Some businesses naturally seem to attract loyal customers, such as a sports franchise, a beloved coffee shop or a hair salon with a favorite stylist. Other companies have to be more intentional as they go about forging a connection that keeps patrons coming back.
The reality is, it's shockingly easy for customers - even ones who have happily used your services before - to simply forget that you are out there thanks to the non-stop stream of information that bombards us all daily. Building a strong repeat customer base may seem overwhelming, but it is possible with a sound approach.
Of course, the first step is providing clients with a great product or service. Without this basic foundation, there is no relationship, only your customer disappearing in search of someone else who can meet their needs. Once this is in place, remember these 8 ways to build a bond that will help remind your clients how they benefit by working with you - and encourage a return visit.
1. Be nice.
As the famous saying goes, people eventually forget what we say or do, but they always remember how we make them feel. When people walk into your business and receive a sincere, warm greeting and a smile, it makes an impression. Note that this is different than a canned greeting that virtually screams, "My manager is requiring me to say this."
2. Build a community.
Create ways for customers to engage with you, learn more about what you have to offer and connect with other fans. Whether it's a social media presence, an app or special events for your followers, make it easy for your customers to share their stories and participate in two-way dialogue.
3. Go the extra mile.
If you go above and beyond for a client, be sure they know about it. For example, if you scout around to locate their favorite running shoe that's been discontinued, say something along the lines of: "I know this is your favorite brand; when I found out they were discontinued, I made some calls to see if I could get you a pair before they're gone."
4. Show your appreciation.
Etiquette 101: say "thank you." A handwritten note, personalized message, or a token of appreciation on birthdays or other special milestones goes a long way in building goodwill. For example, at one restaurant, the hostess asks guests if they're celebrating a special occasion when they check in; after one couple's recent anniversary dinner, their server left them a box of gourmet chocolates and a gift card for a return visit.
5. Ask their opinion.
Most people only comment on a business when they are unhappy with a product or service. But if you give your best customers the opportunity to provide their thoughts, not only will you get valuable insight, but they will feel heard and probably appreciate your attentiveness. Take their insights to heart and get back to them to let them know how their feedback has made a difference.
6. Focus on filling a need.
If you are in a position to help a customer make a decision, give them options and explain price differences. Don't automatically refer customers to the most expensive choice, even if you think they can afford it. It's the difference between creating a good feeling that inspires trust in you or a bad feeling where they think you're only interested in their wallet, not their needs.
7. Request referrals.
Happy clients are generally eager to help you. Don't be afraid to ask them to recommend you to others who may like what you do: "I'm interested in expanding our client base; if you can think of anyone who might benefit from our services, I'd appreciate a referral."
This takes many forms, but one perspective is to support the people that support you. For example, if you are a website designer and one of your clients has a retail business, visit and shop, letting them know that you are their customer as well.
You may also like my recent article, Prep Your Business for a Successful Season. For more of Diane's etiquette tips, visit her blog, connect with her here on The Huffington Post, "like" The Protocol School of Texas on Facebook, or follow her on Pinterest and Instagram.