I want better.
Four years ago, tucked deep inside one of my husband’s business school books was the concept that it’s a whole lot smarter to keep one customer than to find another. It might sound a little obvious now, but at the time I was so new to the small business world, I thought it was pure brilliance. At first glance, the concept seems simple. But I think if we look carefully, we can see powerful implications for our creative small businesses.
Considering mine is one-woman show, applying this concept keeps my business efficient. By focusing on the customers I have, they in turn take care of the very best type of marketing I could ask for — word of mouth. The number of people reached from a single successful sale can be a multiple of those from an expensive online ad (or fill in the blank with any other marketing tactic). This means we’re not spending gobs of money on promotions or hours on social media but instead cultivating connections with our buyers.
For me, focusing on the customers I have also guides me in how to grow my small business. I’m not interested in 5,000 mildly satisfied one-time visitors…I want 500 brand loyalists so pleased with their purchases they sing about it from the roof tops. Because these happy buyers will be back. Again and again. To build our brands this way, we look for avenues to truly connect.
Adhering to this philosophy makes problem solving a whole lot easier too. It’s like a compass for navigating the surprise twists and turns of owning a business. Sure we’re diligent and careful, but mistakes happen. When the unforeseeable does occur (like the package inexplicably waiting at Canadian customs for 2 months or a tiny fabric flaw in the very last blush pink clutch), I pose the question, “what will it take to keep this customer?” I know that whatever the cost, it is more than likely less than finding a new one.
Of course, it’s impossible to please everyone. There will be unsatisfied customers. There will be ones who feel our brand is not for them. But that’s not really the point. It’s about how we respond — how we choose to approach business. It’s about shifting our focus from always searching for more to creating better, smarter customer connections.
How are you choosing better over more? Please share in the comments!
This was much needed today. I always worry about driving more business to my shop by staying up to date with social networking. Honestly, the whole process leaves me feeling so inadequate. Thanks for this, I feel so much better.
@Eileen-It makes me SO happy to hear that Allisa’s post gave you a much needed break. If you are having more meaningful interactions/relationships on social media you might not be actively driving as much traffic to your shop but the experience will fill you up instead of sucking you dry! Sending big hugs to you-you are enough:)
Great post – I completely agree with your comments. I willl choose quaility prospects over quantity every time.
Eileen – So happy to hear it resonated with you! I know what you mean about it all feeling so exhausting. It feels so much better when we’ve got an authentic strategy I think.
Best wishes to you!
Natalie – you summed it up, quality over quantity!
Thank you for the feedback and happy day to you 🙂
Thank you so much for this post! I have tried to encompass this philosophy into my business. If ever any issues arise, I always try to think as if I was in the customer’s shoes, how would I want the situation resolved? I try to make that happen for the customer, even if it means less (or no) profit for me. I want people to be happy with my product and at the end of the day, word-of-mouth usually brings in the best clients!
I love when I come across a wonderful post like this when it is exactly what I need!! Thank you for sharing and I will take this with me moving forward with my small business dreams!!!!
Thank you! Very helpful & so true!
Great post! When starting my business I felt like I had to promote promote promote, via social media. What I have found is once I took a break from it and focused on what really mattered (my products and the customers I already had) more have come my way with out trying because I had put so much more care and focus into what I already had. I have spent extra time helping my customers and it has paid off because many of them have already said they will be back. I believe those are the customers that keep a business going. So, I agree with everything you said 100%! Also, thanks for the reminder to stay on the path I am already following 🙂
@Rachel – So happy to hear this post hit home with you. Remembering the customer’s point of view is so necessary…but sometimes easy to overlook. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!
Perfect timing to hear this as my sales remain slow but steady. I need to remind myself why I opened my shop in the first place – because I didn’t want to settle and I don’t want my customers to have to settle either for anything less than exactly what they want. That might mean fewer sales but happier customers right now. And I should be happy with that too. So helpful to hear I’m in good company!
I couldn’t agree with you more. Its the quality not the quantity that’s important to me and my small design business. I’ve noticed that clients have come back to me and asked me to create something else for an important event. I took the time with them in the beginning and cared about bringing their idea to life than just focusing on more and more sales from someone new. Plus those sweet clients have been a great word of mouth source for me!
I was thinking about this the other day while considering whether or not to increase the prices of my items. I chose to do it, in the end, because I believe that I create quality products. If that means I will get less sales from one-time customers, then so be it!
It can be so hard sometimes because people always want more and more and more, but it will never be enough and more always brings different problems with it.
Yes yes yes! I can so relate to this post. I’m always so humbled that I have many of my original Ebay customers from 8 years ago. I’ve seen their families grow, etc. It’s just fabulous to be a part of. And it’s so true what you said about *how* you choose to approach business in the way you respond, etc. That has to be genuine. When you are, I believe you attain the type of customers that enjoy working with you for reasons not based on price. Then word of mouth picks up and everyone’s happy 🙂
Thanks again Jessika & Allisa! I really appreciate your replies!!
I love this idea! I am currently working on starting my business. How would you recommend applying this approach to attracting those first customers / clients to spark the word of mouth process?
Thank you for this…validation!
Thanks for the reminder. I started thinking this at the first of the year. I noticed that a majority of my sales over the last year were from repeat customers. I actually read a post here that encouraged my fostering those relationships so I sent a Christmas card to each of my repeat customers with a little coupon inside. I also encourage them with free shipping from time to time. And last but not least I try to not only listen to what they want, but provide the same quality experience over and over again. I would have to agree that in my case less is certainly more. 🙂
@Heather – Thrilled to hear my post found you at just the time you needed. Happy wishes to you as you move forward in pursuit of your dreams!
@Melissa – Thank you for sharing your experience as well. The crazy pressure to promote can really take a toll can’t it? Especially on creative folks I think. It takes away from what brought us here… Sounds like you’re on an incredible path, keep going lovely!
@Lindsay – I really appreciate hearing your feedback and experience. Sounds like you’re really putting your all into what you’ve got and people surely appreciate that. Slow & steady wins the race 😉
@Brittany – You’ve got a great story! Isn’t it such a powerful indicator when folks come back to you again…and again? You must be doing it right! Thank you for sharing your thoughts on my post. Best to you and your design business.
@Alisona – thanks for sharing the small things that have worked for you! These also seem like good ideas for someone just starting out.
I was feeling so overwhelmed by the start-up process! This post has helped me realize that I need to step back and focus on how to build relationships rather than contacting masses. Building relationships sounds a lot more approachable and manageable as well. Thanks Allisa!
Hello, A great post! Whilst I’m not full time self employed with my illustration, (maybe there is less pressure because of this, BUT) I totally agree.
When I first opened my Etsy shop I felt an insane urge to spam everyone with all the items I had for sale – mainly because they were quite limited to Christmas sales, but also because I wanted it to work!
I very quickly stopped doing this. Purely through not having enough time to be promoting 24/7. This has, however, made me so much more happy for the sales that I do make through the site. They are genuine customers – normally new ones, who stumble across my little shop, and buy something – Hurrah what a pleasure!
Having an online shop mainly is somewhere I can direct friends and family who want to purchase my work from overseas – it makes things easier.
Thank you for all your encouraging blog posts!
This is great Allisa! Sometimes when I come across something in business where I feel stuck & don’t know what to do, my husband always reminds me by asking me how I would want to be treated or what I’d want to happen if it were me. That always clears things up!
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