Recessions are an inevitable and natural part of the economic cycle. As consumer demand dwindles, businesses scale back production and hiring. This leads to even less consumer spending, which further fuels the downward spiral.
Economic downturns are inherently worrying especially for small business owners that might not have the financial resources to cover ongoing expenses. With the right customer engagement strategy, it’s possible to weather the storm and continue generating enough sales to stay afloat. Using customer engagement to “recession-proof” your operations can also position you for rapid growth once the economy returns to normal.
What is customer engagement and why is it important?
Many small business owners view “selling” as a strictly transactional exchange. Customers pay money to receive a specific product or service. Once the financial exchange is over, that relationship is finished.
Customer engagement goes beyond the transaction and allows businesses to provide (and receive) more value from every potential interaction they might have with customers. In addition to “smiling” at clients during checkout, customer engagement can include:
- Content you share by email, blog post, or social media
- Timely responses to complaints or requests for reviews
- Surveys, polls, sweepstakes, and contests
- Community activism and volunteerism
- Loyalty programs and exclusive promotions
- Thank you cards, birthday wishes, and holiday greetings
Note that all these touchpoints extend beyond traditional marketing. The focus is more on listening and sharing as you establish a dialogue with users. Selling might be transactional, but buying is largely emotional. One of the best ways to move users closer to a sale is to stay connected, build rapport, and let them know you understand their concerns. This continued engagement also provides invaluable feedback, allowing you to improve offerings and service delivery.
How you can engage with customers
One of the most effective ways to build better engagement is to learn as much as you can about your clientele and generate value for them based on that information. For instance, a rewards program requires customers to create profiles that collect data about their habits. This can be used to develop promotions tailored to exactly what they like and want.
While it’s possible to design your loyalty program from the ground up, there are customer relationship management (CRM) platforms that already have the tools you need to get started. Better still, many CRM suites can automate your loyalty program – sending surveys, discounts, or holiday greetings based on whatever triggers you set. The trick is to provide enough value so that your brand is the first one that pops up whenever a user has a problem your business can solve.
Ready to recession-proof your business?
Acquiring new customers is more expensive than keeping existing ones. That’s true during boom times. Trying to source new users during a recession is even harder as the pool of customer prospects shrinks.
However, staying engaged with your existing audience increases your chances of riding out the downturn. By demonstrating how much value you bring to the table, it becomes less likely that loyal clientele will cut you loose.
Recessions may be an unavoidable side effect of any normally functioning economy, but they don’t have to mean disaster for your business. As long as you continue to focus on strong engagement before, during, and after such events, you have a much better chance of coming out the other side with minimal damage.
Author Bio: Mihir Korke is Head of Acquisition at Clover Network, a leader in small business credit card processing and POS systems. Clover specializes in restaurant, retail, and personal and professional service payment solutions. With desktop and mobile POS systems, contactless payments, solutions for curbside pickup and online ordering, loyalty and rewards, Clover has multiple solutions to meet your business’s needs.