Guide to Attracting, Serving and Managing Customers in a Small Business

Getting Started: Appealing to a Niche Clientele

“Share Manager” by Everaldo Coelho and YellowIcon/Wikimedia Commons via GNU Lesser General Public License

When you build it, they do not always come. In fact, the initial crucial step of customer management is a realistic identification of the most likely target audience. Will your product appeal to the business customer, the leisure traveler or the busy parent of twins? Are your products ideal for the shopper in search of holiday gifts or the family in need of daily consumer goods?

Determining the customer demographic holds the key to a successful start.

Passing the first hurdle of customer management — consumer appeal — requires a keen understanding of target niche buying behavior.

Getting Noticed: Attracting Eyeballs and Notice

Assuming that you are a good fit for a profitable niche, it is high time to attract attention. A catchy name, a simple but unforgettable jingle, branding — and also co-branding — are just some of the ways you can manage the task of attracting new interest in your business and products.

Open houses and even free business advertising are excellent ways of attracting would-be customers who might not usually be interested in your product or business.

Going High Tech: Interacting via Social Media

Once the small business owner succeeds in appealing to a niche and attracting some customers, keeping in touch with them is a high priority. Fail here, and all prior advertising and gimmicks go to waste. Shine in this situation, and you may just make customers for life.

Social media is the gold standard of the hour; learn how to master it and then stay up to date with changes and developments. Remember that neither Facebook nor Twitter is ever static, and campaigns that proved profitable yesterday might just fall flat next week. At the heart of each post or message must be an opportunity for a customer to connect and interact.

Getting Down and Dirty: Are Your Customers Satisfied?

Do your customers enjoy doing business with you? Does your front door resemble a revolving door, where customers leave but never return? Do you have metrics in place that capture and measure customer satisfaction?

Only when you are able to build customer loyalty, will you have a true opportunity at consistent profitability.

Handling the Truth: When a Business Draws Criticism

Even though you hope for the best and might have even considered a customer satisfaction survey to be little more than a formality, bad marks tell a different story. Are you willing to hear what customers have to say? More importantly: Are you willing to change the way you do business to manage customer satisfaction with loyalty in mind?

Remember that criticism is not always fact-based. In the same vein, there are times when the negative feedback is really more an indication of unrealistic customer demands. Know how to handle the truth and separate those situations that require change from those that are truly beyond your control.

Managing Accounts: Keeping Track of Customer Data (the right way)

In the course of doing business, keeping track of customer data is an important means of managing the customer base and capitalizing on future commercial interactions. Data management is also a way of getting paid — on time.

Keeping data confidential is a must, especially with the threat of identity theft being a constant danger. If you use online data management or email programs, heightening your level of care is a given.

Staying Profitable: Getting Paid

Accounts receivable management ensures a steady cash flow. Since most small business owners also function as in-house accountants, paying attention to the numbers calls for devotion to details and an understanding of basic accounting practices.

Automated processes make this aspect of customer management just a bit easier.

Closing Down: Severing Relationships Without Burning Bridges

A frequently overlooked aspect of small business customer management involves the termination of business relationships. Plenty of entrepreneurs start numerous businesses throughout their lifetimes; close each one down properly, and customers from an old business are more likely to migrate to a new venture.

Open communication, ethical treatment of outstanding orders and even refunds — as indicated — are just some of the practices the entrepreneur should become well versed in.

Do You Have What It Takes to Be an Entrepreneur?

By now it is abundantly clear that there is more to running a small business than merely hanging out a shingle or setting up a website. Customer management is at the heart of each successful venture — just as improper practices are also at the heart of each failure. Learn how to do it right the first time around, and become a Small Business Administration success statistic.

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