Local businesses: turning customers into fans

Local businesses: turning customers into fans

Customers are the lifeblood of any business. In fact, without customers you have no business. But what really sets one small business apart from another is the ability to turn its customers into lifelong fans. The more of a fan base an entrepreneur can build, the better his or her chances of creating a business that lasts. Because we know how much hard work it takes to grow your business, and to get customers to trust it. Building relationships encourages loyalty, and loyalty has the potential to increase your profits.

So what exactly transforms a business from so-so to so-can’t-live-without-it? Let’s look at what makes someone a customer versus a super fan.

Customers vs fans: what’s the difference?

It’s simple. Customers may buy your product or use your service but fans actually think of themselves as an extension of your business. What you provide becomes something they crave; something they absolutely can’t live without. Think about why people will sleep outside an Apple store to get the latest must-have gadget. They want to be the very first to be part of the innovation, newness and coolness that Apple stands for. They will argue with their friends why once you know Mac you’ll never go back. It’s because of a long love affair with a brand that people will go to great lengths to get their hands on what you have.

But I’m not Apple, how do I build a following?

If you study the traits of some well-loved businesses, certain things stand out. The entrepreneurs behind these SMEs are all obsessed with what they do and they all offer something extra in terms of customer experience. Based on this approach, here are some things they do that'll help you build your fan base.

  • Pay special attention to what people really, really want, whether it’s a range of more affordable products, extended business hours or home deliveries.
  • Make customers feel truly valued: People do business with people they like. And who doesn’t like being remembered? Teach your staff to ask for and remember customers’ names and repeat orders. It’s an easy way to signal to them that you value their support.
  • Always offer a consistent experience: People feel like locals when it always feels the same. Whether you pop in for ice cream on Tuesday, Saturday or next month shouldn’t make a difference. The experience should always be of consistent quality.
  • Own your uniqueness: You do you. Don’t try to emulate other businesses. People will appreciate you for that, even if it means a bit of quirkiness. If everyone closes their shop at 5pm, be the local business that offers extra convenience till 7pm.
  • Go the extra mile: As a small business, you have the agility and ability to accommodate requests that are a bit ‘off menu’. People love businesses who will do that little bit extra for them - something that a retail chain store won’t do.
  • Focus on the little things: Small giveaways make a big difference, whether it’s free parking, a home-baked kibble at the doggy parlour or a personalised keyring.

What others love is worth protecting

Once you’ve built up a customer fan base, you don’t want to let them down. Santam’s tailormade business insurance will help you keep your doors open and your fans coming back for more. Make sure that you have things like business interruption cover in place, so if anything prevents you from normal operations, you can financially withstand the interruption and resume business as normal as quickly as possible.

Speak to your broker to see what cover your business needs. Santam is passionate about supporting and developing entrepreneurs, so read more advice articles geared to business owners on our blog.

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