Small business is all about customer service. The close-knit community you create around you is distinctly what creates your brand. You’re doing everything you can to engage that community through marketing strategies, communication, social media, and building a friendly rapport. But when does close-knit become clingy and uncomfortable? After studying the strategies of a number of small businesses and their customers, trying to understand what creates repeat buyers, and consequently, what doesn’t, there was a pattern of obstructing personal space in the businesses that were not seeing customers return for the next buy.
- You’re publicly announcing the purchase on your website or social media. Unless you have been given explicit permission by the customer, even a seemingly simple “Thanks for your purchase, Jane!” can be perceived as invasive and a betrayal of confidence. When people shop, they expect a level of anonymity, and this is especially true of online businesses. Some businesses obstruct this anonymity with flashing bars across their website “Last purchase made by Jane in Honolulu, Hawaii,” and other businesses do it with a social media post. Even if the purchase is something that seems so regular, like a tin of cookies, that person has the right to make the purchase in privacy without suddenly becoming your brand advocate. Simply ask permission.
- You’re adding your customers to your personal Facebook page. If you have a separate account that is for business only, then this is fine, but if you only have one account that you use both personally and for business, this is just opening yourself up for mayhem. Maybe you don’t post political rants or religious commentary, but perhaps one of your friends does. Even silly things like cats versus dogs – you don’t know who your customers are on a truly personal level, and they don’t know you that way – nor should they. Your business may have a friendly tone and cordial rapport, but that should never delineate away from professionalism.
- You’re adding your friends to your shopping groups. While your friends love and want to support you, they may not all be your target customer and you could be putting them in an awkward position by automatically adding them into your shopping group. The worst way to grow your business is to obligate anyone to buy from you. If your friends want to buy from you, they will. You don’t know what’s stopping them – maybe they don’t have the money, maybe they don’t have the need, or maybe they don’t even like your products – don’t put them in that horrible position to be forced into your shopping group because they will not be singing your praises.
- You pitch products that aren’t related. A customer comes to you asking about a specific type of product, and whether or not you have the product, you either try to do a bait-and-switch or upsell. Now, this is different if you’re honest about not having a product and you’re offering a different option: “No, I’m sorry, we don’t have any more silver chains in stock, but we do have this silver-plated one if you are interested?” This is fine because you’re giving an option for something related. But turning this around and trying to offer a watch would be ridiculous, annoying, and a waste of time. So many businesses try to do this because we presume what someone might like but they are simply not listening to the customer. Upsells that are related are fine, as well: “We have matching earrings that would look great with the necklace, do you want to see them?” Use common sense. Someone buys sneakers – socks make sense as an upsell. Someone buys socks – sneakers would be a ludicrious upsell.
- Know when to back-off. When people find out that you have your own small business, they may inquire about it. They will ask you questions about your products, maybe even specifics about how it would benefit them. A good salesperson knows that a follow-up is always an important tactic for sales. Wait 24-48 hours to find out if the person is still interested, and if the customer is still wavering, wait another couple of weeks, or just contact them again when there is a special – even better, invite them to join your marketing email list. At that point, after a second follow-up, if it has not translated into a sale, leave it alone. Traditional sales techniques would tell you to keep pushing, but this strategy is detrimental. People shy away and even become irritated by pushy salespeople. The best thing to do is have them connect with you through email marketing or social media from the beginning, so when THEY decide they are ready, they can come to you – and they will.