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Posts Tagged ‘customer loyalty’

It really is true what they say. A loyal customer base can make or break your business. I work full-time and have my album business on the side. Some weeks, when work and life get crazy, I don’t get to list as much as I’d like because I run out of day before I run out of things to do.

These last couple of weeks have been just like that. Fortunately, I have enjoyed the good fortune to have customers, some of whom I haven’t heard from in a couple of years, email me, seemingly out of the blue, requesting additional albums. Income without any effort (at least before the sale).

Make your customers’ experiences good ones. Include them in the creative process if at all possible, make the experience personal and add special touches, and say thank you for their business. It goes a long way. And it really helps when there is just not enough time in the day to cultivate new lifelong customers!

PS. Some of my most successful crafting years were in the late ’80s and early ’90s, when we were in a, you guessed it, recession. When the economy gets rough, consumers don’t stop shopping. But they do become more discretionary in their spending, looking for value and uniqueness for those thoughtful gifts they must buy. What is more valuable or unique than a handmade necklace, photo album, stuffed doll or wonderful painting or photograph that reminds them of a special place or time? Don’t throw in your crafting towel just because the economy is wonky. Instead, think of the ways you can add value and uniqueness to your products and capture someone’s imagination and heart!

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I’m so angry at my son right now. He took my car last night to go to work (his is not running) on the terms that he’d be home by 7:00 am, so I can get my daughter to work and myself to work on time. It’s 8:05 and he won’t be home for at least another half hour, making us both very late. 😦

I’m not angry with him for being late. I get that stuff happens and we can’t always keep our promises. But he could have called. I had to call him 5 times before he picked up his phone….probably because he knew there would be yelling on the other end. But he could have avoided that by calling me first.

When you are in a family and something you are doing will affect another family member, the right thing to do is communicate. We all know this. By not communicating, it causes all kinds of friction. You’re all shaking your heads in agreement, I can feel it.

Well, it’s the same with your customers. If someone buys something from you, they expect at least to know what they need to do to complete the sale and when their package will arrive. And in this day and age, it’s really easy to get in touch, via email, phone, text message or even twitter! (Sidebar: What’s a twitter you ask? A really fun way to stay in touch! More about that in a future post.)

So guide your customers along the way. Talk to them. Email them when you receive payment, when you expect the product to ship, and when it has shipped so they know to watch for it. If you have a problem or are waiting on a back order of beads, email your customer and explain the hold up. Most people are very understanding, if you just give them the opportunity to be. If you don’t communicate though, and a package takes longer than expected to arrive or the product is not exactly what was pictured (and with handmade that is often the case), you might find you have an unhappy customer at the other end. And we all know we don’t want that.

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About a month ago, I sent out an order to a repeat customer (my favorite kind!) While she loved the album as always, this one was a rush order for her, and I made the mistake of throwing the album into a plain plastic bag and just sending it. She was very disappointed that it wasn’t wrapped the way I always send my albums…in tissue, a clear plastic bag with a bow and a thank you note. I apologized profusely, and I’ve been very careful not to send an order out that way again. Customers buy an experience and if they take your item out of the box and get excited even before opening the package, you could have a customer for life!

Your packaging should reflect the same care and creativity that goes into your products. It makes for a special experience for your customer and it also helps them to remember you and your name. I add a thank you note that I created in Microsoft Word, put my logo and a picture on there, so it helps customers remember my brand. Right now, I’m also enclosing a 20% off coupon for each customer’s next order. The holidays are closer than you think.

Treat your packages that are going to customers the way you would expect to receive something or would like a gift sent to a loved one.

Recently, I purchased some fabric on eBay. The fabric was gorgeous, arrived very quickly, but the seller only enclosed a receipt. There was nothing to remind me of her name. I might not buy from her again, because who knows if I’ll remember who she is? And that’s a shame because I buy A LOT of fabric, and I could be a great repeat customer.

Put something in each package that brands you and helps your customers remember who you are. Package your products with care so your customer knows that whenever they receive a package from you, it will be special. It doesn’t have to cost a lot! When those customers come back again and again, you’ll be glad you made the effort.

I buy tissue and bags at Nashville Wraps. They are inexpensive, I can buy in bulk and it’s easy. I’m off to get some gift boxes!!

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So since I joined indiepublic.com and a couple of other social networking sites, I’ve realized i’m addicted to this social networking thing and the forums. So I was on a forum thread yesterday and then today and Etsy sellers were saying how they have had so much traffic but not as many sales. Now, since I’m new, I’m not making any huge sales on etsy either just yet (although I had three yesterday…yay!), but having sold on eBay for the past six years, quite successfully when I’ve had the time to work it, and I’ve learned a few things about customer confidence.

So my fellow Etsians, here’s my advice. Fill out your Shop Policies! Info about you and why you do what you do is great too, but definitely, give your customers some guidelines. What kind of payment do you expect and when? How long does it take to create and ship your product? And do you offer a return guarantee?

On this last one, I recommend you say a resounding yes!!! As artisans, we want our customers to be happy with our creations, we know that. And I know you’re also thinking, but it’s a little scary to spend days on a custom creation and then know the customer can return it if it isn’t exactly what they want. Still, offer that 100% satisfaction guarantee. Whether it’s within 7 days or 30 days or forever, offer it. It gives your potential customer confidence that you are a conscientious seller. In your policy, give your guidelines. For me, I let customers know I will take any album back if they do not love it, and I’ll refund their money or replace their book. I must get the album back within 15 days in its original condition–if they’ve dropped it in a mud puddle, well, that’s where I draw the line :)–and they pay return shipping. Most people don’t even like to take the time to go back to the post office, much less pay for shipping. Hey, who am I kidding? I don’t even return clothes that don’t fit at my local Wal-Mart–I hate waiting on line that much. Besides, I can never find the receipt I need.

On the shipping part? My albums take a couple of weeks to make and ship. I want my customers to know this up front so they aren’t expecting them in like 3 days. That way no one is disappointed.

I go one step further with this and also put my shipping times and my guarantee right in my listings. I hate to make people work too hard to click that buy now button!

The first step to a great store is a great product. I haven’t seen anything I haven’t fallen in love with on Etsy. And then you need to stand above the competition. Filling out your shop policies and adding this info to your listings lets your potential customers know you are a serious business person as well as an artist, and that they can trust doing business with you.

If you’d like to see my shop policies, you can click here and click on Shop Policies on the right navigation bar!

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