4 Tips for Independent Biz Owners to Increase Repeat Business

July 29, 2011

Guest author: Erik Folgate writes about business and financial topics on Money Crashers, one of the top personal finance blogs that covers money management in addition to small business and careers.

1. Go the Extra Mile in Customer Service

Chick-fil-A is one of my favorite quick-serve restaurants. They have mastered the art of going the extra mile in customer service in a food industry that is usually not known for having great customer service. If you’ve ever been to one, you’ll quickly notice that they are different than a McDonald’s or Wendy’s, because the staff is friendlier and the dining room is more inviting. When you say “Thank You” to a Chick-fil-A employee, you’ll never hear “You’re Welcome” or worse, “No Problem.” You’ll always hear “My Pleasure.” Many Chick-fil-A’s also have fresh flowers on every table with someone walking around asking to refresh your beverage for you.

It’s those little things that make Chick-fil-A one of the most profitable and fastest growing fast food restaurants in the country. They have an atmosphere that encourages people to come back again and again. Similarly, it’s the little things in customer service that show your client you’re going the extra mile for them, and that will make them repeat as a customer for you. A simple extra phone call to go through your work product with them or taking the time to explain to them the work you did can go a long way. Even responding to emails immediately will catch the attention of many of your clients.

2. Reward Them Over and Over Again

Don’t just reward a client once for their loyal business to you. Continue to reward them the longer they stay a client of yours. Put together a referral program that keeps giving back to them. My freelance business did one simple thing that helped retain clients longer than I expected: We gave a free month of service every time someone referred another company to us, even if they didn’t become a paying client. Have a contest just for clients and give away an iPad or free extra services every quarter. Give them a discount every time they renew a contract with you. People love rewards, and they’ll show it by sticking with you as their go-to professional.

3. Use Social Media to Keep Them in the Loop

You know about email newsletters and how they can help keep your existing and past customers in the loop about what’s going on with your business. In the early 2000’s, a huge email list was like gold, and although they’re still effective, now a lot of people find them to be plain annoying. This is one of the main reasons why social media marketing has become so huge; a Facebook news feed is a real-time newsletter for your friends and family. When someone “likes” your Facebook page or follows you on Twitter, this is a signal that you’re capturing their attention and instead of cluttering their inbox, you’re filling their newsfeed which they have much more control over.

4. A hand-written thank you note

We can talk all day about new technologies for connecting with people and how a Facebook page “gives” you the potential of reaching 600 million people. But still, nothing goes further than an old-fashioned, personal note. Sending a personal thank you note to current or past clients still says a lot to people, and it’s always recognized. A personal note is not a generic thank you sent to 50 people. I’m talking about hand writing five or ten notes per day to current and past clients to stay top of mind. You can spend big marketing dollars and all of your creative efforts to attract new customers, but why not focus on the ones that have already used your services in the past? They’re already familiar with your work product, and may just need a little push to hire you again.

What are some of the strategies you used as a solo biz owner to attract repeat business? What has worked best in your experience?

about the author

This is a guest post for the FreshBooks blog. FreshBooks is the #1 accounting software in the cloud designed to make billing painless for small businesses and their teams. Today, over 10 million small businesses use FreshBooks to effortlessly send professional looking invoices, organize expenses and track their billable time.