The beginning of the year is a great time to reflect on the past year of your business and think back to all the loyal customers who helped you grow and succeed.
It’s also the perfect time to come up with a plan to reward customers for their loyalty and encourage them to keep coming back in 2023 and beyond.
Here are a few simple, inexpensive ways to help you develop and extend customer loyalty:
1. Celebrate your customers
Everyone likes to be recognized for their contributions; your customers are no different.
Feature a customer of the week or month — someone who has truly helped you grow your business — on your website, social media, or in your next email.
Put a sign up in your storefront or office highlighting that customer. The recognition will go a long way towards encouraging other customers who love your business to get more involved in your success as well.
Here’s a great example of how one business, Make My Blinds, keeps its loyal followers involved and engaged through their home-lovers club.
2. Reward loyal customers with an early-access program
One way to reward loyal customers is to give them something exclusive.
It could be giving them access to a new product that hasn’t officially been launched to anyone else. Or it could be offering them some new service that’s not open to the general public yet. Many tech companies, such as Google, offer consumers the opportunity to be part of a beta release of a product.
Consider setting up a similar program where loyal customers can sign up to be the first to hear about new products and services. With email marketing software like Constant Contact, you can create a separate email list for people who sign up.
The simple act of making customers feel like they are part of something exclusive can be a big help in building trust and loyalty with your audience.
3. Ask for customer feedback
Everyone appreciates being asked for their opinion. As fans of your business, your customers will provide you with informed opinions that could be helpful in determining a new service to release, a menu item to introduce, or a marketing tactic to try.
Send a survey to your loyal customers to ask their opinion. Be sure to make it clear that you’re asking them because they are such valued followers.
You could even ask them a few questions in person or have a questionnaire ready for them to fill out the next time they visit your store. Whichever way you ask for feedback, make sure you’re taking their input seriously. If they take the time to provide you with feedback, it’s your responsibility to take their advice to heart.
4. Invite customers to a special event
Similar to giving customers first access to a new product, inviting customers to a special event can be a great way to spread some positive goodwill and get people talking about your business.
You could hold a wine and cheese event at your store, a charity event to support the local community or a celebration event for a holiday. Encourage your customers to bring friends and family too — this could introduce a whole new audience to your business.
With an online registration tool, customers can sign up to attend in advance and also provide information about other guests that will be joining them.
5. Offer a referral bonus or reward for recruiting new customers
You don’t have to give a huge bonus to make a positive impact and increase referrals. Try providing a small discount or some company swag to show your appreciation. Depending on how extensive your referral program is, you could create a more structured loyalty program to reward customers on an ongoing basis.
Make sure the rules and guidelines for your program are clear and that you’re promoting the program both online and in-store.
Inspiring long-term loyalty starts with a smart plan
As you think about growing your customer base in the year ahead, remember that keeping your current customers happy plays a big role in growing your customer base.
With these five simple and cost-effective ways to reward your customers, you’ll be well on your way to a successful year of growth.
Owning a business is one of the most challenging endeavors a person can take on, and owning a small business is no exception. From strategizing to delegating and everything in between, there are many difficulties that small-business owners face, yet most of them would say that it’s all worth it in the end.
To offer their thoughts on why facing such trials and tribulations is worth it, a panel of Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) members answered the following question:
“What would you say is the hardest part of being a small business owner? Why would you encourage others to do it anyway?”
Here are their best responses.
1. Trusting Others and Sharing Control
“You have to trust others and share control and responsibilities. Small-business owners have to understand, usually the hard way, that growth and risk reduction are possible when you share both with others. It is easier to get through hard things if you distribute the weight. And it is easier to build a colosseum with a team than on your own.” ~ Dmitrij Zatuchin, DO OK
2. Balancing Downstream and Upstream Activities
“Balancing downstream and upstream activities is always a challenge. Downstream activities such as driving sales and reducing risks and costs are often seen as the sources of value creation, but upstream activities such as setting the strategic vision are increasingly the reason for customer loyalty. The pace of change is constantly moving a business’s center of gravity, but the reality is that owners need to do both.” ~ Ryan Stoner, Dendro
3. Working Long Hours to the Point of Fatigue
“The hardest part of being a small-business owner is the fatigue. You have to put in a lot of work and hours to keep things running. This can take a toll on even the most passionate individuals. Fatigue often leads to making rash decisions. To keep your business humming, you need to find a pace that doesn’t grind you down. But it’s all worth it if you consider all the financial rewards it entails.” ~ Stephanie Wells, Formidable Forms
4. Dealing With Self-Doubt at Random Times
“For a small-business owner, one of the hardest parts is dealing with self-doubt, like the thoughts of ‘Am I good enough?’ or ‘Is it worth it?’ Plus, it will pop up at the most random times. The truth is, you are good enough. The decision of if it is worth it is a personal one. But if you are having fun and truly believe in your concept, it probably is worth it. Enjoy the challenge. It is worth it!” ~ Zane Stevens, Protea Financial
5. Dealing With Every Customer
“The hardest part of being a small-business owner is dealing with every customer the best you can. You can pour your heart and soul into making an excellent product or service, but there will always be a handful of negative reviews to deal with. Though it may seem unfair, you need to resolve their problems with a smile. But when your product is good, there’ll also be a ton of love from customers!” ~ Benjamin Rojas, All in One SEO
6. Knowing What to Do First
“For small-business owners, the hardest part is knowing what to do first. They have to figure out how to make a profit while still providing quality and unique services and products. However, I would encourage others to start their own businesses because it is incredibly rewarding. It gives them the opportunity to create their own work and make their own hours.” ~ Kristin Kimberly Marquet, Marquet Media, LLC
7. Balancing Quality and Growth When Scaling
“The biggest challenge of being a small-business owner is balancing quality and growth. As your business starts scaling, you might be tempted to compromise on your quality. But you can’t do that if you have to establish yourself as a trusted brand in the long run. So no matter how challenging it may be, you must find ways to balance the two.” ~ Josh Kohlbach, Wholesale Suite
8. Putting Your People Ahead of Yourself
“The hours that come with it and the fact that, as a leader, your people should always come first are two of the hardest things. Then again, it also comes with lots of rewards in seeing others succeed under your guidance and being able to make someone’s life better with what you’ve chosen to do. Moreover, you are in charge of your time. Yes, you’ll probably have to put more than 40 hours a week into it, but you’re living your dream.” ~ Alexandru Stan, Tekpon
9. Finding Qualified People to Fill Roles
“The hardest part of being a small-business owner is finding the right team. You’ll spend a lot of time researching candidates until you find the qualified people to fill your available roles. I think you should do it anyway because a well-matched team is one of the cornerstones of a successful business. Collaboration, communication and project management all benefit from a tight-knit group.” ~ Chris Christoff, MonsterInsights
10. Being Responsible for So Many Priorities
“For a small-business owner, one of the hardest parts is the number of things you are responsible for. There are many hats that one must wear and even more stakeholders that are ultimately depending on your decision making or delegation to fulfill your promises to them. Nonetheless, if one is working on something that truly fulfills them, bearing this weight is much easier and more fulfilling.” ~ Akshar Bonu, The Custom Movement
11. Coming Up With Creative Ideas for Growth
“One of the hardest parts of being a small-business owner is constantly coming up with creative ideas that will help your business grow. But to set up a successful business, you need to do it anyway, no matter how hard it might appear to be.” ~ Thomas Griffin, OptinMonster
Image Credit: Getty
Small businesses starting from scratch have a long road ahead of them when it comes to building a brand. Defining a mission, finding your voice and building trust all take time to develop, but luckily there are a few key steps new entrepreneurs can take to get there a little faster.
To help get you started, a panel of Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) members responded to the following question:
“For small businesses starting from scratch, what would you say is the key to successful brand building, and why?”
Here are their best tips.
1. Create a Strong, Unique Identity
“Many factors contribute to successful brand building for small businesses, but one of the most important is creating a strong and unique identity. Have a clear vision for your brand and ensure that all your marketing and communications reflect this. Create a strong emotional connection with your customers and craft a story that resonates with them and conveys important values for your business.” ~ Vikas Agrawal,Infobrandz
2. Think Outside the Box
“As a small-business owner myself, I know that building a successful brand takes time and energy. Once you have clarity about who you want to serve, create a brand that is revolutionary, a brand that thinks outside the box, a brand that is creating “a better way” and solving the “gap” in the industry you are in. Creating something new as a small-business owner will set you apart from other ‘me too’ companies.” ~ Dr. Christine Manukyan, STORRIE Institute™
3. Focus on Consistency in Everything
“This applies to consistency in your brand identity (logo, name, etc.) and to building a reputation for your brand that consistently delivers on its promises. Consumers aren’t invested in a small business brand at first. It takes time, repetition and positive experiences for a small business to build a brand successfully, so be consistent and don’t give up.” ~ Jonathan Prichard, MattressInsider.com
4. Create a Dialogue With Your Audience
“Take time for and spend money on market research to define your audience, and then speak to your audience. Create a dialogue with your audience and show that you understand their affinities. Communicate using channels they are using, whether through traditional advertising or social media marketing, so you become more than a brand — you become a trusted authority.” ~ Matthew Capala,Alphametic
5. Focus on Quality Products and Services
“Focus on quality and the customers will be your brand ambassadors. If you can produce high-quality products or offer superior services, your customers will become your best brand ambassadors. Word-of-mouth is still one of the most powerful marketing tools available and it’s something you cannot buy. Offer the best possible experiences to clients and they’ll do the rest.” ~ Tonika Bruce, Lead Nicely, Inc.
6. Find Ways to Help the Community
“If you want to build your brand from scratch, find ways to show that you’re interested in helping the community. I suggest spending time on social media sites like Facebook and LinkedIn and staying in touch with influencers, prospects and industry experts. Look for opportunities to share advice, connect with potential customers and improve your brand reputation.” ~ John Turner, SeedProd LLC
7. Leverage Content Marketing
“A key tip is to focus on content marketing. This means creating high-quality content that is relevant to your target audience and sharing it across various channels. Doing this can increase brand awareness and build trust with your audience. It’s a long-term strategy, but it’s one that can pay off big time.” ~ Blair Williams,MemberPress
8. Find the Purpose Behind the Brand
“Finding the purpose behind your brand is the key to its success. Before you start a brand or launch a product, you need to ask yourself “why?” Why does it exist? What differentiates your business? What problem are you solving? Why should people care about it? People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. Find the “why” of your brand early on so that you can market it better to the right people.” ~Stephanie Wells, Formidable Forms
9. Harness Positive Customer Reviews
“Getting positive reviews is the key to creating a successful brand. You don’t even have to be a well-known brand or have expensive advertising if you have good reviews. Not only do they boost your company ethos, but they also make your company easier to find online by helping with SEO. I try to make it easy for my customers to leave reviews and respond to each one.” ~ Shu Saito, All Filters
10. Emphasize Your USP and UVP
“I think the most important factor is one that was around long before the internet: your USP (unique selling proposition) or UVP (unique value proposition). You need to emphasize what makes you different or the main benefit you offer, such as the lowest price, best quality, fastest service or the ability to solve a problem your competitors can’t. All your branding actions follow from this primary benefit.” ~ Kalin Kassabov, ProTexting
11. Offer Excellent Customer Service
“Trust is the most important factor that will help you build a strong brand. Small businesses should always focus on boosting trust and reliability for their users. One way of doing that is to offer excellent customer service. Your customers should be able to reach out to you easily and seamlessly and solve any problem with your products or services after purchasing from you.” ~ Thomas Griffin, OptinMonster
12. Understand Customers’ Pain Points
“Have a deep understanding of the pain point you are solving. The pain point ultimately acts as the perfect guide for building one’s brand and larger business. When the messaging, products and offerings are attuned to the pain point one is solving, and the subtleties and nuances therein, one can build a brand that truly feels like the solution for those suffering from the pain point.” ~ Akshar Bonu, The Custom Movement
Image Credit: Getty
As a new leader, there's an exciting sense of accomplishment when you deem your company "open for business."
However, there are multiple decisions left to be made on the operations side that can make a new organization sink or swim. This is especially true if you have employees who are counting on your leadership to grow a successful business.
To share their insights, nine Young Entrepreneur Council members each discuss one common operational mistake leaders make when first starting out that can jeopardize the future of their business. If you're concerned about your startup's success, read on to learn how these entrepreneurs recommend avoiding these common errors.
Young Entrepreneur Council members share operations mistakes new business owners often make.
1. Failing To Build Culture
Startup culture is very focused on "move fast and break things," and many founders tend to hire rapidly and throw bodies at problems, without checking in with staff and making sure to care about their people's professional development. These founders usually end up spending much more time fixing internal conflicts than running the company. Founders should decide on five to 10 top cultural values, ask employees for input, hire candidates who can uphold these values and make sure to incorporate these values into performance reviews. One thing I found helpful is to also schedule one-on-one meetings with every person in the company on the first day for every new employee. - Chenyu Ren, Markai, Inc.
2. Lacking Clear SOPs For New Employees
Lacking clear, consistent and accessible standard operating procedures (SOPs) for new employees jeopardizes any growth for a company. When training new employees, if the seasoned people need to essentially halt their normal day-to-day work and sit side by side for an extended period, it hurts everyone. If there are clear SOPs in place that the new hire can access, not only is their trainer going to be better able to manage existing workloads, but the employee will also build much more agency and confidence of their own. If you’re trying to scale without clear SOPs, employees will struggle to feel valued and the company will see high turnover. As existing employees see people coming and going, their morale then drops, the hiring process starts over and issues compound. - Liam Leonard, DML Capital
3. Hiring The Wrong People
Hiring the wrong people is a big mistake a leader can make when starting out. You need to get recruitment right and be very clear on the role for which you are going to hire so that you can hire the right people for the job. Don't rush into hiring; instead, take your time and evaluate all your candidates. When you do hire someone, make sure you support them in getting started. Define their role and communicate what you expect from them. Give them regular feedback to keep them on track. This will ensure that all your hiring efforts are not in vain. - Stephanie Wells, Formidable Forms
4. Neglecting Employees' Individual Skill Sets
A common mistake is not letting employees excel in what they’re good at and forcing them to do what you want. (Of course, within reason.) Each employee brings a unique skill set to your company. The gold nugget is discovering those individual skills and then giving your employees the autonomy to develop them independently. You’ll find that if you can do this, your employees will be happier, they’ll work harder and you’ll make more money. - Jared Weitz, United Capital Source Inc.
5. Not Developing A Road Map
The most common mistake new operation managers make is they don't develop a long-term plan. A business road map can help you determine what small steps will help you eventually reach your goals. Failure to have a plan could put your business at risk because no one has a clear sense of direction. This situation could lead to confusion, loss of productivity and unhappy employees. I suggest sitting down once a year and creating a plan for the next three years. You may need to adjust your original plan the following year, and that's okay! What's most important is that you have a general blueprint to follow on your journey. - John Brackett, Smash Balloon LLC
6. Doing Everything On Your Own
There is no reason to reinvent the wheel when there are resources out there like templates, checklists and standard operating procedures by similar companies. When I first started my law firm, I made the mistake of creating everything from scratch, and later I met mentors who gave me better versions of what I created. Had I reached out earlier and ignored my belief that I had to do everything on my own, I could have saved myself a lot of time and creative energy. Now I take a draft of a template somebody else started and edit it with my own personal touches to create a work product that is specific to our clientele and our company needs. - Givelle Lamano, Lamano Law Office
7. Lacking A Clear Vision
One common operations mistake that leaders sometimes make is not having a clear plan for the future of their business. This can easily jeopardize the future of the business because it can lead to making decisions that are not in line with the company's goals. Without a clear plan, it can be difficult to make informed decisions about where to allocate resources and how to grow the business. This can eventually lead to the business failing. Therefore, it's very important to have a clear plan for the future of your business before making any decisions that could potentially jeopardize its success. - Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner
8. Failing To Track And Record Everything
The failure to track and record everything, including onboarding instructions, login details, product ideas and other organizational data is a big mistake. The latter (data) is important to track, parse and understand. A company operating without properly tracking and evaluating historical data won't understand where it's coming from and know where it needs to go next. It's important to start this organization from day one because a good foundation at the start will make for solid decision-making later. - Andy Karuza, NachoNacho
9. Sticking To An Old, Familiar Process
One common mistake leaders tend to make in operations is sticking to a set process and workflow that they're familiar with. It may have worked in your previous venture or job. It may also work in the starting stages of your company. But once processes are in place, leaders tend to leave them even if they are detrimental to the growth of the company. For instance, they spend too much time on administrative tasks that could now be automated and they end up neglecting areas with high growth potential. First, you need to find what works best for your business. As you grow, you should periodically review and revise your current processes to see if your team is doing fine or whether they need better tools, automation, strategies and workflows. - Benjamin Rojas, All in One SEO
Image Credit: The Individual Members
Membership is open to businesses and organizations interested in increasing visibility and brand awareness in Westchester County and surrounding areas.