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Author: Heidi Cohen


Recently my husband and I vacationed on Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands, which are known for their sailing and snorkeling sports. They have the pristine beaches and turquoise water you imagine when you think beach.

Don’t take my word for it, Richard Branson and Larry Page own islands there.

Ever since I first met my husband, he’s talked about the Bitter End Yacht Club in glowing terms. We were overdue for a beach vacation and didn’t have time to research TripAdvisor and other online travel services for a new destination.

We decided to stay at the Bitter End Yacht Club (BEYC) based on his past experience and its reputation for amazing service and great water sports. It’s a must destination for vacationers and sailors alike in that part of the world.


Our arrival was one problem after another: plane problems resulting in delays, broken ferry, long wait to get our room (despite being hours late), and a non-working telephone in our room that wouldn’t be fixed until Monday at the earliest.

We travel a lot and know that things don’t always go according to plan. But whether it’s your partner, your kids or a company, you can reach a limit where something puts you over the top. For us, it was the lack of telephone service, which we needed to get taxis around the club.

On our way to dinner, we stopped by the front desk and asked to see the manager. I figured that we’d have to wait until the next day instead she found us in the dining room.

This was my husband’s 7th visit to BEYC and although it’d been 12 years since his last visit, the club still had the same general manager who recognized my husband and gave him a big, welcome-back bear hug.

Since the section of the hotel where we were staying was about be renovated and because of my husband’s tenure as a repeat guest, she upgraded us to a premium room. And the remainder of our stay was wonderful.

She turned a bad customer experience into a success story.

The BEYC is a family run hotel with a limited marketing budget. They depend on word of mouth to keep people coming back and spreading the word. They work very hard to keep their  customers happy and buying.


As a marketer you also must make the customer’s experience with your products and services the best it can possibly be.

Don’t just give your best customers the velvet rope treatment. Work to win over every customer. You never know who will become your best customer or advocate over time.

The key here is that you don ‘t need to have a big business to provide a quality customer experience. Here’s what BEYC does that your business can benefit from:

1. Give them a welcome basket

At BEYC, there’s a basket of goodies including a small bottle of rum, chips and drink vouchers as well as bottled water and soda in the room frig. It’s a great way to make guests feel at home.

Actionable Small Business Marketing Tip:

  • Supply new customers with the help they need to use your product. This can be in the form of how to connect or real life support. For example, The Lion’s Brand Studio has knitting and a crocheting doctors to help with problems.
  • Offer your prospects a trial. Take a page from Trader Joe’s that always has free coffee and tasty food samples in the back. It gets customers to walk through the store and try new offerings.

2. Introduce your customers to each other

Unless you fill the hotel with your own party, the chances are that it can be difficult to meet new people. At BEYC, there’s a kick off cocktail party every Monday.

Build your community with the people you’re currently doing business with. The goal is to make everyone feel a part of the experience. It allows your customers to meet each other as well as the staff that will support their purchase and product use.

Actionable Small Business Marketing Tip:

  • Start a regular meeting. This can be on social media such as a Twitter Chat or a LinkedIn Group or in real life at your business or store. BTW, it doesn’t have to be related to your business. For example, my favorite knitting store, Knitty City has a monthly book club.

3. Try to turn negative customer experiences into positive ones

Don’t take BEYC’s example as gospel. Forrester Research shows that when you do this, you’re more likely to keep customers.

  • 81% of respondents whose problem resolution experience far exceeded their expectations are very likely to do business with that company again.
  • 65% of respondents whose problem resolution experience far exceeded their expectations are very likely to tell someone about it.
  • 71% of respondents whose problem resolution experience fell far below expectations are very likely to tell someone. Bear in mind that every customer has the ability to broadcast their displeasure with your company and employees.

Actionable Small Business Marketing Tip:

  • Teach all of your employees to transform negative customer experiences into positive ones. Don’t leave customer service to sales and customer service. Get everyone on board.
  • Share your customer stories internally. Spotlight your employees while showing everyone how to work to improve problems. Problem resolution is the key to customer loyalty.

BEYC flag

Recognize returning customers

BEYC monitors its guests and honors them when they return.

At their weekly mixer, they give returning couples and families a shout out. They also have pennants that are at the front desk while you’re at the club. They have stars and anchors for each visit.

Actionable Small Business Marketing Tip:

  • Track your customers. While the percentage of top customers tends to remain constant, the actual people in that group change over time. Therefore you must continually build your base. Don’t just look at the sales and consider frequency.
  • Use the tools that you have. You don’t need fancy tracking if you have a small customer base. A spreadsheet can help you.

5. Ask for referrals

Most of the people we met at the club had been there before and/or were referred by friends. BEYC asks guests to refer them in their welcome guide.

The great thing about referrals is that they cost significantly less to acquire than new customers. Further, they can make a difference in customers’ decision.

Actionable Small Business Marketing Tip:

  • Ask your customers to review your business. Take a page from Amazon’s playbook. Of course, make sure that you’ve given your customers a great experience or this can backfire.
  • Incentivise your customers to get their family and friends to buy from you. I’ve used this tactic many times. It’s great because it’s lower cost than a new acquisition and has an implied recommendation.

Small businesses like their larger counterparts need to build great relationships with their customers. It’s much easier to wow your current customers and they’ll help you by referring their friends.

Following these 5 steps will help you get going.

What’s your favorite tactic for wowing your current customers and why is it effective?

Happy Marketing,
Heidi Cohen

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Photo Credit: All photos © 2015, Heidi Cohen. All right reserved.

All of these texts are owned by its respective writers and are published here under a Creative Commons License. Visit the author’s website (see link below the title of this post) to determine the actual terms of the license.


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