Archive for the ‘customer service’ Category

Every role that an entrepreneur needs to play requires proactive thinking. Do you have what it takes?

Every role that an entrepreneur needs to play requires proactive thinking. Do you have what it takes?

You’ve now launched your own business. A long-cherished dream has finally seen the light of day. Deep within you truly desire to succeed. You’ve read about what legendary entrepreneurs have and are doing to ensure that they are always at the top. You know that being an entrepreneur means you are responsible for making your vision of success a reality. You also understand that this responsibility will require you to play a number of roles. Well, here are some of the different hats you’ll have to wear.

You certainly don’t need to be good at all these roles to be a successful entrepreneur. What you aren’t good at – at the onset – can always be improved upon with time.

1. Head of new customer acquisition

You’ll need clients for your products/services. Unfortunately, they won’t start coming to your premises automatically; you’ll need to attract and then convince them to start spending their money on what you have to offer. At this point in time you already know who your ideal target customers are. You just need to find the best message that will strike a chord with them.

Reaching out to your target customers appropriately will bring them in droves...

Reaching out to your target customers appropriately will bring them in droves…

Marketing your business will be a continuous effort moving forward. You’ll always need to create relevance for your business in order to keep drawing in new clients.

2. Customer experience and service architect

Once customers have started trickling in, it’s upon you to ensure that all their interactions with your business are top-notch. Customers should be assured of satisfaction whatever their engagement with your business involves. This is what superb customer experience is all about – and it starts right from your mission statement which you always have to live up to.

Top entrepreneurs understand that keeping their customers satisfied is absolutely vital.

Top entrepreneurs understand that keeping their customers satisfied is absolutely vital.

Your customer experience strategy will need to be complemented by exemplary customer service which involves all the things a business needs to do to make a customer feel valued and important.

3. Chief salesman

Making sales is the only way your business is going to earn revenue. Ideally, the healthier your sales volumes, the higher your revenues and profits will be. Ensuring that your product/service gets out there and convincing people to spend money on it is an art that you must perfect. Even if you have a sales team it is clear that they will look up to you for inspiration and direction. Simply put, if you lack passion for your product/service don’t expect the sales team to work miracles on the ground.

Self-explanatory.

Self-explanatory.

Selling is an aspect of business where your input on the front lines is really required Steve Jobs-style. Interactions with your customers will reveal many pointers and ideas that you can take advantage of in order to make your sales effort more precise and focused.

4. Minding the business’ coffers

It’s quite ironic that for many entrepreneurs the sight of a healthy bottom line is what causes them to grin widest yet they are stubbornly hesitant to learn about how to prepare balance sheets, profit and loss statements and cash flow statements. While finding and paying fine accountants and bookkeepers to handle these matters on your behalf is undeniably convenient, the truth of the matter is that entrepreneurs who are personally involved in their business’ financial matters are best placed to lead their ventures to long-term success.

Successful entrepreneurs are involved with the money right from the get go...

Successful entrepreneurs are involved with the money right from the get go…

Being in charge of the financials will enable you to among other things know your business’ health, be sure of its tax compliance, and be able to monitor trends such that you can plan ahead based on facts rather than assumptions.

5. Undisputed team leader

As the business owner you also have the distinction of being employee #1. This means that even if your business does not hire other people you’ll be responsible for leading yourself. Being team leader means that you’ll have to espouse all the qualities of an efficient team and lead from the front.

There can be no other way for entrepreneurs to lead - it must be from the front

There can be no other way for entrepreneurs to lead – it must be from the front

Running a business successfully is no walk in the park – it requires dedication, commitment, zeal and focus from everyone involved. The team will eagerly play ball if they see you doing your part with vim and then some.

6. Head visionary and strategist

How big do you wish to grow your business? Does your vision portend success? To achieve mega growth you will need to have a solid strategy for the future. Indeed the most successful entrepreneurs have all grown from the ground up because one eye is firmly fixed on the big picture.

Successful entrepreneurs look at the big picture and strategize on how to get there...

Successful entrepreneurs look at the big picture and strategize on how to get there…

As such, even as you are engaged in the day to day running of your nascent business’ operations, you should ensure that all the present effort is essentially about preparing the groundwork for future growth and success. Long-term vision is imperative.

7. Head of creativity and innovation

Unless you are dealing with something quite unique that virtually nobody else can offer e.g. corks then constantly wearing your thinking cap is not an option. Why? You need to ensure that your business will always remain relevant and competitive.

New and relevant ideas will be key for your business'success...

New and relevant ideas will be key for your business’success…

Businesses often reinvent themselves after their previous brilliant offerings become obsolete. Reinvention is about progressively providing new offerings that can satisfy the needs of your customers. Reinventing is actually an investment of time, money and brain cells. Done well, you’ll certainly reap handsomely moving forward.

8. Chief perceiver of opportunity

Your ability to utilize the entrepreneurial qualities of foresight, instinct and alertness will definitely contribute to your business success. Given the dynamic nature of societal trends, new opportunities and possibilities are constantly being revealed. Only the entrepreneurial eye can identify these opportunities and only the entrepreneurial mind can come up with a blueprint of how to harness them profitably.

As an entrepreneur you need the ability to sense opportunity...

As an entrepreneur you need the ability to sense opportunity…

You therefore always need to keep an eye on trends. Specifically, you need to be aware of changing needs and requirements with the aim of providing innovative solutions.

9. Informed risk-taker

This role is ideally connected to that on opportunity perception described in the previous point. Entrepreneurial risk-taking describes the willingness to perform the actions required to harness an identified business opportunity knowing full well that the actions could result in profit or loss.

...as well as the skill and capacity to make a profitable swoop

…as well as the skill and capacity to make a profitable swoop

As such, considering the unknowable nature of the result you expect, your actions in this regard will need to be based on informed assumptions. It is for this reason that many successful entrepreneurs have on several occasions invested time and money in seemingly profitable opportunities only to have their fingers burnt. On most occasions though, these entrepreneurs’ achievements can justly be described as legendary.

10. Motivation guru

The rigors of running a business are such that you’ll always need steady hands to steer the vessel forward towards success. Even so, the exertion will regularly take a toll on you and the team hence the need for everyone to enjoy some down time for purposes of re-energizing.

Every team member needs to feel fully appreciated and involved in order to be optimally productive

Every team member needs to feel fully appreciated and involved in order to be optimally productive

Keeping the team well motivated is essential and there are many ways to do this besides paying competitive salaries. You can start by making the workplace atmosphere and culture truly conducive to productivity. It is also vital to make the team part of your vision; you can really use some of the bright ideas and suggestions your team can offer. Rewarding effort and goal achievement is also imperative.

Your customers and prospects should never have to wear this expression...

Your customers and prospects should never have to wear this expression…

Consider the following facts and stats about customer service:

  • 80% of people who do not receive good service do not complain
  • 73% complain when things go badly wrong
  • A person who does complain tells nine people
  • 12-16% leave without registering a complaint after receiving poor service
  • 10-30% of customers leave after one complaint
  • >80% leave if they have experienced three or more mistakes
  • 5% increase in retention increases profits by 25-125%
  • Acquiring new customers can cost five times more than satisfying and retaining current customers.

Looking at these pointers it is clear that whether you are running an online store or a brick-and-mortar outfit, customer satisfaction is at the heart of your business’ success.

A customer is the most important visitor on our premises; he is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favor by serving him. He is doing us a favor by giving us an opportunity to do so. ~ Mahatma Gandhi

Providing stellar customer service is really not that hard. Once you get started you just need to maintain the habit. Knowing how necessary this is for your business’ success is definitely sufficient motivation to keep you on course.

Good service is good business. ~ Siebel Ad

The following customer service practices need to become synonymous with your business:

1. Easy accessibility

How easy is it for customers to contact you? Being easily accessible is one of the small joys you should never deny your customers. There’s really no joy in being the proverbial needle in a haystack, or do you have something to hide? And who says that all calls are trouble? You could be ignoring a huge order.

Customers and prospects should easily be able to reach you via several channels of communication...

Customers and prospects should easily be able to reach you via several channels of communication…

Accordingly, ensure that your contact information is readily available. Also, whatever the channel of communication is, don’t make customers wait too long to get a response from you; having to run after them after they become disgruntled won’t be much fun.

You are serving a customer, not a life sentence. Learn how to enjoy your work. ~ Laurie McIntosh

2. Taking responsibility

As a small business owner you need to realize that you are your product or service. Your employees, if any, need to realize that when dealing with customers they are the voice of the business. It should be clear that they need to stand behind the business’ products and services. This applies regardless of whether the product/service you are offering has been created in-house or if you are distributing/wholesaling/retailing a product.

Fighting customers over faulty products you sold to them is a quick way to ruin your business' reputation

Fighting customers over faulty products you sold to them is a quick way to ruin your business’ reputation

Should anything be the matter with what you are selling, customers will expect you to take responsibility for the fault. After all, it is you that received their money. You obviously don’t expect them to take up the matter with the product’s manufacturer. Shirking responsibility in such situations reeks of blatant disregard for customers and you will lose them in droves.

Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning. ~ Bill Gates

3. Empowering your employees

This is absolutely vital. You can be sure that customers will notice and appreciate this because of the practical benefits that accrue to them from you doing so. In fact, employees will prove to be inefficient backers of the business’ products/services if you haven’t empowered them to deal with customers’ problems.

A team that speaks with one voice gives customers and prospects the confidence to do business...

A team that speaks with one voice gives customers and prospects the confidence to do business…

You should therefore refrain from stifling your employees’ freedom of judgment and voice. This way you will spare customers the agony of having to hear excuses like “I’m not allowed to do that” or “Let me call the boss”. What happens if you are not around for the day?

You should understand that customers tend to be loyal to businesses where they are assured of good service come rain or shine. And who knows? Perhaps your employees are better at public relations than you are.

Customers don’t expect you to be perfect. They do expect you to fix things when they go wrong. ~ Donald Porter

4. Customer appreciation

It’s true that “Cash is king”. Nevertheless, it is customers who bring in the cash. Your business therefore needs to show customers that their business is truly appreciated and there are many ways of doing this. With time, as the relationship grows, appreciatory habits will become second nature.

An appreciated customer is a happy and loyal customer...

An appreciated customer is a happy and loyal customer…

Your business should treat its customers as individuals. Learn your customers’ names and refer to them as such. Gradually you will notice things about them that will feel okay to compliment. Remember that they are people too and they’ll be able to tell whether or not you are faking it.

Every great business is built on friendship. ~ JC Penney

A sincere relationship can be very rewarding – the possibilities are endless. Perhaps your customer is the nurse you’ll need to take care of you in hospital or indeed the sleuth who’ll help to apprehend a “customer” who vanished without a trace after you trusted him with some merchandise.

Spend a lot of time talking to customers face to face. You’d be amazed how many companies don’t listen to their customers. ~Ross Perot

5. Anticipating customers requirements

When customers purchase a product or service from your business you are basically helping them to solve a problem. Understanding this is crucial because if you can no longer solve that problem then your relevance to the customer will start to diminish.

Knowing what your customers need it's quite easy to think of alternative ways to keep them satisfied...

Knowing what your customers need it’s quite easy to think of alternative ways to keep them satisfied…

Accordingly, you should make efforts to know your customers much better. In case what they buy from you isn’t available you should try to find suitable substitutes and convince them to give them a try. Perhaps they will like them. Good customer service in this case will require you to be proactive.

Know what your customers want most and what your company does best. Focus on where those two meet. ~ Kevin Stirtz

6. Selling at the right price

Issues of price will always be a source of concern for customers everywhere. Your customers will always be keen to know whether the prices you are charging them are fair or not.

Do your prices feel like extortion? Very soon no one will want to buy...

Do your prices feel like extortion? Very soon no one will want to buy…

You cannot afford to overcharge a product/service that customers can easily buy elsewhere. Even where you have the privilege of setting your own price, e.g. for freelance copywriting services, you need some sort of pricing strategy to help you decide what rates will be appropriate for different clients.

Try not to make customers feel that you are pushing them to spend more than they are prepared to pay. Of course, you don’t have to do business if the price isn’t right.

Make a customer, not a sale. ~ Katherine Barchetti

7. Maintaining high standards of quality

Your product/service should meet and exceed your customers’ expectations. Customers will assess your product’s quality based on its performance, conformance to standards, features, reliability and durability. You can expect that they will be a dissatisfied lot if your product/service fails to live up to their expectations as set by you.

This is how it should be. Period.

This is how it should be. Period.

Errors do happen though and your customers will certainly understand the reason why you let them down if you are immediately forthright about the matter and you offer logical explanations and remedial measures.

On the other hand, ignoring their hue and cry is business suicide. You really don’t want customers to start treating your business with some sort of suspicion. Trying to correct this perception later down the line is most likely going to be an exercise in futility; too little too late.

Make your product easier to buy than your competition, or you will find your customers buying from them, not you. ~ Mark Cuban

8. Making the customer experience as convenient as possible

Perhaps the best way to address this concern is to put yourself in your customers’ shoes. Imagine which of your business’ practices make customers feel like they are being forced to jump through hoops despite being the people bringing in the money.

The goal as a company is to have customer service that is not just the best but legendary. ~ Sam Walton

Don't make customers and prospects do this - they'll very soon take their business elsewhere

Don’t make customers and prospects do this – they’ll very soon take their business elsewhere

Now imagine the new measures you can adopt to become more convenient. Would you feel happier as a customer? You would? Implement these ideas immediately. Most of your loyal customers will immediately commend you and spread the word.

Loyal customers, they don’t just come back, they don’t simply recommend you, they insist that their friends do business with you. ~ Chip Bell

9. Offering sound information and advice

While customers know that they need to purchase a certain product/service, they are sometimes not too knowledgeable about their options, prices, terms, warranties, etc. As a business owner you should realize that taking advantage of an uninformed customer can only benefit you once – perhaps never if the customer is the suspicious type. No one appreciates being taken advantage of.

Your customer doesn’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. ~ Damon Richards

Don't be stingy with information and advice - share it with your customers.

Don’t be stingy with information and advice – share it with your customers.

As such, take time to find out what your customers want. In case you can offer a better option then don’t hesitate to make suggestions.

The more you engage with customers the clearer things become and the easier it is to determine what you should be doing. ~ John Russell

10. As for online business owners…

A good number of online businesses have managed to set the customer satisfaction bar quite high. The onus is on you to do the same if you rely on e-commerce for your bread and butter. You don’t have to match what big players like Amazon are doing but you can certainly learn a few things from them.

The customer experience is the next competitive battleground. ~ Jerry Gregoire

Ensure that customers and prospects need just a few clicks to find what they need in your online store

Ensure that customers and prospects need just a few clicks to find what they need in your online store

For your website to provide excellent customer service the following issues should be addressed:

  • Content – Always ensure that your site’s content is fresh and enticing, both for actual customers and prospects.
  • Search – Customers and prospects should have an easy time when trying to find a product/service they need on your website. You should therefore ensure that on-site searches return relevant results.
  • Navigation – If customers and prospects find it difficult and cumbersome to access various locations on your website then you risk losing them. Accordingly, ensure that your site’s menus are handy and that the entire shopping experience is well streamlined.
  • Mobile – Today most people are going online via the mobile platform. Your site can’t afford to ignore this fact. Ensure that it is soundly optimized for mobile devices.
  • Language – Basically, an online store is designed for international business. This being the case, your site’s contents should be translatable into at least one other major language. Your site should also offer global support.
  • Integration – Although this may be quite tricky, you should ensure that customers enjoy the same sort of top-notch experience whether they are buying online or offline.

In the world of Internet Customer Service, it’s important to remember your competitor is only one mouse click away. ~ Doug Warner

Do millennials make up most of your customer base? Here’s an interesting infographic with lots of ideas about how you can deliver top-notch customer service for this generation of consumers:


customer service

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Showcase your small business as being the best – clients always look to get the best value for their money.

That’s right. Creating a strong client list isn’t easy.

It must be done though.

As the owner of a small business you thoroughly understand that without clients your business is as good as dead. You also strongly appreciate the fact that to grow your business you need an inflow of new clients. What therefore are some of the techniques you can employ to attract new clientele?

1.Identify who the ideal customer is and find the best message for them

 

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Use accurate data sources to create an accurate customer profile for your business

The ideal customer for your business is typically someone who is upbeat about what your business has to offer and can afford to purchase the same. To create an accurate profile of this customer you can either make use of demographics & psychographics info (where you’ll consider pointers like sex, age, location, income, company size, industry, and emotional buying triggers) or use customer circumstances (where you’ll consider the particular situations, problems or opportunities that would inform people’s decisions to buy from you).

Once you know who to target, set out to craft effective marketing messages that will best describe what the end result and/or feeling of purchasing and using your product/service is. The point here is to focus on more than the product/service itself; go ahead and let the targets know what benefits and advantages will accrue to them by using your product/service and how doing this will make them feel.

2.Establish your mission statement and live up to it

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Customers always know what to expect from this brand anywhere around the world

Your business’ mission statement is the motto that customers will make reference to in your dealings with them and they will expect you to uphold it in every way, every day. It is therefore best to settle on a mantra that simply describes what your personality and professionalism are. Whatever line of business you are engaged in you should have no problems living up to what customers and prospects expect from you.

3.Provide exemplary customer care and service

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Grow your small business one satisfied customer at a time

How are you taking care of your current clients? The fact is that the expression “word of mouth” still holds true today despite the digital progress we identify with. Actually, it now ought to be “word of digital mouth” – you know that word travels so much faster nowadays.

How is this relevant? Well, don’t underestimate the power of great customer care and service. Research has shown that customers’ perception of how they are being treated has a major influence on whether or not they decide to buy. Also, knowing human nature, where we are more eager to report negatives than positives, you do have your work cut out.

Get to work creating great experiences for your clients by being helpful, informative, pleasant, and promptly responsive to their questions and comments. Your satisfied client base will no doubt spread the word about you and you can expect the list to grow.

4.A reputation for integrity is imperative

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Integrity guarantees that you’ll always have happy customers

Dealing with people calls for a high level of personal integrity; deception and tricks can only get you so far. Let the quality of your work market your business brand. Prospects will be better convinced to come onboard if they know exactly what to expect from your products/services.

Where the requirements asked of you are out of your scope it is quite in order to inform prospects of someone else who is better qualified. Next time it may be your turn to benefit from such referrals.

5.Cultivate trustworthiness and credibility

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With your credibility established getting new customers won’t need miracles

When you are trying to sell your product/service to high-end or elite prospective clients you stand a better chance of securing a deal if you are backed by a reputation for credibility and trust. Being endorsed by influential persons, using credible introductions and testimonials, and submitting credible case studies and industry data are some of the options you can employ. Reach your target potential clients through effective channels as informed by your background research about their purchasing behaviors.

6.Improve your body language

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Would you really be excited about buying from him?

How prospective clients perceive your body language is likely to have a significant influence on how they react to you. Maintaining eye contact and an upright standing posture is a primary requirement for positive body language. Your eyes and eyebrows should communicate sentiments of interest, openness and friendliness; scrunching your eyebrows instead of keeping them relaxed may tell prospects that you disapprove or lack confidence in them. Folding your arms can be translated as being doubtful and hesitant. When seated maintain good posture and remain relaxed, not fidgety.

7.Networking is a prerequisite for finding new contacts

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Showcase your small business as being the best – clients always look to get the best value for their money.

Building a network of contacts is a practical way to add to your customer base. Opportunities to provide and receive help and advice should also be readily taken up. This is a brilliant way to give your business and brand global exposure and recognition.

New contacts can also be acquired by becoming active on the best networking sites including LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook i.e. social networking. On these platforms you will not only manage to create new relationships but also be able to directly connect with members of your target audience.

8.Be active on social media

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Choose the best platforms for your small business and thrill your target audience

It is foolhardy to ignore the potential that social media presents for business owners; you just can’t afford not to have a presence on these platforms – it’s free too.

To optimally exploit the power of social media make sure that your contents are awesome, so awesome that people will always want to react to them. Getting people hooked in this way will present you with a great audience to which you can market your business.

Interact with your audience by responding to their comments and asking/answering questions. Maintain the audience’s attention by posting regularly especially on Pinterest and Facebook as these channels account for a huge volume of the traffic directed to online stores. Also remember to include graphics in your posts as this will make them more attention-grabbing.

9.Proper etiquette should be maintained in all your communications

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Whether writing/responding to emails, posting/replying on social media, or making/receiving phone calls, the onus is on you to maintain an air of courtesy. Remember that offensive/vulgar phrases, words, tone and language are never erased from people’s memories. Also, you must always ensure that your emails and other written communications feature proper spelling and grammar.

10.Make sure that your website is attractive

 

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Success in online business begins with having an attractive website

You need to create a compelling website. Period.

The power of first impressions comes into play here; within 3-5 seconds of checking out your website many visitors will have made a decision about whether to stay or leave i.e. The Blink Test. Ask yourself therefore if you are personally pleased with what you see.

Does your website come across as being professional and presentable? Does its design endear itself as being modern and appealing? If your answer to these questions is “no” then you better make amends soon. Humans instinctively identify beauty with trustworthiness and reliability.

11.Offer promotions and discounts

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Promotions and discounts are especially effective for popularizing new products

Offering discounts and promos is really not so much about how much less customers get to pay as it is about the resulting psychological reaction that triggers positive emotions of excitement in them. This is especially so with regards to the word “free”. Indeed, the concept of free shipping for purchases above a certain price has been seen to motivate customers into spending more (and therefore more sales) in order to benefit from the free shopping offer.

The same thinking applies in the case of discounts where an offer such as “buy 2 get 1 free” often results in many customers making impulsive purchases. Loyal customers are also likely to make more purchases if they are offered special deals as this makes them feel appreciated.

12.Make use of email marketing campaign

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With email marketing you can effectively target prospects at a more personal level

Businesses that send emails to their target audience are better placed to grow their customer bases as opposed to those that don’t. Email is by design very personal unlike social media. Typically, when someone gets an email message they check to see who it’s from and what it’s about before deciding to open it or trash it. To ensure that your business emails will be read you need to have a compelling subject line that will make the recipient eager to know what the contents are.

You can use emails to spread the word about new products/services, sales and promotions, recommendations of other products after purchase, and tips and helpful information about your products/services. You can be sure that people always remember company emails they have received when they are preparing to make purchase decisions.

13.Embrace Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising

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Create click-worthy ads for the best lead acquisition results and ROI

PPC is an online marketing strategy that involves the placement of ads on search engines and other websites. The marketer is billed when a visitor clicks on these ads. In the case of search engines the best results are likely to be attained by placing your ads on Google and Bing. Social media sites like Facebook are also worth exploring; you just need to identify where your target audience can best be engaged online.

Success with PPC is about coming up with a promotional calendar, coordinating ads and landing pages, and employing well written and tested copy. You also want to take advantage of Google’s free AdWords consulting for new advertisers, and the credibility that comes with having a Google Trusted Site badge next to your ads.

14.Find new customers at online marketplaces

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Selling on the top online marketplaces will expose your business to more prospective customers

Finding new customers is also about making your product/service available across multiple channels and dynamically responding to the rapidly changing online shopping behaviors. Selling on online marketplaces like Amazon and other online retail sites that receive millions of people in shopping traffic monthly is something you can consider. Nevertheless, you need to encourage your new customers to shop directly from your website the next time. Offering coupons and discounts in the shipping box is just one of the ideas worth using in a bid to convince them.

Conclusion

Attracting new clients to your business is a primary requirement for business growth. Using some of these techniques may also give you the added advantage of creating professional relationships that will be of mutual benefit for years to come.

Now I’d like to know: What works best for you in your search for new customers?