When it comes to running a successful local business, few if any, would argue that keeping customers is king.

Considering all of the money and effort spent on bringing in new customers, keeping those customers should be a top priority for everyone.

Here are our five best tips for local businesses to successfully engage their customers and build lasting relationships.

Take a holistic view of the overall customer experience.

Starting with the very first interaction customers have with your business, from your local directory listings to your website, from your call to action to customer reviews on your Google+ or Yelp page, examine the entire customer journey from beginning to end.  Use your observations to help manage and optimize your online presence.  This is how the majority of new customers learn more about your business and where existing ones come back to share their experience.  Be sure to respond promptly to customer reviews, both good and bad, and any inquiries or comments on your blog or social media pages.

Capture customer information.

Collect customer’s information, including email addresses and cell phone numbers, to use for your email and SMS marketing programs. Use incentives if necessary to get customers to share their contact information and track any additional details that are in your control, for example how they found you and when they transacted.

Comprehensive details on each customer allows you to personalize your messages.  At the very least you should aim to address customers by their first name even when sending bulk emails.  By personalizing your messages, you avoid abusing the customer’s trust sending irrelevant follow ups that they haven’t asked for.

Send relevant follow-up messages.

After a sale or service, follow up with your customers to thank them for their business and get feedback on their purchase experience.  Ask them about their level of satisfaction with the product or service, and for any comments they may have to improve upon the experience. Use the opportunity to do some remarketing by including helpful information around a related offering and upcoming specials or ask for a review or referral. Customers like to know that you care about their satisfaction even after they’ve made the purchase and left your store.  Keep emails and text messages short, friendly and helpful. They should be used to notify the customer of news or requests relevant to them.

Measure your success.

Keep detailed records of all of your engagement efforts and use the data you gather to track and analyze your results.  Use customer feedback to tweak your efforts in the right direction. Keep making small adjustments until you feel you’ve reached an optimal level of successful customer engagement. Ideally you can keep track of what each individual customer spends so that you can determine how every marketing effort adds to your bottom line.

Automate the process.

Once you have fine-tuned your overall customer engagement strategy and developed just the right amount of personalization and message timing, the next step is to automate the process. There are many useful software programs that business owners can leverage, to continue to maintain the same level of customer engagement in a timely manner without having to allocate a tremendous amount of time and resources.

Building lasting customer relationships is all about keeping a running dialogue with customers, before, during and after a sale. Too many business owners close the sale and then move on to the next customer, losing a lot of valuable business in the process. Making a sale will bring in revenue, but keeping a customer will keep you in business. If you focus on the customer and his or her needs, the sales will take care of themselves.

Jason Bruijn

Jacco de Bruijn

Jacco de Bruijn is a data-driven marketing executive at Signpost with over 10 years of experience using digital marketing to get and keep customers, he is a resource the small business community can rely on.