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Personal approach keeps loyal customers

Jan 3, 2013 - Staff

Question -- "The business world is really changing. How do I retain my loyal customers in today's environment?"

-- Charles, Casper

Answer -- Times haven't changed that much, but new tools that keep customers happy are available and actually work more like things did in my great-grandfather's time.

Back then, you purchased from the retailer down the street. There was a relationship, and, with that relationship, came flexibility. The old stores often ran tabs, gave discounts and remembered what their customers liked. Then came the age of mass marketing where consumers were numbers and entries on a balance sheet.

What's happening today is a return to the times when merchants and customers had personal relationships.

Karl Wirth, writing on the Marketing Profs website, discusses the "7 P's of Customer Retention," which are:

- People. To retain customers, you need to build a relationship with customers as people, not just as customers. Start by hiring people who show they care about others.

- Product. Without the right product, you won't really be able to accomplish any of the "P's." Make sure your product provides value quickly, retains value over time and is of high quality.

- Place. Location matters when you are locating a physical store but, if you are an online retailer, place still matters. Your site needs to be easy to find, easy to navigate and friendly to the customers.

- Price. If you have a relationship with your customer as a person, then you take care of each other. The new expectation is that customers expect retailers to look after them. This can be by providing deals for returning customers or by adding services or features without charging more.

- Promotion. You should promote to existing customers differently than you do to potential customers. Why? Because you should know them. Target promotions to your customers based on their likes and needs.

- Processes. This is where new technology comes in. Where the old corner store owner knew his customers by chatting with them when they came in, today's businesses should use social media, customer surveys and other tools to engage and understand their customers.

- Positioning. Your actions must communicate your positioning. Those actions are showcased in the people you hire, the product you ship or service you deliver, the price you charge and the discounts you provide, the place and promotions you choose, and the processes you put in place.

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Editor's note: Mike Lambert is the Wyoming Market Research Center manager, part of WyomingEntrepreneur.Biz, a collection of business assistance programs at the University of Wyoming. To ask a question, email at wsbdc@uwyo.edu or call at 1-800-348-5194.

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