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Business Tip: Building a customer base

By By Levi Farias
Aug. 22, 2012 at 3:22 a.m.

Bartender Nicole Borth jokes with customer Alan Wilson while serving behind the bar at Eagleford Restaurant in Cuero on Wednesday. In addition to an upscale dining room, the restaurant also has a full bar and serves beer, wine and cocktails.

Many entrepreneurs often find themselves overwhelmed with the many tasks of running a business such as bookkeeping, employee management, pricing issues, inventory issues, marketing, etc.

There are so many tasks that can compete for the attention of the small business owners, that all too often the customers and their shopping experience is neglected and even ignored.

This article will cover three quick and inexpensive procedures that will help increase sales and retain more customers.

Customer Education - Providing customers with plenty of information is a great way to attract quality customers who can distinguish between low price and low quality. Many business owners try to undercut the competition with the lowest price. However, this low price can adversely affect the bottom line. Having an educated customer who is willing to pay more for quality products will build a strong customer base over time.

Having demonstrations, literature, a knowledgeable sales staff, and an information online presence are all simple ways to help increase your customer's knowledge.

Employee Interaction - Hiring and training employees who are prepared to interact with the customer is an investment that will be well worth the entrepreneur's time. Sales are more likely to increase in stores where employees are readily available to provide information to customers. Being able to assist customers right away also creates a positive image in the consumer's eye and leads to increased customer loyalty.

Build a Positive Public Image - Having a positive image within the community is one of the easiest ways to draw customers, i.e. sales, into the business. A positive image can come from local sponsorship, participation in community activities, and anything else than would be considered "giving back."

Consumers tend to spend more money at local business that is known to participate in the local community. There are many opportunities throughout the year to participate and local entrepreneurs shouldn't miss out on a chance to market the business. Sponsoring a local Little League team might not seem like advertising but having your name visible to the community while being able to support local children is one of the best forms of advertising that is available.

None of these procedures or tactics requires a great deal of capital to accomplish or even get started. What is required is a commitment from management or ownership. Taking the time to follow up on these changes or procedures could be the difference between increasing store sales year after year. Setting up an employee training program or monthly evaluation can help entrepreneurs to ensure that customers are getting information from a knowledgeable sales staff that is excited and happy to help the consumer.

Once a positive store image is combined with a reputation for giving back and participating in the local community, store owners will start to see an increase in the sales potential of the business.

Levi Farias is a business advisor at the University of Houston-Victoria Small Business Development Center.

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