From better service to finding a niche, these small business owners developed a formula to keep customers coming back again and again.
Brett and Cristi Burnham run Happy’s Nutrition, a Connecticut smoothie, juice and tea bar. Hall of Fame athletes in the area’s local high school, they count current coaches and athletes as some of their best customers.
Though the small business owners have a storied sports history, neither quite knew how to eat right for much of their lives. Now they want to help their community learn how good nutrition can change lives.
Below they explain their approach to building a happy — and loyal — customer base.
When we decided to open a shop in our hometown of South Windsor, Connecticut, we didn’t just want to build a business. We wanted to build a positive environment — one that would enrich our community.
While our initial strategic plan was to offer delicious, healthy food options, we also wanted to support our customers’ weight-loss efforts, boost their energy levels and offer them a supportive environment.
By doing so, we’re happy to say that many, if not most, of our first-time customers are now regulars. And what small business doesn’t love its regulars?
Here are five tips for small businesses looking to build customer loyalty:
Treat your customers like family.
Treat your customers like the family members you love to see. We really focus on getting to know our customers, striving to greet them by name.
We’ve been going to the same restaurants in South Windsor for years. They know our names, and it makes a big difference. When you frequent a local business and the people greet you by your name, it’s clear they’ve become part of your life.
We want to be part of our customers’ lives, too.
“Treat your customers like the family members you love to see.”
Go beyond offering a product — make your customers’ lives better.
We sell health smoothies, shakes, juices and teas, but we don’t stop there. We want to give people a great experience and help them improve their nutrition.
Everyone who walks through our door at Happy’s should feel loved and appreciated. We want to spread positivity by sending customers out happier than when they came in — this is why we named our business Happy’s Nutrition!
And we always consider that goal when hiring. Our people have to believe in that mission.
We also see nutritional education as part of our business. It’s something we can relate to with our customers. We didn’t know how to eat, even as professional athletes, so we run our business with that in mind.
To help our customers learn to eat right, we offer online coaching, plan weight-loss challenges and have even developed a sports nutrition line for athletes.
Partner with vendors that share your values.
A great example of this is our business insurance provider, The Hartford. We run a unique business model, and from the beginning they worked to fully understand our model before finding the best business insurance policy to cover our needs.
While the insurance side is great, what resonated with me was how their values matched ours. The Hartford is involved in its local community just like us: They support their small business customers, and a few of them have even become our customers.
Use social media and local partnerships to market to your community.
Whenever local organizations, especially sports-related ones, need sponsors, we try to offer our support. In fact, there’s currently a Happy’s Nutrition Little League team!
We not only enjoy helping out these groups, but also it gets our name out in the community in a positive way.
Social media makes local marketing simple. We use it both to target specific demographics with our ads and to inform our community and customers in a way that makes them want to come in and see us.
To build buzz, we offer customers $1 off when they “check in” on social media. We still get new customers who say that they kept seeing Happy’s on their friends’ Facebook or Instagram feeds and finally had to stop in to check us out for themselves.
“Communicate the value of your products in a way that makes you part of your customers’ way of life.”
We also invite our social media followers behind the scenes. While construction was underway, we documented and shared each phase, almost like a reality TV show.
We even surveyed our Facebook followers on our branding, which got them involved and excited for our store’s opening. When we opened our doors, a wave of people came to see us.
When it comes to advertising on social media, we let our desired customer guide our targeting — and we keep it local. Recently, we selected the parents within a five-mile radius as our demographic and included a photo of our 6-year-old daughter grinning with her shake.
The strategy was to suggest getting a healthy shake rather than going out for ice cream after athletic events. We’re also less than a mile from the high school, where many of our customers are athletes. To grow that customer group, we target our social media ads to teens within a certain radius to our store and the high school.
Find a niche that’s not seasonal.
While we’re primarily a smoothie and shake store, we’ve still done well in the winter — even in January when we saw negative-degree weather.
That’s because we’re not just a smoothie and shake store. We are a nutritious and enriching food option.
Communicate the value of your products or services in a way that makes you part of your customers’ way of life. Ours is nutrition, not just a yummy treat.
This article was developed in partnership with The Hartford. Check out their blog, Small Biz Ahead, a destination where you can discover insights and advice to help you manage and grow your small business.
All photos courtesy Happy’s Nutrition.
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