighted if they are absent. Such things as safety, cleanliness, good service, being appreciated, or consistency only come to a customer’s attention when they are lacking.

Bear in mind that your different customer groups may have very different WINE lists; there may be a few shared requirements, but by analysing what each of your different groups are looking for you can then target your offer, messages and service accordingly.

And – if you really want to understand your customers – you must ask them. Even if you’ve been running your business for a long time bear in mind that your customers’ expectations change which means you could find yourself being left behind. So never stop asking questions and listening to feedback from your customers to fully understand what’s important to them, what they need and what they want.

Customer satisfaction starts with knowing their wants, their interests, their needs and their expectations. Understand these and you’re well on the way to being able to capture the attention of your customers over and above that of your competition.

Exceed these and you’re on track for increasing customer spend, getting repeat business and developing long term loyalty.

** The WINE list is copyright to Thameside International. Special thanks to Thameside for allowing me to use this term