With so many competing companies in today’s marketplace, customers have countless options when it comes to patronizing a business. To influence their decision making, customers look for companies that they believe will add value to their lives.
Below, 11 members of Young Entrepreneur Council shared their thoughts on ways small business owners can consistently bring value to customers. They explain how these methods strengthen a business’s connection with its customers and ultimately ensure the company’s longevity.
1. Demonstrating A Constant Mission Of Improvement
There’s rarely such a thing as a perfect product, but demonstrating a constant mission of improvement is something I’ve learned customers highly valued. One way to ensure you’re always bringing fresh value to new and existing customers is by not only taking their feedback, but implementing it. Your clients are the ones using and benefiting from your product or service every day, and they can be your best allies in improving it to their advantage. Ask questions, listen to your customers and apply their feedback in actionable ways they’ll notice — and don’t be shy about sharing these improvements. Letting your clients know what changes you’ve made and why reassures them that you’re taking their input seriously. It also keeps you from staying stagnant down a long road of growth ahead. – Andrew Powell, Learn to Win
2. Building Strong Relationships With Customers
Customers are humans and there are people behind every successful business and huge brand name. Building a strong relationship with the customer builds trust and customer empathy. The customers really feel that you understand their problems and feelings. We are close to our peers (we don’t call them customers because we feel like we are together on this journey), carefully listening to them and offering a high level of customization and support to cover their needs. At the same time, we are always curious to get to know people and we are always in for a virtual or face-to-face exchange with our peers. – Dave Hengartner, ready
3. Meet Their Changing Needs
The one way you can always bring value to your customers is to meet their changing needs. Customers change their lifestyles, and consequently their needs, over the years and you must recognize that to move into that flow. For instance, those selling bulk items to customers during the years when they are raising children should recognize there will come a day when the customer will be an empty nester. You could lose them if they feel all you are willing to sell them is bulk items. The key to keeping them is to know when that time approaches and offer to change their orders before they come to you. The same goes for any industry. Know and recognize changes your customers are making in their lives and learn how to add to them. How do you do that? You listen to them. – Baruch Labunski, Rank Secure
4. Get Their Feedback
It could be through an online survey or other methods, but find out what they like and don’t like about your business. They’ll be honest, especially your regulars, and they’ll also have some pretty intelligent normally commentary. From there, act on the feedback. Bonus points if you specifically recognize a customer who helped improve your business. For example, when Mr. Smith comes in saying you should do something and you do it, tell him about its impact and you’ll have a customer for life. – Andrew Schrage, Money Crashers Personal Finance
5. Support Them Through Hardships
Bringing value to your customers happens not only in the product or service you provide them, but in going beyond that. At the height of the pandemic, many of Metal Mafia’s customers (tattoo and piercing studios across the country) were among the first to be shuttered. Those who were closed were not able to use our products for the time being, but we brought them value by providing them with intel and assistance in navigating the PPP loans and tracking down other grants to stay afloat. Customers were so appreciative that our company not only cared about them, but were also providing them with actionable assistance — and the value to them was priceless. – Vanessa Nornberg, Metal Mafia
6. Listen To Your Customers And Implement Their Feedback
Many companies tout that they listen to their customers, but that is only half the equation. Listening to your customers and implementing what they say into your offerings is the best way to add value. If you don’t implement or respond to what is being said, you effectively communicate to your customers: Thanks, but no thanks. Pro tip: If you implement a change based on customer feedback, highlight the difference, why you made the change and reference that you listen to your customers. If you can put a face and name to the customers giving feedback, all that much better. This gives your customers the feeling that they are part of the innovation and helping to drive business offerings. And if you do it for one customer, others will believe you’ll do it for them, too. – Jared Weitz, United Capital Source Inc.
7. Pay Attention To Customer Complaints
Pay close attention to what your customers complain about. Even the most successful business has customers who are dissatisfied some of the time. It’s never pleasant to focus on things like negative reviews or critical social media posts, but these can be very helpful in pointing out areas where you need to improve. You can also learn about potential issues by polling your customers. Be as specific as possible in your questions. Aside from multiple-choice questions, it’s good to ask open-ended questions, such as, “What’s one feature you’d like to see that we don’t currently offer?” – Kalin Kassabov, ProTexting
8. Get On The Phone With Customers
Pick up the phone to check in. Don’t wait until the end of an engagement to get feedback — seek out your customers’ insights proactively so you can adapt to address them before the relationship is complete. Ask what is going well and what can be going better. Then, rally your team to address any suggestions for improvement, both for that client and for others who might also benefit from those real time adjustments. – Lindsay Tanne, LogicPrep
9. Integrate Question-Based Customer Service
Are you not asking your customers how they are doing? Are you leaving it to Survey Monkey for them to answer 1 to 10? Bad idea. Open-ended questions asked by real team members and having real conversations is the way to put your customers first. You bring value by listening as well. Take notes, follow up on concerns and show that you are really paying attention to what your business is offering them and how you are helping. All of this is tantamount to two-sided communication. It’s not shouting platitudes via social platforms or canned email responses, but one-to-one customer service. You can automate a lot these days, but the key to longevity is keeping one-to-one communication personal. – Matthew Capala, Alphametic
10. Use Data To Demonstrate Success
To consistently bring value to your customers, you can show them how you compare to your competitors and give them a reason to choose you instead. Using data and numbers will demonstrate why your brand is the better option. For example, you could compare the costs of products to show that yours is the better deal. Whatever you choose to compare, it’ll allow your audience to conclude that your business is the way to go so it feels like a no-brainer. – Jared Atchison, WPForms
11. Nurture Your Relationships With Customers
In business, the relationship you have with your customers can die if you don’t nurture it. And many entrepreneurs make the mistake of starving the relationship they have with their customers by reducing it to the transactions of their current products or services. Sales, revenue, profit or whatever metric you hold sacrosanct is a lagging indicator of the value you bring to the market. Value is the core of business activity and to maintain focus on the value, you have to pay attention to these parts of your business. One would be the buying process. I prefer to see it as the customer’s experience of your company. Make the transfer of value substantial and fast. From the top of the funnel down to the checkout button, meet your customer where they are and provide contextual value. – Samuel Thimothy, OneIMS – Integrated Marketing Solutions