What are the top three things you do to market your business?
Go on – grab a pen and paper and jot down your top three. I’ll give you five minutes.
OK, so let’s take a look at the list. Am I right in guessing that you have advertising, a website and social media on the list? They’re all sound, practical and common mediums and well worth investing in, as are all the other actions you can take when it comes to marketing.
But what do you do to foster word-of-mouth marketing, one of the most effective and cheapest forms of marketing there is?
One of the best ways to do that is to strategise the customer experience. That is, plan and manage what your customers experience when they come into your shop.
The idea behind designing the customer experience is not just to provide exceptional customer service, although that is a large part of it and should underpin everything you do in this area. The process also aims to create an atmosphere, provide value and give the customer an experience they simply won’t find anywhere else. It’s about going above and beyond – surprising your customers in the best of ways.
Quite simply, you want to wow every single person who comes into your shop so they rave about your business, recommend it to all their friends and family, give you a five-star Facebook rating, share your page on social media AND come back to your shop over all others to spend their hard-earned cash.
Cultivating a great customer experience can include all sorts of actions that are free and low-cost, for instance, providing your Wi-Fi password and check-in point for social media, or free samples for those browsing in store.
But it’s also about making your customers feel valued and part of a community that respects their views and has similar interests to them. Run a fashion boutique? Ask your customers to upload photos of them in outfits they bought in your store, tagging your Instagram account.
What about a pet shop? Run an in-store competition asking people to give you their best pet care tips with a chance to win a bag of cat/dog/budgie/fish food. If you have a café, create a photo board where you can pin Polaroids of your customers enjoying themselves.
That’s just some of the ideas you could use but really, your imagination (and, perhaps, your budget) is the limit!
Here are our top tips for designing a customer experience that will blow everyone’s socks off.
Put yourself in your customers’ shoes. Chances are you’re in an industry that you’re passionate about, so what is it you look for when purchasing from similar businesses? Sure, customers are in your shop to buy a product but there are many other things they look for when deciding to purchase from you. If you don’t know, ask your customers – conduct a survey, jot down comments you overhear, ask for comments via social media and ask your friends and family for honest feedback.
Employ a mystery shopper to do a customer experience audit. If you don’t have the cash, ask a friend of a friend (rather than someone you know well) to come in to your shop unannounced and unidentified, and provide feedback on their experience afterwards.
Plan what you do and measure its success. It’s a really good idea to write a customer experience strategy with some inbuilt measurements. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy but you know what Winston Churchill said – if you fail to plan, you plan to fail!
Think outside the box. Like I said, your imagination is the limit in this area. Just think of the free word-of-mouth marketing you’ll get if you provide a kids’ corner so parents can shop without bored children pulling at their legs? Or if you offer a free glass of bubbly (or two) while they have their hair done? Or a free (unexpected) gift with every purchase. Or even a post service phone call to check that all is well.
Designing the customer experience doesn’t have to be complicated or difficult or even costly – it just has to make an impact and get people talking!