Small businesses will often say that their number one goal is business growth. But where does business growth come from? An easy answer to this can be “attracting new customers”. But attracting new customers can come at a very high price. Marketing has become increasingly difficult with online advertising and social media offering. Competition is fierce. Every other small business is online competing for potential customers. On the other hand, you could rely on word-of-mouth, but that is going to be a very slow process.

So, what do most successful businesses have in common? They have repeat customers. Cultivating relationships is the first step toward gaining repeat business. Here’s a plan for how you can keep your customers coming back.

1. Know the value of your customers

Do you know how much your customers spend on average with your business? What does your most valuable customer spend with you? If you don’t have the answers to these key questions, today is a good day to figure it out. Knowing who your most valuable customers are is the first step towards creating a strategy to keep them. On the flip side, knowing who your least valuable customers are can also reveal a lot about why they don’t give you repeat business.

An easy way to do some quick analysis is through the transactions report in Xero.

2. Have a simple, yet solid communication plan

Make sure you reach out to your customers on a regular basis. Creating guidelines for your communications will help you put structure around your communications plan. Sample guidelines can look like the ones below.

  • Always ask your for customer details like email address and phone number.
  • Send a thank you note to every new customer.
  • Send an offers and promotions email every month.
  • Send hand-written holiday cards to the most valuable customers.

These are simple guidelines yet they’re powerful enough to drive a steady communications strategy that could win you repeat business.

3. Use technology to reach your goals

Now you need to know the etiquette around how to communicate to your customers. Rather than doing the research and building a plan from scratch, use technology to help you. There are multiple (even free!) tools available to help you manage customer lists, communications calendar and educate you on simple etiquette.

The BuildFire blog offers a great article on email marketing tools for your business.

4. Re-think your offerings

Do you offer just a few products or a couple of services? Have you thought about expanding your offerings? Ask your customers what else would they like to see on the “menu”. You might have an opportunity to introduce a complementary offering without having to invest a lot of additional resources.

5. Provide exceptional service

This is probably the best way to convert a customer into an advocate. No matter how unique your offering is, there will always be a competitor. What is sets you apart is your level of service. A great example is my local coffee shop. The barista remembers exactly how I like my coffee and they start making it as soon as they see me come in. I’m sure there are many other coffee shops that offer similar coffees, but I am a loyal customer because of their great level of service.