Customer Relations 101: Strategies Every Startup Should Consider
When you are starting your own business there are about a million things to think about. You create a business and customer relations plan and do everything you can to execute your strategies, turning your ideas into profits, yet even still there are additional things to consider. It’s no secret that you are going to need a strong, and loyal customer base to not just get off the ground but also maintain a positive cash flow so you really cannot afford to have a limited view of how to make that happen.
Going into your business thinking that you already know everything that will and will not work can only limit your potential. True growth happens through experience and trial and error. The good news is that many current trends regarding lead generation, customer relations, and customer retention are not necessarily niche-specific.
What this means is that you have a lot of space to innovate and take calculated risks in terms of your marketing campaigns and customer service processes. Keep in mind too that flexibility is necessary. Give yourself and your business the space it needs to find natural fits within these suggestions. If something does not feel authentic to your brand, your customers are going to be able to see that. Building their trust is ultimately the goal of any process you create since without that, you essentially have no customer base at all.
Get a Formal Education
Many of the most famous entrepreneurs you will read about were either college dropouts or those who decided to never even attend in the first place. These are the dreamers that show us how possible it is to take an idea and become successful. So, while it is true that a formal education is not a requirement for a successful operation, or for creating successful campaigns and strategies for your business, it is still something to consider. You learn just as much outside the classroom while attending college as you do inside, and some of those skills are totally priceless in terms of a sustainable entrepreneurial career.
Beyond what you would learn in a classroom, attending college can also give you some soft skills that will be helpful when you are ultimately engaging with your customers and clients. If you are worried about the cost of a formal education, same as you can take out a small business loan to fund your career aspirations, you can take out a student loan to fund your education. A student loan is a great way to successfully finance your future and invest in a solid foundation for your startup. Not to mention the connections you can make with students, professors, and alumni can all serve you down the road as well.
Take Advantage of Social Media
If you can create and execute marketing and customer retention campaigns that are free of cost to you then there is almost nothing better. In this day in age, the best way to do this is through social media. Creating accounts on most of the popular platforms is completely free and it will also cost you nothing to administer them. The only exception would be if you end up hiring a social media manager and/or influencers and paid advertisers.
You can significantly boost your business with digital marketing and using socials is an incredible way to engage with your target audience. Beyond creating targeted content to increase brand awareness, many startups also use social media to handle customer relations, as these channels are often the first place that people go to when trying to engage with a business. Previously, a businesses website was the main platform for this type of engagement, but in some cases with many of today’s customers, it is the last.
Create a handle for your business that is easily associated with your overall brand. Additionally, spend some time searching keywords and trending hashtags that can direct new customers to your accounts even when they were not necessarily looking for you. Never underestimate the power of the people who you engage with either. People can share your posts, stories, and even direct messages, as you can imagine there are pros and cons to this.
It is important that you keep this in the back of your head because your reputation is a critical piece of your business’s overall success. People want fast, convenient, consistent, quality, and authentic interactions with the companies that they patronize, and can be quick to take to the keyboard if those needs are not met. Of course, that does not mean that you have to constantly be at the mercy of your account followers but what it does mean is that target market research and analysis should be conducted so that you can ensure that you are delivering what your specific customer base wants.
Promotions and Coupons
People do not give their business to companies or products they don’t want to, they do, however, shop around and compare prices as a general consumer practice. What this means is that you need to remain competitive and offer things to your customers that keep them from having a need to search elsewhere. Your pricing needs to pay respect to your own bottom line and the needs of your business of course, but simple things like flash promotions, customer loyalty programs, and coupons are all great ways to satisfy their need for a bargain and your need for a profit.
Use the data analytics you collect to determine what makes the most sense in terms of what to offer. If you are noticing trends where your customers are strongly aligned with a certain product over another that is a good place to start. Promotions are a great way to boost product or service awareness and highlight parts of your business that you have determined are being overlooked by your customers. Free samples are a good example of how to put this into practice. If you open a woman’s clothing boutique and notice that your accessories are not getting as much attention as your denim, promotions like buying a pair of jeans and get a piece of jewelry for 25% off can help shift attention towards the lesser-known products while still providing your customer with what you already know they want.
Blogs and Podcasts
Using blogs and/or podcasts to get your name out is a really smart way to try to capture the attention of an audience that you may have otherwise missed out on. Specifically, with blogs, you can either start your own or dedicate yourself to being a guest writer on popular sites then use that content to link back to your website and generate leads that way. You have an opportunity here too to create some cash flows in terms of affiliate links and other advertising opportunities that can help bring in some cash on top of bringing in customers.
Podcasts are excellent tools because you can totally design your episodes to your desired audience. Bringing on guests and interviewing them or sharing lifestyle tips and tricks are they relate to your specific business are two smart ways to in a way trick people into noticing your brand. Just the same as with blogs you also have an opportunity to earn some additional dollars for your business with podcast advertising.
The Right Team
The people you hire to be at the forefront of your operations are just as much part of your customer relations strategy as anything else. These are the faces and personalities that your customers are going to engage with and have experiences with. It is very important that you take time during recruiting, screening, onboarding, and training to be absolutely positive that your employees are modeling your brand in the way that best supports the integrity of the business.
Additionally, these are the creative minds that you have access to in terms of innovating and collaborating. Always take stock of your team and ask them what they are experiencing on the front lines in terms of customer habits. Data analytics are great, but they are not the only way to help determine where you should pivot your business to be in line with the demands and trends of the market. The employees on your payroll that interact with the customers that you need are the best combination of resources to tap into for real-life data collection.
The main essence of these considerations is truly and simply, trial and error, there is not necessarily a right or a wrong way to go about managing the relationships between your business and your customers, however, ignoring the need to do so, in general, would truly be a mistake. As the head of a startup company, you already know how crucial it is to make a positive first impression and this is definitely the case when it comes to customers. Consumers want an experience just as much as they want a product and if your strategies don’t line up with their desired experience, they will be quick to walk away from your business, maybe only for a little while, but maybe even forever.