Want More Great Customers?
By Laura Laaman
Of course—any smart business owner or manager does. So how would you describe what characterizes your most valuable new customers? Great customers come from other happy customers (referrals).
Why Referrals Are Important
Every business loses a percentage of their customer base each week, month, and year for two major reasons: something went wrong with their experience, or they had a change in circumstance that has nothing to do with you or your business. These include moving, changing jobs, illness, or death. Unlike other industries, your business depends on humans (pet parents) and their pets.
As owners and managers, it’s important to replace new pet parents with at least the same number you lose. Or—if you want to grow—replace with a greater number. We provide our clients a retention exercise to help them quantify the number of new pet parents they need to bring in to keep their business healthy. This number ensures they’re targeting the right number of new prospects and not overspending on marketing.
What to Do When Things Don’t Go Well
It’s easy to be disappointed or disheartened by your company’s negative reviews. Smart companies learn from negative feedback and determine how they could have done better. If they can’t save a particular customer, they recognize they need to find a new one to replace that lost revenue.
Assuming you agree you’ll lose some customers each year, you need to decide how to replace them. You can advertise and roll the dice on what type you’ll receive—or you can capture referrals. Although referrals take a little bit of initial energy and strategy, they have many advantages including saving on traditional marketing costs as well as giving your company a surcharge or new, fabulous customers and revenue. Referrals often have fewer objections than non–referrals and they tend to spend more.
When you first start a company like your pet care business, you likely leaned hard to produce a positive reputation by word of mouth. With so many seasonal peaks, you get busier and busier. It’s easy to feel comfortable with a lot of new customers coming through your proverbial doors. This is easy to do with our seasonal demand but a terrible assumption in today’s competitive environment.
Here is an effective strategy to help you attract valuable customers.
How to Obtain Referrals
The first step to get valuable referrals is for your company to dazzle your customers, not just satisfy them. When you do so, you’re prompting the most powerful advertising of all: word–of–mouth referrals.
The next step is to ask for referrals; but how and when?
When I was growing up, my father owned a large furniture business. When a shopper was done looking around, we were trained to walk them out of the store, open the door, and say, “Thank you for coming, and please tell your friends, family, and neighbors about us.”
Although we spent quite a bit on advertising, I’m convinced planting the seed and asking for referrals was key in our company’s success.
This strategy helped us not take anyone for granted and not wait for another shopper to walk through the door. A referral that has the testimonial of a respected friend or colleague will have less fear and fewer objections including the need to shop around. Why? Because they know the referrer is pleased with your business or he or she wouldn’t have referred them.
Giving the referrer a small thank-you reward is a nice way to shape this important behavior. It doesn’t have to be much. A personal, verbal thank you or a note from the owner of the company goes a long way to make them feel special. And maybe something special for their pet.
To supplement your lost customers and maintain a strong business, challenge your company to change their behaviors and incorporate a new referral process into your business practice.
Laura Laaman is president of Outstanding Pet Care. Outstanding Pet Care guarantees to substantially increase the revenues of its clients with its proven services. If you’re interested in growing your revenues, schedule an individual consultation with Laura Laaman or one of our team members. Call Outstanding Pet Care at 1-888-735-5667 or go to www.OutstandingPetCare.com.