A successful business is one that not only makes an initial sale, but one that keeps customers returning over and over. Making a sale is only the beginning of the business-customer relationship. The end goal of any small business is to bring in repeat business. This means fostering a presumed long-term customer relationship from the first call or meeting.
While advertising is an important part of any small business budget, the best way to get new business is through customer referrals. This is a particularly important aspect of a small business owner's strategy because one good referral can open the door to several more client opportunities.
In an increasingly online world, however, this can be a dangerous balancing act. Just one bad review can negatively affect a business in ways that are basically immeasurable. So how do selling organizations prevent one (or two, or three) bad apple(s) from tainting the opinion of potential consumers? The best way is through a proactive approach to your online business identity. Here are a few ways to do it:
- Be accessible. Show clients that you care about interaction by providing both online and phone options. Some people would rather fill out a form online than pick up a phone. Others want a human connection immediately. Provide both options. Following a sale, generate an email with contact information and a transaction number. Make it really easy for dissatisfied customers to get hold of you as soon as a problem pops up.
- Search for yourself. Make a regular habit of "Googling" your company and look on the other major search engines like Bing and Yahoo! too. You will likely find your official website -- but that is only the start of what you need to know. What else comes up? Check the first few pages of results. Research shows that the majority of online users do not go past the first page of a search, and even less look past the second or third pages. Do the same thing a potential customer will do. If you find a bad review, continue to the next step.
- Take the reins. Buy more domains and flush out the bad links with your own positive ones. This is not an easy task to undertake, but a strategy that does work. You do not need to hire an expensive firm to do this for you. Create blog accounts outside of your official page, maximize social media profiles and come up with secondary site ideas. Basically, create different addresses that discuss your business and implement your company name in order to make it appear first in a search engine.
- Ask for input. This is a really easy, really inexpensive way to stay on top of customer needs. Do not wait for a decrease in business, or for a bad review to pop up. Find out in what ways you can better accommodate your existing client base and then get to work making it happen.
Customers that are scared away from your company because of something they read online are the worst ones to lose. You can never get them back and you will never even know they were interested in you in the first place. You can avoid this from happening with a few easy measures that will ensure client loyalty while protecting your online reputation.
Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources. ChamberofCommerce.com helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide. Megan also specializes in small business loans.
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