How to build a better customer base
While every business is unique, there are certain similarities which nearly all businesses share. One of these is the need for a solid, reliable customer base that will provide as many return customers as possible.
This blog is going to explore customer bases in greater detail:
- Why you need a solid customer base
- How to build a solid customer base
- How to maintain a solid customer base
Why you need a solid a customer base?
Let’s start our journey at an airport departure-hall cafe. Most airport departure-hall cafes are terrible. The menus are usually poor, the service is non-existent and the prices are unjustifiably high.
There's a reason for this. In fact, offering over-priced, poor quality food with appalling service is the only way they can stay in business.
That's because their customers literally stand-up after eating, leave the cafe, hop on a plane and fly thousands of kilometres away, never to return.
Under new ownership
Now let’s imagine a new owner came on-board. The first thing the new owner does is improve the menu. Out go the stale, pre-made, delivered sandwiches - and the cafe now starts offering delicious, fresh sandwiches with great ingredients, made to order.
Sure, that will increase the operating costs - but it will be worth it because better food will attract more customers.
Next, the new owner hires a couple of new staff, and sends them all on a customer-service course. Sure, it’s another additional cost - but it’s worth it because better service will mean happier customers and better reviews.
Finally, the new owner invests in new furniture so the cafe looks great. Now they can sit back and wait for the money to roll in. Can’t they?
No - because the majority of their customers are transient, and once they go through the departure gate, chances are they will never return. The business lacks a regular customer base who return again and again.
What's the point in spending money trying to impress customers who - even if they have the best dining experience of their lives - will usually never return?
How to build a solid customer base
If you’ve spent time and money improving various aspects of your business, and you don’t have an effective customer retention program in place, then you’re effectively operating like the cafe in the example above.
Once your customers leave your store, they might as well be getting on a plane and flying away forever.
On the other hand, if you can start encouraging customers to return to your business, then you're going to start seeing all sorts of metrics improve, from simple everyday measurements like sales and revenue, all the way through to bigger, more meaningful statistics like Lifetime Value and Average Cart Size.
Here are a few tips to get you started when building a customer base:
Treat your customers like people
At the end of the day your customers have needs, wants, aspirations and preferences, just like you do. The best way to discover what they like, what they don’t like and what they’re looking for is to talk to them. Some will naturally be more communicative than others, but starting a dialogue is a great way to start building a relationship.
Throw in a few little extras
People like getting free stuff. It makes them feel special and valued. You don’t have to give every customer a treat, but when you start recognising people, find a way to give them things. It could be stock that is almost at the end of its lifecycle - or even advice such as recipes, or hints and tricks.
Encourage Word of Mouth
Your customers can be one of the most powerful communication channels when it comes to acquisition. By informing your customers about your products and sales, it gives them the chance to pass on the same information to their friends and family - which can help you start seeing new customers in your store.
Try new things often
Another way to build your customer base is to keep trying new things, such as new stock, new promotions and new combinations. It’s important that you acknowledge that not everything you try will be a success - some new ideas will certainly fail. By keeping the successes and dropping the failures you’ll soon start attracting more customers and building a healthier base.
How to maintain and grow your customer base
There is one clear and obvious way to maintain and grow your customer base - and that is to start your own digital loyalty program.
In a way, a digital loyalty program does everything described in the previous section - but it makes it more formal.
Offering points and rewards
First and foremost loyalty programs give customers the chance to earn points with every purchase - and then redeem these points for rewards. Ideally you want a program that lets you set your own rewards - and change them often.
That way you can keep the rewards fresh, appeal to a broader range - and include something for all of your different customers.
Automatically collecting data
Using a digital loyalty program allows you to also automatically collect data, and create a live, real-time customer database.
This can be incredibly useful for a wide-range of different applications. Showing you who your best customers are, what and when they’re purchasing and a lot more.
You can then use this data to make more informed decisions about what you’re offering, while also implementing customer segmentation to create more efficient marketing.
Once you have an accurate customer database, it’s also possible to start creating automatic emails. Examples of this could include, automated Welcome messages, inviting customers back to your store when you haven’t seen them for a while, birthday messages and even review requests.
A strong customer base, can become a basis for all kinds of decisions
As you can see, having a strong customer base is essential in today’s modern business world. Not only that, but it's also possible to leverage a thriving customer base into a wide range of competitive advantages.
It’s only fair to point out, however, that there are a LOT of different ways to build a customer base.