By: Charlene Davis
There is an old saying, "You only get one chance to make a first impression.” That could not be truer than in the life of an artisan. And it’s equally important to maintain that good first impression to keep ‘em coming back for more.
One of the best secrets to an effective marketing campaign is learning how to generate repeat business. Research shows that it costs five times more to attract new clients than it does to keep existing ones. So, it makes good business sense to maintain those existing relationships. Here are some ideas to turn a new customer into a satisfied, long-time customer:
Under promise and over deliver. There’s nothing like just good, old-fashioned customer service to enhance and build strong relationships. One of the best ways to ensure repeat business is by developing your own brand of customer service that inspires people to keep coming back for more. Treat your customers as if they were your only customer; let them know their opinion counts; don’t promise more than you can deliver; and smile! Smiles are highly contagious, as are good attitudes, which can be reflected in handwritten notes, email messages, and face-to-face.
Expose yourself. Metal sculptor, Sue Seeger (http://www.sueseegersart.blogspot.com/), says that a great deal of her business comes from returning clients. In fact, at her gallery show in October 2009, more than half the purchases were made by repeat customers. "To develop a relationship with a client, you first need exposure to them,” says Seeger. She does this by participating in gallery and individual shows and letting her existing clients know via email where she’s going to be and when to come.
Seeger says that over time she’s developed relationships with many of her clients by getting to know them personally. "I know if they’ve just had a grandchild, have moved, taken a major trip, or are having health problems,” she says. "It’s all about listening and simply getting to know them.”
Communication is key. Carrie Morey, owner of Charleston-based Callie’s Biscuits (http://www.calliesbiscuits.com/), offers her customers the personal touch by communicating in person or by hand. "We hand write thank you notes for repeat purchases, as well as annual notes reminding people it’s time to order again,” says Morey. "We also keep a file on anyone who has ordered more than once and either write special notes to them or call to say, ‘thanks.’ Sometimes we’ll also send them a gift of honey.”
Communicating with your clients can also be done through a blog, social media, direct mail postcards, email, and newsletters. Morey communicates with existing clients by sending out a bi-monthly newsletter that always contains a recipe.
Hold special events. As an artisan coffee roaster, Christa Duggan of Portola Handcrafted Coffee Roasters (http://www.portolacoffee.com/) says their best strategy to get clients coming back and purchasing their coffee are the special cupping events that are hosted for free. "This helps get our clients involved, as well as educate them about coffee,” says Duggan. "As our clients learn more and become more intimate with the coffee roasting process, they become loyal to our company, look to us to answer questions, and want to try any new coffees that we roast.”
Misty (Mimi) Rudolf of Preen Studios (http://www.preenstudios.com/) maintains her client base by holding open houses every other month or so at her studio in Chicago, Illinois. "I serve wine and cheese while people view what is new or what is not available on the website, and try things on at their leisure,” says Rudolf. "It's like a ‘mini’ night out! Plus, everyone is encouraged to bring whomever they would like, which is a great way to meet new customers.”
Say "thank you” with style. It’s essential to acknowledge how much you appreciate your customer’s patronage which can be done in a myriad of ways. Morey often sends regular customers a dozen biscuits on birthdays and/or holidays as a way of saying thanks. One internationally known artist used to send his clients a bottle of Dom Perignon if they spent over $25,000, but now he implements a more personal touch by taking them out to dinner. Other ways to express appreciation are by offering private viewings, discounts or specials, holding open houses, sending cards on special occasions, sending a gift basket, or taking them to lunch.
Offer referral incentives. Even with all of the advanced technology we have at our disposal, word-of-mouth advertising still remains one of the most reliable ways of promoting your business. The more you can get people talking about you and your art or craft, the better this form of "buzz” marketing can work for you. Encourage existing customers to refer you to their friends and family members by offering gifts or discounts as a reward. This win-win situation lets the client know you appreciate and value the business they bring to you, while providing you with positive referrals.
Ask for feedback. Get to know your customers by finding out how your services or products can best meet their needs. This means keeping an open line of communication by building rapport and maintaining relationships. Morey says they often use their repeat customers as sounding boards by sending them samples and asking what they think. Provide a customer feedback section on your website and/or offer a small incentive – even if it’s nothing more than a link back to their site – to customers who leave testimonials on your site.
One of the most desirable aspects of any business is customer loyalty. Take good care of your repeat customers as they can be instrumental in helping you to build a solid customer base, grow your artisan business, and ultimately increase profits. Be accessible, be genuine, be yourself, and they will keep coming back for more!
About the author:
CHARLENE DAVIS (http://www.thewriteessentials.com/) is a nationally published writer specializing in business, e-commerce, parenting, and food. She has written Design and Start an Online Travel Business in a Week, Start Your Own Photography Business, Start Your Own Clothing Store, and How to Sell Clothing, Shoes, & Accessories on eBay, as well as two additional books co-authored with Jacquelyn Lynn, Make BIG Profits on eBay and Start Your Own Senior Services Business (all published by Entrepreneur Press). Charlene wrote this feature article exclusively for the Association of Artisan Businesses (http://www.artisanbusinesses.org/), an organization dedicated to the preservation and promotion of the artisan industry.