The Quickest Way To Lose A Customer
As business owners, we put a TON of time and effort into getting new customers and WOWING them. As our customer list gets longer and longer, that list can get harder and harder to manage.
When I first started my company, I was all about finding the perfect customized pen (A pen I still use and hand out proudly to this day.) I must have gone to at least 15 different websites to find a pen. I mentioned my search to the head of our local Chamber of Commerce, and found a local supplier who had a really cool binder FULL OF PENS. I could physically pick them up, feel the weight, and even try writing with them. I narrowed my choice down to 5 pens, and took them to my local Starbucks. I asked both baristas and customers to try all 5 and opine on which one they liked best. Sounds a little crazy, right? When all was said and done, we found "The Debbie." It was a narrow, lightweight, metal pen that wrote well, and had a cool stylus on the back. I LOVE THESE PENS.
For years, this company became my GO-TO supplier for pens and all things swag, which to be honest, I dont buy much of, but I do purchase fairly often. In the world of customized gear, I am a pretty small player compared to schools, sports teams, and large corporate customers. That being said, they took good care of me. We had a great relationship for years. They would call me when new, cool items came out, and even though I wouldnt order everything, I did pop in orders here and there for new, interesting things.
Later on, they sold the business to another person. I would order here and there, but never really hear from them other than when I would call to place order.
Then January 2020 happened, and NY decided we weren't allowed to use plastic grocery bags anymore. Another business who had been trying to get us to switch called and said they had just the thing for me. Branded, reusable grocery bags. And not just any bags. Bags that would TURN HEADS (she said.) This company worked hard for my business, and continues to work hard for me to this very day. No matter how many dumb ideas I text and email over, they never fail to get back to me, and give me a high five for trying.
So, you obviously don't care about my pens or my grocery bags, or my chip clips, or tape measures, or scissors, etc. That being said, if you want swag, shoot me an email. But really, whats the lesson here?
I don't blame the new owner for not chasing a small account. 80/20 rule, right? I spent about $2,000.00 per year total. Probably not huge numbers. And as a business owner, I totally get it. As a customer, though, I felt small, and more importantly, I felt that they were taking my business for granted.
How can you not take customers for granted? Even the small ones? Here are a couple quick thoughts on what could have saved my business:
THANK EVERY CUSTOMER - If you don't have a good customer database, set one up. Even if its just a pad and paper. Get a way to contact them. Thank them when they order, and then once a year minimum, just thank them for being a valued customer.
GIVE THEM FREQUENT UPDATES - Its amazing how many businesses skip this. I understand that as a smaller customer, I might not get a call from a sales rep saying when the newest widget comes out. But a weekly or monthly, or even quarterly email telling me about something cool is fine. Don't spam people with valueless information, but tell them when new stuff is happening and invite them to check it out!
ASK FOR A REFERRAL - Nobody likes to be the "only one." I like buying from people that my friends have successfully purchased from. Sending a personal email to some saying you appreciate them as a customer, and asking if they know of anyone else that would find your newsletter or produce of value is a great way to get people further committed to your brand. If you have 1,000 customers, thats only 3 quick emails a day. If you have 10,000 customers, your sales should be high enough to hire a few people to help.