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The way you're doing business has changed, but you and your customers still need each other. It's time to reconnect. The good news is, there are several easy ways to reach out, adapt to buyer preferences and reward loyalty.

Customers — especially your loyal ones — want to support you. Shoppers would prefer to buy from their favourite local retailers versus big-box multi-national companies. But as much as your business environment is ever-changing, so are the buying patterns of your customers.

They may not be comfortable walking into a shop or office, even in places where on-location interaction is allowed. Their new work routine may have taken them out of your neighbourhood. Shopping needs and behavior have changed, so take time to think about how you can reconnect and communicate with your most important customers.

Whether you have a brick and mortar storefront or a professional service, it’s time to do some marketing to restore communication between you and your clientele.

Here are five easy ways to stay connected, nurture loyalty and re-engage with customers.

1. Communicate when and how to do business with you

Things have yet to return to “normal” — so there is no one-size-fits-all approach to doing business. It’s important, therefore, to be as explicit as possible about your operating terms.

  • Your communications should answer customers’ main questions:
  • Is your physical location open for in-store business?
  • Can customers shop or book online for curbside pickup or service?
  • What are your hours of operation?
  • What safety measures are you taking? And, what are your expectations of your customers?
  • Have you adapted to offer virtual interaction via video or phone?

Tip: To get the word out, start with the basics. Update your website’s homepage, keep your Google listing up-to-date, and post regularly on social media (including photos of daily deals and offerings is a great way to make it clear you’re currently doing business). And, if you’re lucky enough to have a client list, email is a powerful way to connect directly with customers and communicate the latest news.

2. Leverage the “love local” movement

Sure, big online retailers are convenient, but most shoppers are still concerned about maintaining the character of their communities, supporting local business owners and keeping jobs within their neighbourhood.

If you’re a retailer, remind your customers what you sell, promote the quality of your goods and the reliability of your service — along with all the other benefits that come with shopping with you. This may include personalized help, your ability to source what might not be on the shelves, and your opinion on what is being purchased.

3. Make it easy for customers to buy from you

While larger retailers and service providers may have had the edge on convenience through the pandemic, small businesses are catching up quickly, with the rapid adoption of curbside pickup and other alternate buying options. Whether you offer virtual appointments, personalized chat and video service, eCommerce, free shipping, quick delivery, easy returns… or all of the above, make sure your customers know just how easy it is to do business with you.

Tip: Learn how to get your business online with these steps. Explore new ways customers can reach out to you including social media and web site chat.

4. Reward Loyal Customers

As you encourage clients to return to your business, make it clear that you value the relationship you have, and that you will reward them for their continued patronage. This is where a strong loyalty program comes in. Whether it’s a points program, free services with purchase, refer-a-friend promotions, or two for one discounts, creating a program that rewards repeat business will give your customers a reason to keep coming back.

Tip: Your existing client base is your low-hanging fruit — it’s much easier to re-engage your current customers versus attracting new ones, so applying your efforts here should be your priority.

5. Get creative and reimagine your products & services

Some owners have had their doors closed for significant periods of time — and they’ve adjusted. Small business owners are resilient and creative. For example, hair salons have taken to selling exclusive products, many local restaurants are packaging meal kits, and fitness studios have pivoted to online classes. What can you do to keep customers engaged, even if it’s in a different way than before?

Small businesses are a critical part of the economy. While this might sound a bit sentimental or cliche, it’s true. You and your customers need each other to keep neighbourhoods vibrant, prosperous and connected. Find a way to convey this through language on your website, blogs, storefront messaging, or even in conversation.

Finally, although the world is a different place compared to the day you first started your business, think about the tactics that originally worked to attract customers and come back to them. While you might have some extra work to do, staying committed to your purpose, your values and your unique selling proposition will appeal to the customers who have been there for you before.