The All-Time Best Way to Get (and Keep) a Customer

If you can’t sell your product or service, you don’t have a business. Plain and simple. So, as Michael Masterson has said in ETR and in Ready, Fire, Aim, your primary concern has to be making sales. Even if you have a good product or service – one that is in demand – you can’t force people to buy from you.

The customer has the advantage. And if she wants to ignore you and spend her money elsewhere, you can’t stop her. But what you can do is give her a reason to choose you over your competitors.

As a small-business owner, you don’t have a whole lot of business-building tools at your disposal. In terms of resources, a small business just can’t stand up to a mega-corporation. But you don’t need a lot of money or employees to find – and keep – customers. You just need a few easy-to-come-by strategies.

In fact, being small can actually work to your advantage when it comes to one of the all-time best strategies: establishing a relationship with each customer. It can:

  • Get the customer to trust you enough to take the chance of doing business with you that first time.
  • Build loyalty – so the customer wants to continue to buy from you rather than your competitors.
  • Get the customer to refer you to other potential customers.

You develop relationships with your customers the same way that you do it in your personal life. In big part, that means caring for them.

Think about the people you consider to be friends. Aren’t they people you genuinely care about – and who seem to genuinely care about you?

And think about your relationships with companies – big and small – that you deal with on a fairly regular basis.

You must admit that it’s awfully hard to believe that the mega-corporations – General Motors, for example – care about you. They are nameless, faceless conglomerates. It’s a lot easier to believe that your local car salesman has a sincere interest in you. After all, he lives in your community. His kids go to school with your kids. You meet him face to face when you step into his dealership. That’s why, unlike General Motors, he can – if he chooses – establish real, caring long-term relationships with you and his other customers.

And that’s why you, too, will have any easy time proving to your customers that you are concerned about them and their problems… and that you’re there to help.

With blogs and social networking sites like MySpace and FaceBook, there are more ways than ever to communicate with your customers – and allow them to actually interact with you. You’ve been reading articles in ETR about how to use these new channels to increase your profitability (and will be reading more in the near future). Meanwhile, try this classic three-step method for establishing those all-important customer relationships:

1. Focus on a narrow niche market.

I publish informational programs for wannabe entrepreneurs who want to start up and run one or more businesses on a shoestring. Since I’m not trying to cater to all entrepreneurs, I can focus very specifically on what my customers want and need. Because it is obvious that I am devoting my time and energy to helping only people like them, it is clear that I sincerely care about their success.

Customers will believe that you genuinely care about them when they have a reasonable basis for that belief. By specializing in delivering a product or service that is aimed directly at them, you take an immediate step in that direction.

2. Take the time to understand your customers and their problems.

Only by putting yourself in your customers’ shoes – taking the time to figure out not only their wants and needs but also their worries, fears, and hopes – can you develop products or services that will truly help them.

When you do that – when you give them something that will make their lives better or easier in some way – you’re sending a very strong message that you care. This is especially true if you continue to develop new products or services for them.

I’ve got a catalog of about a dozen different programs that I offer my customers – covering a wide range of businesses they can get into with little capital or experience. That way, I’m able to give them exactly what they’re looking (and hoping) for.

3. Make your promotional messages personal.

Building close relationships with customers is all about communicating on a personal level (as it is with family and friends). That’s true of any direct contact you may have with your customers in person or over the phone – and it’s just as true of the indirect contact you have with them in your marketing materials.

Here are a few suggestions for making your sales copy more personal:

  • Write your sales message in a conversational tone, as if you’re talking to a friend. For example, instead of saying “This business program can help entrepreneurs earn substantial profits,” say “You know that new car you’ve had your eye on? Well, check out this program. It will help you get it.”
  • Share information about yourself. When people feel that they know you, they’re more inclined to trust you and want to do business with you.

    In my marketing copy, I frequently admit what a slow starter I was… how I was in my late twenties and was pretty much broke before I started my first successful business. When my prospective customers hear things like that about me, they sympathize with what I went through. And that makes them feel closer to me.

  • Be honest. Say what you really think, not what you think your customers want to hear.

    For instance, instead of sugarcoating my sales pitch, I come right out and tell my prospects to stop feeling sorry for themselves… to stop blaming their past failures on bad luck and, instead, to take responsibility for whether they will succeed or fail in the future. I’m sure that turns a lot of people off. But, hey, you can’t please everyone. And those who see things your way will become profoundly loyal to you – and rightfully so.

    You can’t pretend to be someone you’re not. Your sincerity – or insincerity – will always shine through.

These three steps will help you quickly establish real rapport with your customers. And not only will they willingly pull out their credit cards to make that first purchase… they will be loyal customers for years.

What’s your best tip for getting and keeping customers?

[Ed. Note: Michael Masterson calls Paul Lawrence “the best guy in the business for starting a business on a shoestring.” He has started several direct marketing businesses and currently runs Naturecast Products which is a natural health company that publishes e-zines to over 49,000 subscribers as well as markets about a 30 different products and courses. You can see it here]
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