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The greatest marketers a business can have are its customers, so it’s important you tap into this resource. It goes without saying that the reputation of your business is in the hands of the customers who frequent it. And, especially in retail trade, there isn’t a cheaper form of marketing than your happy customers’ chatter. The internet can help too (but more on this below).

No one likes to be criticised, especially when they feel it’s unjustified, and people in the retail game are no different. But what separates the good business that wants to grow from the defensive business that can’t handle the truth is how they deal with customer complaints.

Some small business owners love receiving complaints, not because their business is bad, but because the feedback shows them where they can improve.

Tom O’Toole, the famous Beechworth baker, makes sure the people who complain go away satisfied that their problem has been dealt with properly. That way he can turn the complainers into supporters of his business.

If you own a café and a customer has had a bad experience, you could say the next coffee is on the house to ensure their return.

Remember this…

If you get a complaint, don’t take it as a personal attack on you and the way you run your business. More than likely, most customers are very satisfied with your product and service. Do, however, work out what you can do to fix the problem, ensuring the customer is happy, you’re happy, and no one will have reason to make the same complaint again in the future. Don’t just ignore it.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying you have to believe the old adage that the customer is always right, because that’s clearly not always the case. However, if you hear a complaint you don’t like or agree with, before you act, remember that the customer has it in their power to affect the reputation of your business through that influential medium – word of mouth.

If you do receive a complaint, make sure the complainer goes away satisfied and happy with the result. It’s more than likely they will become one of the greatest advocates for your business. If the customer is unsatisfied, they most likely will make their thoughts known to friends and family, and the reputation of the business will be damaged. Talk spreads quickly on the grapevine.

More low cost marketing ideas for retailers

So word of mouth is one low cost way of marketing, but what are some others? Another way to get your customers chatting about your business is with a great website and through social media.

If you own a record store, for example, you could include a blog on your website, where you recommend music and talk about the latest releases. You could also set up music polls where people recommend their favourite albums and also provide a forum to allow customers to engage in conversation with each other on music.

In terms of your website, it should be easy to navigate, and also have your contact details and store location/locations highly visible. There’s nothing more frustrating for a customer than navigating a website that is hard to use. Remember, on the internet, people move around fast and will have no qualms about visiting another site.

You could also have a Twitter account where you post, or ‘tweet’, about anything to do with your industry. Setting up an account is free and is a great way to connect with your current customers and potential customers as well. In this way, it’s like a conversation and is a great way to build relationships with your customers. And customers can also communicate directly with you, and you can respond directly to them. Also, each time you update your website, you can provide a link on your Twitter page back to your website. That’s another great way to get the word of mouth ball rolling.

The important thing with marketing is to get people chatting about your business in a good way.

Steps to ramping up your marketing

  • Don’t get angry with complaints. See them as an opportunity to make your business even better.
  • Ensure the customer goes away feeling satisfied that they have achieved a positive outcome.
  • Remember that whether it’s good or bad, talk travels fast. Guarantee a great reputation for your business by dealing with a complaint professionally and quickly.
  • Set up a website and ensure it is easy to navigate.

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Published on: Tuesday, August 02, 2011

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