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And the blog pound....

If you know who your customers are and you communicate with them effectively, you'll swiftly find yourself on the path to business success.  Building a great website is just the beginning.  To build a strong business, you need to do the following 5 things.

1. Respond immediately.

When a customer contacts you or purchases a product, how and when do you respond?  Your reply—whether in the form of a price quote, an order confirmation, a returned phone call, or whatever it may be—should happen as soon as possible.  It should happen immediately, in fact.

If you're a general contractor and you miss a phone call from a potential client, what is that potential client going to do while waiting for your return call?  He or she will likely call a few of your competitors.  The sooner you respond, the more likely you'll win the client's business.

The best strategy?  Never miss a call, order, or email—ever.  This may sound impossible, and maybe it is, but don't write it off just yet.  What would it take to ensure that your company never misses an inbound phone call?  Additional staff?  Call forwarding?  The solution may be simpler than it seems, and it could be well worth it.

2. Track where your customers are coming from.

This is not always easy, but if you're marketing your business at all, it's an absolute necessity.  You must track where your customers are coming from.  If you don't, you're being irresponsible with your marketing dollars.  How else can you determine which of your marketing strategies are working and which aren't?

The reason many business owners don't adequately track where their customers are coming from is because they're not sure how to do so.  It's true that this can be a difficult task.  Here are a few tips to get you started.

  • Analytics.  If you're marketing online, set up a Google Analytics account for your website.  It's not a perfect tool, but it's among the best and most readily-available analytics programs, and it only takes a moment to get it running.
  • Custom URLs / Landing Pages.  If you create a landing page with a custom URL that can only be accessed from one source, you can effectively track the value of that source by evaluating the number of visitors who reach the landing page and the actions they take when they get there.  An example of this would be a banner ad linked to a landing page.
  • Coupon Codes.  Coupon codes can be incorporated into your marketing campaigns in a variety of ways.  At the most granular level, you can provide unique coupon codes to individual customers to track who's buying what.  At a slightly-more-practical level, you can put a coupon code on a specific landing page, brochure, or other marketing item to track the success of a specific campaign or promotion.
  • Call Tracking.  Use a unique phone number for each of your marketing elements or campaigns to track where your calls are coming from.  For example, you could put a unique phone number on your business Facebook page.  Any calls you receive to that number are calls coming from customers who found you on Facebook.

3. Categorize your customers.

Different people purchase different things.  Even if you only sell one product or offer a single specific service, no two of your customers are alike.  The way you find, connect with, and respond to customers should vary based on each customer's needs.  This is true for both current customers and potential customers.

Group your customers into several clearly-defined buckets based on purchase history, reason for purchasing, personal information, and anything else that might influence how you track or communicate with them.  This will help you understand who your customers are—and this is important, because if you don't know who your customers are, you may not be able to determine whether your product or service is adequately meeting their needs.

4. Build a list of contacts.

Your database of contacts can rapidly turn into a core asset, a source of sustainable competitive advantage for your business.  But before this can happen, you need to start building it.  This means recording all contact information and other relevant data for every lead and customer you interact with.  For many businesses, one of the best sources of new revenue is repeat customers.  Building a list of contacts is essential, and it leads right into the next item on this list.

5. Follow up.

Always follow up.  Depending on the nature of your business, that might mean a phone call, an email, a promotional offer, a press release announcing a new product, or something else entirely.  Whatever it takes, stay in touch with your customers and leads.

Follow up with your current or past customers to find out if their needs are still being met or if they might be in need of additional products or services.  Check in with prospects who haven't yet become customers to find out if there's anything you can do for them to push the relationship forward.  Following up is key to building strong relationships with your customers and potential customers.