Summer in Saratoga: How to turn seasonal customers into yearlong brand loyalists

From late July through Labor Day, the City of Saratoga Springs, N.Y., experiences an influx of tourists for 40 days of premier thoroughbred racing at the Saratoga Race Course. If local businesses play their cards right, they can increase business and establish lasting relationships with customers beyond track season. This is the last of a three-part series. And while this article is targeted for marketing in a tourist destination market, specifically the Saratoga Springs market, many of the principles suggested are relevant to all businesses, regardless of market.Prior to the opening of the Saratoga Race Track, we focused on developing short-term business goals—driving foot traffic to your business and fostering relationships with customers. Now that track season has officially begun, let’s talk about converting seasonal tourists into loyal year round customers.While promotions and sales attract temporary customers, the long-term goal of any business is to obtain loyal, repeat customers. And in most cases, customer loyalty is worth ten times the price of a single purchase. In order to meet long-term goals, local businesses must develop an unforgettable brand.

A brand is an emotional and memorable experience a customer has with a product and/or service. It’s built on expectations and past experiences. Only when customer expectations meet their experiences will businesses receive lasting customers. [For more on branding, read “Bud Light: The Power of Branding.”]

As we’ve discussed over the past couple weeks, meeting customer expectations begins the moment they walk into your business—from the alluring storefront to a well-organized layout. Once they’re through the door, it’s your service that will dictate whether or not you secure customers for the long run.

Here are five ways to convert seasonal tourists into loyal year long customers:

1. Monthly newsletter – Research demonstrates that email is still the number one sharing platform among consumers. Emailing a monthly newsletter is a great way to stay in touch with customers. It’s also an opportunity for customer interaction. Provide customers with tips, how-to’s, and advice. This will demonstrate that you value them—not just their business.

2. Loyalty program – A loyalty program encourages loyal buying behavior by rewarding customers for their continued business. Typically, customers receive a loyalty or rewards card that demonstrates the cardholder is a member of the program. This card is then either stamped or marked indicating multiple visits or purchases. You see this at nail and hair salons all time. For example, after ten visits the customer will receive ten dollars off their next service. Another great example is the milk card promotion offered by Stewart’s Shops. Every half gallon purchase earns customers a stamp on their Milk Club Card. After ten stamps, customers are entitled to either a free half gallon of milk or orange juice or half off a full gallon of milk or orange juice.

3. Customer feedback – Customers should feel welcomed to offer their feedback. Accepting customer feedback is as simple as asking customers if they’ve enjoyed their experience at your store. Or, if you want to gain more valuable information, offer a quick customer survey at the point of sale. Rewarding customer feedback is also important. If a customer completes your survey you could offer them ten percent off their next purchase.

4. Solve complaints quickly – More times than not, customers will do business with you again if you resolve their complaints quickly. Why? Because customers expect to be treated politely and fairly. They also expect employees to meet their needs. Any form of neglect and customers may choose to go elsewhere. For that reason, it’s imperative that business owners train employees to be patient and well mannered. [Refer to Part 2: Summer in Saratoga: Fostering Relationships During Tourism Season].

5. Be accessible – The reason most businesses in tourist destinations are so seasonal is obvious…customers are only in the area for a short period of time. Developing a well-designed website that can provide updates, specials, and online shopping is the best way to expand your brand’s reach beyond your market. It can also gain you new customers who never even travel to Saratoga (or any other tourism-driven market for that matter). BrandSprouter is a great option for strengthening your brand identity and creating an affordable website that is SEO-friendly, scalable, and easy to manage. For more complex sites, including e-Commerce, contact Simpson Square.

When it comes to converting tourists into loyal customers, better customer service and meeting customer expectations will make all the difference. This track season, strive for the best, provide great service, and your business will be a sure bet…throughout track season and beyond.

Good luck this summer season!