99 tips on customers

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1.    Look to the US – the home of customer service – for an edge.
2.    Build up a brand name and cash in on it. Never allow that name to be tarnished.
3.    Select a site that’s easy to market.
4.    Work on your communications skills.
5.    Be media savvy and accommodating to media outlets.
6.    If corporate rivals only want to deal with big customers, then chase the small end of town.
7.    Accommodate key social trends in the marketplace.
8.    Listen to your customers.
9.    Think outside the square. If there are customers who want a product but can't meet the price, think of ways to make it work for them and you.
10.  Develop your customers as partners – the relationship should become ‘total’.
11.  Knock on doors, especially big corporates and try to get them to share your dream.
12.  Look after those key customers who give you most of your business.
13.  Give the customer what the customer needs and wants.
14.  Don't make the customers feel threatened. The world's greatest investor, Warren Buffet, has a simple rule: don't buy into anything you don’t understand. This can be a turn off for consumers as well, unless you make it seem simple.
15.  Don't get too technical – it limits your appeal.
16.  Use TV to help understand what consumers are interested in.
17.  Get a big marketing hook.
18.  Humour works in advertising.
19.  Target the premium end of the market to achieve the margins to bankroll promotional and value-added offerings for general customer base.
20.  Have a system for handling complaints.
21.  Solve a consumer problem.
22.  Think about how you can adapt products to suit changing market needs.
23.  Do the thinking for your customers and then market your bright ideas to them.
24.  Leverage off the publicity effect of dealing with high profile customers.
25.  Be careful about being too narrowly focused with your customer base
26.  Don't be too dependent on one big customer. If you lose him or her you could be up 'you know what' creek without the proverbial paddle.
27.  Analyse the special characteristics of the users of businesses you want as your customers.
28.  If you serve big customers well, it can result in plenty of referral business.
29.  Be dedicated to exceptional consumer service.
30.  Customer service builds the foundations for solid business growth.
31.  Market to the right target.
32.  Mass media advertising can work a treat for the right kind of business.
33.  Diversify into related products/services to cash in on a successful branding campaign.
34.  Define your market and fill a need specifically for that market.
35.  Put yourself in the shoes of your customers - share their vision to come up with innovative solutions they can't see.
36.  Direct marketing to big customers can have surprisingly good results.
37.  Go that extra mile that a lot of bigger operators won't go.
38.  Enter into awards - it gives free exposure in the press and websites like this one.
39.  Don't get left behind with where the market is moving towards. Moving from narrow to total solutions can be a source for greater business.
40.  Set up a customer dispute resolution system.
41.  Closely study the habits of consumers.
42.  Mould your business to suit your shopping precinct.
43.  Add your url (.com) to all of your advertising, paperwork, business cards and signage.
44.  Make your website attractive.
45.  Online solutions often suit business-to-business markets.
46.  Online data bases can be useful to customers as well as a value added extra.
47.  Be happy to provide ‘try before you buy’ offerings to ensure a sale.
48.  Know what is happening to your key customers in your target market.
49.  Be multi-channelled in your marketing. That is, let customers have many roads to you.
50.  Communicate with your customers.
51.  Use bright and attractive signage to attract customers any time and in any place.
52.  Use retail to listen to the market.
53.  Chase the business market to create acceptance and brand awareness.
54.  Think where your market will be in the future and plan accordingly.
55.  Use testimonials from happy customers to build an impressive client list.
56.  Be innovative with things like merchandise presentation, customer loyalty schemes and employee induction processes.
57.  Develop customer survey forms that customers are happy to fill in - it helps with your planning.
58.  Pick up on key consumer trends.
59.  Anticipate change, especially in the marketplace.
60.  Tell the market something that it does not know but it needs to know.
61.  Segment the market and focus on your target group.
62.  Recognise a weakness in the products on the market.
63.  When challenged, try brand stretching, that is, take your brand into new territory with a slightly different focus.
64.  Use advertising for points of differentiation.
65.  Consumer research gives great business planning insights.
66.  Focus on the markets you best can serve.
67.  Listen to clients for direction for diversification.
68.  Guerrilla marketing is a smart tactic when battling a big rival.
69.  Use customer and staff feedback lines to keep in touch.
70.  Piggyback off big store advertising.
71.  Use public relations to inform the market of your success.
72.  Be customer- and serviced-focused.
73.  Adopt professional systems and use an extensive database so staff can effectively service customers.
74.  Make sure your customers can contact you quickly.
75.  Use small business principles if attending to details and customer concerns.
76.  Know your customer and share knowledge with key suppliers.
77.  Tap into innovative ways to access a new customer base.
78.  Do your market research and pursue export opportunities.
79.  Consider all potential market opportunities but don't risk it all by over-borrowing.
80.  Thinking and giving outside the business square can build customer loyalty.
81.  Customers are supportive of businesses with high community-caring ideals.
82.  Advertise effectively.
83.  You must market and promote your products
84.  Use well-targeted television and radio advertisements
85.  Introduce new offers to customers to add more value to the shopping experience. It also increases customer base
86.  Build growth by looking after and keeping a key customer.
87.  Think out a key customer's problems and provide solutions.
88.  Give exceptional service to all customers, but especially opinion-making customers.
89.  Do customer satisfaction surveys to improve the business.
90.  Respond positively to complaints.
91.  Out-service your rivals and over-service your customers.
92.  Try to deliver product that provides a community benefit. You will find it easier to get free publicity.
93.  Aim for a simple and effective product/service formula.
94.  Make sure you have the best products to sell.
95.  Add value to your client relationships.
96.  Enter into competitions to show the quality of your products or business.
97.  Don't underestimate the importance of providing consistently excellent quality in goods and services – as it keeps happy customers returning and generates continual business growth.
98.  Embrace new technology for new product.
99.  Don't get pigeon-holed in one sector or market.

WORDS Peter Switzer

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